Updated: Apr 10
Over 20 years of building brands and brand strategies, we have successfully positioned companies and organizations for greater market success against competitors; competitors who often had bigger budgets and bigger market share. Here’s how to successfully and powerfully position your company to influence and change behaviours, attract new customers, build share of voice in the market, sell more of what you sell, and draw more and better talent to your brand.
Positionality is a business art; not everyone can do it well or at all, and done badly can erode trust and make you less competitive. Well positioned brands have psychological, motivational power in the minds of consumers, which influences perceptions and purchasing behaviours in your favour. Positionality is found in the name and logo of your company, the set of signs and symbols and the meaning you put into them. Positionality is also very importantly found in supporting anchor statements, taglines, slogans, or straplines, which reinforce the 'why of you' for consumers in crowded markets. Where you fit is more important, ultimately, than what you actually make. When you think about positional strategies for your company you need to think about what your intentions are: Have you newly rebranded and need supporting statements to reinforce your new brand? Are you wanting to announce a new direction or culture shift? Does your brand name require a positioning statement to explain who you are and orient customers to your vision and their place in that vision? There are many ways and reasons to use positionality to build power into your brand, to make you more appealing, more engaging, more competitive, and own a place in the market that no one else can. It's said that when it comes to branding and advertising that you can do one of two things: You can either say what you sell is unique because it is and there is no other like you, which is rare, thereby owning your position in the market; or, you can say something that no one else is saying, thereby acquiring ownership of that market position through saying it, which is most common. With so many same-same products and services in every market sector, from clothing retail to foods to beer and wine to cellphones and computers, it’s usually the latter strategy that’s used – and it can be used to great strategic effect in support of sales, market dominance, and defence of your market share. For instance, once Budweiser called itself "The King of Beers", they became that in four words that said leadership, the ultimate quality, the best, like no other. From that point, no one else could own that leadership, quality category in the same way. Owning an idea, one idea, is what you need to do to create strong positionality. Take Coca Cola. The brand owns happiness to this day (and Christmas and a lot of other things). It owns enjoying life with friends (Have a Coke and a smile). It’s still "The Real Thing", not because it is more real than anything else, or that there is anything special about what’s in the can, but because they said they are the original, the best, the authentic one, reinforced over decades to become inherent emotional qualities of the product itself. Without this kind of positioning strategy, Coke would be all the weaker from a market standpoint because it would own nothing in the mind of the customer, it would not be differentiated, and this would then make Coke more susceptible to competitive pressures. Once said and reinforced, it's hard to be dislodged from such category leadership.
A Canadian example of this would be the Telus brand. When Telus rebranded after acquiring ClearNet, it kept and borrowed forward the ClearNet tagline, “The Future Is Friendly.” Being the only telephone service brand in the market saying this, they own that category as a competitive differentiator when customers are shopping around for a supplier. It can be seen in the way they treat their advertising, using friendliness and nature to stand out in a crowded and functionally boring category.
Brand positionality is aspirational, based on ideals and beliefs, motivating, geared to the perception of happiness or a frictionless experience, and every positional strategy involves the consumer in understanding how they fit into that brand position. For instance, when we rebranded Waterous Power Systems nationally in Canada (now Wajax), we built for them a customer service position that competitors like Finning weren’t. The “More Power To You” position was a slogan that told the story of the (more) complete line of leading solutions that Waterous carried, and also said, our expert team is here with horsepower to enable you in all that you do, the company is on your side, empowering you and your hardworking business every day. We want to see you succeed. It said all of this in just four words. This positionality helped Waterous to 25% growth in product sales over the previous quarter, in the first three months that the new brand was launched.
When we rebranded the Edmonton International Airport, we also build a customer service position that spoke to the flying public, passenger carriers, and cargo carriers. “We’ll Move You” was a positioning statement that said we guarantee to get you where you’re going, and the service you’ll experience from us will be moving, exceptional, like no other, we will always try harder than the rest to make your interactions with us the best. It's a position that EIA owns to this day. EIA went on to grow greater awareness and attract new non-stops from airlines because of powerful brand positioning.
For Canada’s largest industry drug testing company, CannAmm, the new brand look and feel we created was supported by the tagline, “When Results Matter”, which said to the market that they were the leader in accuracy and speed of testing that you can always count on, which let company clients know that CannAmm cared about getting their people safely back to work. reducing possible accident incidents, and reliably helping employers get employees back into the field working with less downtime. A second positional statement used later, “Test Right”, also supported the market position of leadership, trust, accuracy and quality.
When you’re building a new brand or rebranding an old one, it’s important to look at all of your signs and symbols and supporting statements in strategic ways that coordinate consumer understanding to give you a competitive advantage. The art of it is: How do you lead your category with words and images in original ways that have emotive power that creates brand affinity, that has enough legs for you to unpack in your advertising and promotions? Because you do need to be original in what you say and how you say it, not only to pass trademark examination, but to clearly differentiate yourself strongly from all of the others in your space making the same things and competing for the same consumer dollars.
Positionality is a vital strategic tool for every company; what you say and don't say sets you up for greater success or stagnation and failure. Positionality separates you from the pack, elevates you, and becomes your way to gain greater share of voice, more awareness, brand affinity and trust, more market share, new customers, and even more skilled employees; it helps you ward off competitors in, what are almost always, already crowded markets.