“What is the difference between ‘positioning’, ‘differentiation’ and ‘brand’?
Positioning refers to where a company (or brand) sits in the marketplace in relation to its competitors. This is usually seen via a chart with an X & Y axis. Think about supermarkets and how they range from low cost / no frills through to up market operators such as Waitrose (in the UK).
If you looked at price versus service, the first type of supermarket would be bottom left and Waitrose would be top right.
Differentiation refers to the ways in which an enterprise or brand stands out from the crowd. Norwegian Airlines currently offers return flights from London to Los Angeles for a few hundred pounds on Boeing Dreamliner aircraft (which are relatively lightweight and fuel efficient). Therefore their key point of differentiation is price.
A brand is a promise. It is the offer that the enterprise holds out to the marketplace. For example, you always know that you can return goods to John Lewis (in the UK) and that they will not make a fuss.
Here is my 4 step marketing model:
1. Marketing plan
4. Selling / conversion (the latter is an ecommerce term)
If you have a clear strategy that is embodied with your marketing plan, things will go better for you. The plan would include your decisions on positioning, differentiation and brand, amongst other things.
Does all of this apply to services? The brief answer is that, yes, it does.
Website not working? This may well be to do with the lack of a marketing plan and the clear direction that it gives you with regards to positioning, differentiation etc.
A brand is a promise that you will deliver a service or product in the way that the customer expects it. This sounds simple enough, however, there are many things that can go wrong. An enterprise may have inadvertently oversold the features and benefits, hence the old phrase: “Undersell and over deliver.”
There may be hidden costs, i.e. delivery, maintenance or additional features. Before the customer buys, be as open and transparent as possible about the whole package that you are offering.
What if there is a problem, after the sale has been made? How easy do you make it to communicate with you? Is your telephone number clearly displayed on your website? Ideally, this should appear at the top of every page. Contact forms are fine and I understand why they are so popular. However, many people prefer to send an email.
The key issue is to decide what your promise is, in the first place. You may think that you know what it is. Your customers may have different ideas. It is a good idea to talk to customers and get their viewpoint on what your brand is all about. The challenge is that they don’t think about your brand as often as you do and they will probably come up with all sorts of conflicting points of view. It is still worth doing this, at least once a year.
Your brand values are the place to start. Do you have these written down? Does your team know what they are?
When was the last time that a company broke a promise to you? How did it make you feel? How often do they have to do this before you go somewhere else?
You may be a one woman or one man business. Or you may have staff, multiple offices and operate in one country or all of them. Regardless of the size of your organisation and whether it is B2C to B2B: every enterprise has a brand.
A key element of branding is market positioning. How do your customers perceive your brand? What do they think you do? What do they think of your business? How do they feel about your brand? If I rang some of your customers and asked them these questions, what would they say to me?
How should you position your brand?
For example, should you go upmarket or travel downmarket? Should you be seen as reasurringly expensive or as cheap as chips?
Are you focused on customer service, product excellence, price or something else? These are strategic business and marketing decisions. Every decision that you make affects your market positioning.
Your actions speak louder than words, when it comes market positioning. Every time that your customers engage with your brand, their perception of your market positioning is either affirmed or challenged.
Besides products and services, a key issue is human interaction.
You can buy a great product and feel let down by the way that you have been treated.
It is of no use to simply do what your competition does, positioning wise. The majority of businesses in any given sector appear to be clones of each other.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein
It order to decide on your positioning, you need to think deeply about your business and what it stands for. You need to consider the space in the market that your brand operates within.
If you are a startup, or established organisation looking to launch a new enterprise, the big question is: “What should we call our new business?”
Is this driving you around the bend?
You can either use a logical approach and beat the problem to death using research, analysis and comparison. Or you can let your creative mind loose on the challenge.
Here are some different approaches to choosing a brand name:
* The founders’ name. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch (David T. Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch); Adidas (founded by Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler); Bacardi (Don Facundo Bacardí Massó ); Dell Technologies (Michael Dell;) Disney (Walt Disney); Ford (Henry Ford); and John Lewis (department store).
* Invent a new word which sounds interesting. For example, Google, Kleenex, Oreo. A unique word is easier to trademark.
* Use Greek and / or Latin words i.e. Agilent Technologies.
* The ‘What it says on the tin‘ approach. British Gas; BP (British Petroleum); General Motors.
* Use initials (acronym), i.e. IBM (International Business Machines), ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries); FSB (The Federation of Small Businesses).
* Use a town, county or place name. However, bear in mind that countries and locations can get somewhat sniffy about this, even years afterwards. An example being the country Iceland and the company Iceland Frozen Foods.
* Use a fruit, animal, colour or astronomical name – the challenge of course being that most of them have already been taken. An example being one of my favourite hotels: The Pig.
* Combine two elements taken from the above into something original. This is where the magic comes in.
