Why Founders Need to Understand Branding vs. Brand Positioning
It’s rare that you come across an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to have a great brand. How they define “brand” is beside the point, because “branding” is a sexy term in marketing. Yet startups that focus just on “brand” are missing half of the picture. There’s another, related concept called “positioning” that’s arguably even more important than branding itself.
If you’re an entrepreneur, keep reading to find out why you need to consider positioning first, and how it will ultimately help you build a better brand (and a better company).
Branding and positioning: What’s the difference?
As I hinted at already, few people share the same definition for the term “brand.” But here’s a working version for you: branding is done primarily to elicit an emotional reaction. The brand itself is anything that elicits this reaction. This includes the obvious things like your company’s logo or your website, but the words, actions, sounds, textures and even your company’s culture all develop your brand, as well.
Your position, on the other hand, is a logical description of where your product fits into the world. It’s the mental space your product occupies in your buyer’s brains (to reference the legendary Al Ries and Jack Trout). Positioning then, is any work you do to define and establish that space. Positioning cannot exist in a vacuum; your brand only has a position if someone assigns it a spot in their mind.
Why positioning has to happen before branding
Imagine if an aspiring NFL player tried to get drafted by claiming he was an all-purpose, general athlete who could fit in just about anywhere. Would he stand a chance?
What if you applied for a job by telling your future boss that since you were a smart person, you could do just fine in accounting, graphic design, sales, and engineering; wherever they needed you most?
These examples are ludicrous, and that’s exactly the point.
If your business tries to enter the market without clarity on who you help, how you help them, and what makes you different from similar solutions, you’re unlikely to get very far. Yet how often have you encountered a startup that tries to be all things to all people, whose founders wonder why they can’t get any traction?
Positioning has to happen before branding for a simple reason: branding exists to support your positioning goals.
Just as that aspiring NFL player or job seeker needs to communicate what makes them special (some might call this a personal brand), companies should use branding to enforce the position they want to establish.
When branding is done in isolation, you might end up with something that looks interesting and maybe even wins an award or two. But if the brand isn’t built with a desired position in mind, there’s a very slim chance that it will add much business value.
It is any surprise then, why some people see branding as mere fluff?
Branding and positioning are powerful when done together
When you hear people say that a company has a great brand, often what they really mean is that the company does an outstanding job of using branding to reinforce its positioning.
Here are a few examples of great companies that have skillfully used branding and positioning in concert.
- Position: cloud-based software (early on, vs. the standard on-premise software)
- Brand attributes: cheeky and defiant
- Position: high-performance for luxury-minded drivers
- Brand attributes: confident and exhilarating
- Position: magical memories for families
- Brand attributes: service-oriented and celebratory
- Position: the go-to partner for people who build
- Brand attributes: straightforward and reliable
- Position: maximum value on everyday things for everyday people
- Brand attributes: positive and frugal
None of those brand attributes are intrinsically good or bad. But when they’re selected to help carve out a specific position in the mind of the buyer, they can be quite powerful. And that’s exactly why branding has to come first. If you try to come up with an interesting brand and then decide on a positioning strategy later, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Don’t take change lightly
One of the challenges about positioning is that it can take a lot of effort over a meaningful period of time to establish and keep real position. But startups usually don’t figure out positioning the first time around. As they experiment with new product ideas, target markets and business models, their positioning strategy has to change (and perhaps their branding, but not always).
That doesn’t mean startups shouldn’t care about positioning – competing for attention as a new company means that positioning is especially important. However, startups do need to be extra vigilant about where they’re headed and be willing to ditch one positioning strategy in favor of a new one when circumstances dictate.
However, once you’ve found a problem-market fit, carve out your new niche in the market by considering positioning first, then how it will ultimately help you build a better company.
The post Why Founders Need to Understand Branding vs. Brand Positioning appeared first on StartupNation.
Source: Startup Nation
Author: John Rougeux