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Brand Positioning Clift Notes

There are many great books on positioning.  Starting out in my career, I read a ton of Al Ries and David Aaker.  Aaker is really a guru on brand and has delivered many great books on branding over the years.  He’s a Professor Emeritus at the Haas Business School.

A couple of books that I recommend are Aaker’s "Building Strong Brands" and Al Ries’, "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding".  Each deliver very clear and concise perspectives on how to get your company and brand positioned in the minds of consumers. Really that is what its all about.  Its about developing a "Unique Sales Proposition" or USP as us marketing hipsters like to refer to it. 

There is a lot of work that goes into building clear and concise brands.  When developed successfully brands deliver much better return for investors and your company.  Imagine many different elements being integrated a concise positioning statement that clearly puts you the right market segment with a specific value that is different than your competition. 

Before you look at this attachment (Download sample_positioning_framework.pdf)
, you have to do the pre-requisite work around identify the market opportunity, target market within the market, and customers wants-and-needs  assessments.  There isn’t fluffy stuff.  You need to make sure that you’ve identified the right market and segment that is addressable by your product as well as being big enough to become a big business.  In other words, you could slice down a target market so small that considerable market share becomes too small to be interesting or its too limited in scope and it wont be defensible as more competition enters your space. 

That said, you want all of this work to culminate into a couple of different work products – the most important is the positioning statement and the marketing statement (the words you use for the elevator pitch).  They mean the same thing but the semantics are different because no investor would get excited about a "Market leader in long tail-based publishers using sophisticated yield management algorithms.  Huh? The doors will close in the elevator without any interest in your idea. 

Here are some quick steps to think about and a worksheet to help you deliver on some key points for your product or company.

  • Positioning statement – you will typically want to tout a key aspect of what you can proverbially hang your hat on in terms of leadership (market share leadership, operational efficiency, or quality).  Each of these imply certain elements.  Market leadership is typically focused on in startups for the obvious reasons — with scale you can grow topline revenues and margin.  Operational efficiency usually implies margins efficiency (e.g, JetBlue), and quality typically implies solid topline revenue with lower profit margins (e.g, Nordstrom).    

You want to pick a statement that truly reflects your operating strategy.  It has to be unique in that you can clearly define what you are good at in the right market space. 

  • Positioning Proof Points – I always like to pull out three unique benefits that are proof points for your positioning.  They are the things that are unique only to you whether its the largest audience dedicated to women  or the best ROI for CRM;  pick out 3 things that define you.  Then pivot those areas by audience. Different audiences care about different things.  For example, suppliers don’t care as much about  consumer differentiation, they typically care about conversion and ROI. 

Do the work upfront and you’ll have a clearly differentiated product or company in the mind of consumers, suppliers, and investors.


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