Here are some brand name considerations:
Brand name originality
Does the brand name stand out from the crowd? Are people likely to talk about it?
Brand name sound
How does the name sound? Ask family, friends and colleagues to pronounce your shortlist of brand names. Ask for their feedback.
Is the brand name easy to spell?
Some brand names are notoriously difficult to spell. This is a particular challenge when a customer is searching for their website.
Is the brand name memorable?
Some names are really catchy and memorable, aren’t they? Sadly, others are dull and boring. Always get some feedback – as other people will react differently to your brand name ideas.
Will the brand name work on the world stage?
There are many famous stories of brand names which, unfortunately, translate into something rude or offensive in another language. It doesn’t matter if you think that you will never trade abroad. In five years’ time, you may wish to. When you come to sell your business, the buyer may have global ambitions: why create a problem in this area? Don’t take a risk – always check.
Check domain names against your brand name ideas
The next step is to check website domain names. Ideally, you will want to be able to buy the best know TLDs (Top Level Domain, i.e. the last section of an internet domain name ) including .com and .biz in order to protect your brand. Many more TLDs are now available than used to be the case, including .global and .pro …which means that you have more choice. Therefore, if .com is taken by a non competitor in a different country, you could consider using a different TLD.
Can you trademark your brand name?
If you are creative and have invented and entirely new word or phrase: the answer is probably. (If you are in doubt, I work with an IP specialist who can find out for you).
It helps if you are a creative by nature
I have helped to name many enterprises, including The Marketing Compass. I had been thinking about this for months. One Christmas, I pulled a Christmas cracker with our eldest son, Ben and out popped a compass. How about joining ‘marketing’ and ‘compass’ together, I thought, as the brand is all about marketing strategy and direction. Here is the result: www.marketingcompass.co.uk …which you’re welcome to join, if you want to ask some questions about branding.
If you need some help – ask me.
See other blog entries by Nigel Temple on branding:
There are numerous benefits to publishing a book. I was asked how to do this, via The Marketing Compass and here is my answer:
The two options are: A. Self publish. B. Find a publisher. The options are not mutually exclusive.
I recommend that you start with ‘A’. For example, you can do this via Lulu.com https://www.lulu.com
Their motto is: “Create, publish and sell your book for free”.
Lulu enables you to create a hardback, softback or e-book (or all three).
Lulu’s distribution channels include Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Alternatively, Kindle Direct Publishing (which I currently use) https://kdp.amazon.com enables you to earn 70% royalty on your books.
This is all very well, however, royalty payments are only part of the story.
Once you have printed say 100 softback (paperback) books you can of course sell them when you deliver talks. Position the books in a stack on the table at the front of the room. Ensure that the audience can see the front cover i.e. by leaning a copy against the stack. Mention the books during your talk and say that “you can buy a signed copy for £X.” When you have finished speaking, sit down and start signing the books. When I have done this, a queue forms of eager buyers. 🙂
In addition to kicking things off by self publishing, study relevant publishers within bookshops and submit your book via their respective websites.
Me too marketing = having an undifferentiated product or service which is the same as the competition. It is all too easy to become just another “me-too” business, with the same offer, level of service and price as thousands of other enterprises within your market.
Taking the time to work out what is different (or what could be different) about your brand is hard work. I know, as this is part of what I do with my clients. You must get to the heart of what is being offered to the marketplace, the values of the person or people behind the brand and what consumers / business buyers really think.
Yes, you should study the competition, but you should not obsess over them. You need to be aware of what you are up against and then you need to focus on customers and what they want. New customers are the lifeblood of any business and finding and keeping them is the purpose of marketing.
During a 29 year career as a marketing consultant and trainer, I have come across a handful of truly original, one-of-a-kind products. Sometimes, the business didn’t realise what they had on their hands. If they did, they usually thought that the world would beat a path to their door. Sadly, this never happens. The world is deaf and you have to shout loudly to get your message across.
Believing that your idea, brand or enterprise is different is not enough. You have to show people what is different about it. This is where creativity comes in. Coming up with original ways to promote a novel product or service is a lot easier than creating novel products / services in the first place.
The benefits of differentiation are legion. People will remember, talk to their friends, seek you out and pay a higher price.
Whatever you are selling, I wish you all the best with your business. By the way, if this blog entry has rung any bells with you, you are welcome to get in touch with me.
A recognisable brand name brings numerous benefits, including increasing the value of your business, attracting more customers and being able to charge higher prices.
Here are 7 ways to build your brand:
1. List your values – as great brands are built on strong values. This can be the values of the business owner or the combined values of the board of directors. Whatever they believe in will be reflected in the brand (and I’m really hoping that one of them is ‘integrity’).
2. Have a big idea behind your brand. Write this down and share it with everyone (i.e. staff, associates, suppliers, investors and family members).
3. Differentiate your business from the competition. This is worth thinking hard about. (If you’re struggling, I offer a creative thinking training which can be applied to your brand).
4. Work on your visual brand identity, including your logo, company colours and typography. It needs to look professional – so use an experienced graphic designer and it all needs to be consistent. Ensure that your logo is used everywhere (email signature, printed matter, social media accounts etc).
5. Create a handful of messages to associate with your brand. These should include a strapline.
6. Great brands don’t bore people to death. Think of novel ways to attract customer attention. Don’t do what everyone else does!
7. Choose your promotional mix and communicate, communicate, communicate. I’m often asked about this, as business owners and marketers can sometimes feel that they are communicating too much. Don’t worry about it – as it takes a huge amount of effort just to be noticed at all.
Bonus idea: use images – as a picture paints a thousand words. People remember images, long after they have forgotten what was said or read.
Seth Godin wrote ‘Permission Marketing’ in 1999 (I have a copy on my bookshelf). This phrase is now part of everyday marketing terminology. On the front cover of the book it says: “Turning strangers into friends and friends into customers.” The central idea of the book is that as opposed to forcing your messages onto consumers / business buyers, a business should ask their permission to communicate. An example being the concept of the e-newsletter ‘opt-in’ process.
Seth is a prolific and well known blogger – click here. I often show his blog to clients and seminar delegates. Without fail, I discover that he has uploaded a new entry that day, which is impressive. So a key learning point is the power of consistency.
Seth thinks outside of the box and I imagine that he reads widely. He is also an established author, having published more than 19 books. Successful authors will tell you that it is important to write regularly, so that it becomes a habit. Writing a daily blog means that your subconscious is set on autopilot looking for new ideas (I know that mine is!) It is no accident that consistent bloggers become authors. There is nothing quite like a book to establish credibility and open new doors.
Seth Godin writes on marketing, business, learning, his books and whatever is on his mind. Sometimes the entries are quite long and sometimes they are remarkably short. The key point being that there is always something new to read every day, seven days a week (and sometimes more than once a day). Readers can share his blog content via Twitter, GooglePlus, LinkedIn and Facebook. (There social media sharing buttons at the foot of my blog entries – do you have these?)
He uses free technology to promote his personal brand and attract followers, book buyers and public speaking engagements. It doesn’t sound like a bad life, does it?
Notice that Seth does not upload images with his blogs. This must cut the time involved down.
All businesses, no matter what size, should ‘think brand’. Here is a Mind Map (click to expand) which shows the key elements of branding. Scroll down to see a checklist, which explains what the branches mean.
Begin with a clear set of objectives for your brand. What does it stand for? What is the one word which you would like customers to associate with your brand? What short phrase sums up your brand and sets it apart from the crowd? The key issue is to differentiate your brand – which may not be easy if you are operating in a crowded marketplace. (If you have a startling new idea for a brand, then your challenge may be explaining it!)
Successful brands are built on strong values
If you are creating a brand, it will be built on your values. Write a list of your values and include them within your marketing plan.
Successful brands are underpinned by a central idea. What is the big idea which drives your brand? (If there is any difficulty in responding to this question – call me).
Do your products / services fit with your brand?
Are they aligned with your brand values? Do they support the brand or detract from it?
The customer journey
From initial encounter and awareness, to desire, purchase and advocacy – is there brand consistency? I am not just referring to your visual brand identity, I am talking about brand identity and character.
Visual brand identity
Are you using your logo, colours and typeface consistently? For example, I have used Arial for as long as I can remember. I use it within my website, blogs, emails and all of my printed matter.
Staff, colleagues, teams – do they get your brand?
Does everyone within your enterprise understand what your brand is all about? Gather them together and ask them to write down what your brand stands for. Compare the results. (Be prepared for a surprise). Incidentally, engaged staff create the best brands. (If you would like me to come over and do this exercise, you are welcome to contact me).
Is your promotional mix integrated? Does it all have a consistent look and feel or is it all over the place?
The human brain and branding
People love stories. What stories are there to tell about your brand? How are you getting these stories out there? People learn through experience – what kind of experience does your brand deliver? Above all, how does it make your customers feel?
An established brand is worth more money than a non-branded enterprise. Brands attract more customers and they deliver a higher level of profitability than their commodity cousins.
If you would like to talk to me about your marketing strategy and brand – by all means get in touch. This could be one of the most important and influential conversations you ever have about your business.
Nigel is a marketing consultant, author, speaker and trainer. He shows businesses how to get better results from 21st century marketing – starting with marketing strategy and brand positioning. He advises business owners, boards of directors and teams.
Nigel has taught marketing strategy since 1996. He has an honours degree in marketing and served as a Faculty Member and Course Director at CIM (the Chartered Institute of Marketing) for 12 years. He led over 500 Business Link workshops, focusing on marketing strategy and internet marketing. Today, he delivers marketing events for The Marketing Compass which provides impartial marketing advice for business owners.