Brand positioning – Learn from the Best!

To succeed in a society already flooded with a diversity of brands and products, you must build a solid position in mind of the consumer.  With the right positioning strategy, brands can create a positive emotion that allows consumers to engage with a company on a more personal level. Following Eman’s lesson, Positioning (Marketing), here are few examples of remarkable brand positioning strategies that can help you started.

by Adela Sescu
1 year, 9 months ago
The key idea in positioning strategy is that the consumer must have a clear idea of what your brand stands for in the product category, and that the brand cannot be sharply and distinctly positioned if it tries to be for everyone and everything. from Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries, Jack Trout, Philip Kotler
What makes a brand to be unforgettable and wanted in the minds of the people? Brand Positioning. Even though positioning may seem easy, it takes more than just putting the products on the shelves and running an expensive advertising campaign to get noticed. With the right positioning strategy, branding creates a favorable feeling that allows consumers to engage with a company on a more personal level, as Eman already explained in her lessonPositioning (Marketing). To create this level of awareness, you can use one of a number of positioning strategies, so here are few product positioning examples to help you get started:
- Positioning by quality and price: Stella Artois
- Positioning characteristics and benefits: Gerolsteiner, Absolut Vodka, Crest


- Positioning by cultural symbols: Marlboro

- Positioning by competitors: Avis

- Positioning by product class: 7-Up, KIA Motors

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Marketers frequently use price - quality characteristics to position their brands. There is always the risk regarding the quality message, because people believe that if the prices are low, the quality must be low too. Most of the brands that use the price - quality  approach keeps the pricing higher to communicate that higher price and higher quality goes together and to ensure that the product is placed as a quality product in consumers mind. However, some brands- like Walmart (Save money. Live better), easyJet (Cheap Flights) or Southwest Airlines, to name few- have positioned themselves in the minds of its customer using low pricing rather than high pricing.

Premium pricing has worked well for automobile brands like Mercedes or BMW (The Ultimate Driving Experience) but also for Stella Artois, UK's most desired beer brand. At first, in 1976, Stella Artois was too strong, too expensive and too different for British beer  tastes. Frank Lowe and his agency had the genius idea to transform these disadvantages of strength and price into benefits, designing Reassuringly Expensive campaign that we know about even today.

What is it that makes Stella Artois worth the premium price to so many beer drinkers? Like Ferrari buyers (okay, maybe with a little less conviction), Stella Artois loyalists will tell you this: It’s not the price, it’s the Stella experience. Or maybe the higher price helps to create that experience. Principles of Marketing, By Philip J. Kotler, Gary Armstrong
Over the years, Stella Artois managed to keep its notoriety around the globe due to the brilliant communication campaigns they developed. One splendid example is the one from 2000, made by LOWE Lintas advertising agency (click here to see the print ads). She is a thing of beauty, created by Mother London  and launched in 2010, is also one of the most awarded campaigns.

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Using characteristics and benefits is probably the most used positioning strategy by brands, in general. We know that VOLVO means safety and BMW is about experience and performance, but let’s see some other interesting examples as well.

Gerolsteiner, the leading water brand in Germany, was trying to gain a foothold in the Belgium market, where the awareness for their brand was very low (around 4%). Discovering that nobody in Belgium was named ‘Gerolsteiner’, they pulled out an outstanding, low-budget campaign called Change your name with the following message “Change your name in Gerolsteiner and win a Porsche 911. Go on” Their campaign became a national contest, as thousands of subscribers wanted to change their name and win the car. The brand got huge exposure and enormous media coverage. That’s how the weakness of being almost nonexistent can be converted into strength!

Let’s not forget about Absolut Vodka, the Swedish premium vodka that challenged conventions by focusing exclusively on the bottle (and they still do).

Or Crest Toothpaste, a Procter&Gamble product. When Crest was launched in 1955, it was a revolutionary brand - it was the first brand that would fight cavities, an unique feature to differentiate it. While other brands were focusing on bad breath, stained teeth or sensitive gums, Crest kept on fighting cavities.

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Using well-established cultural symbols to differentiate their brand from competitors is a common practice among marketers. The essential task in this strategy is to identify something that has an important effect to people that other competitors are not using and associate your brand with that symbol. Marlboro did the same, when they teamed up with Leo Burnett, back in the 1950’s to create the Marlboro Cowboy, a true American symbol. It may now seems less than plausible, but Marlboro was originally intended for females, and its posters displayed a feminine hand reaching out for a cigarette. Leo Burnett adopted an entirely different strategy for Marlboro’s re-branding, designing a true icon, a symbol of masculinity, a character that lives the ideal life that the rest of us only dream of. Marlboro created the ideal man: strong, free, independent, tough and adventurous.

The purpose of this presentation is to provide a deeper understanding of Philip Morris' strategic ...
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In most positioning strategies, an excellent frame of reference is one or more competitors. The classical example and the most famous positioning strategy of this type, I must say, was Avis' “We are number two, We try harder” campaign.

When Avis entered the market of car-rental in USA, Hertz held an indisputable position as the leading company. Avis was one of many other competitors, but they chose to change that into strength. They decided to publicly acknowledge Hertz as number one and proclaim that their company was second, while promising to please even more than the leader.

Why was it such a successful communication strategy? Because the “We try harder” positioning did a number of things every brand tries to do: it was built on a true insight about their customers’ wish for better service, the ads clearly communicated what the company promised and how that could help their customers, and it differentiated Avis from competitors in a simple and brilliant way. And people responded positively to Avis’s sincere aspiration to please.

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Some products need to make critical positioning decisions by connecting with the class of the product concerned. This is what 7-Up did when they adopted a strategic position towards Coca-Cola. The soft drink 7-Up was for a long time positioned as a beverage that had a “fresh clean taste”. However, research revealed the fact that most people did not consider 7-Up as a soft drink but rather as a mixer beverage. In order to attract only light soft-drink users, a strategy was developed to position 7-Up as a ”mainline” soft drink, as a logical alternative to the “colas” with a better taste. 

The UNCOLA campaign set 7UP apart from its competition and became part of a counter cultural that symbolized being true to yourself and challenging the status quo. Source

Another example worth mentioning of positioning against product class is KIA Motors’ social campaign, Think Before You Drive, which helped to position themselves as the first motor company to acknowledge the need of changing attitudes towards car use. The KIA car company in the UK was encouraging folks to drive less and walk more. A car manufacturer is asking you to drive less? Yes, that’s right! Their campaign, launched in 2000, was to motivate consumers to  fight climate change by using their cars for long distance while switching to ‘green’ transportation for short trips. Therefore, Kia offered a bike for each Sedona car sold and sponsored ‘walking school buses’ (group of children who walk together to school, supervised by trained adult). The program was innovative and seen as exemplary, even though Kia’s cars are not greener than most cars in the market.

The motoring industry must take responsibility not only for the products they sell but the lifestyle they promote. As a society it is all of our individual responsibilities to look at how we behave and the impacts that we have, small changes by many people can make a huge difference. I hope our efforts make some people think and, where possible, that it encourages them to get out of their driving seat and onto their feet. said KIA Cars (UK) Managing Director, Mark Quinn

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1. Brand Positioning
2. Positioning by Price and Quality
3. Positioning by Characteristics and Benefits
4. Positioning by Cultural Symbols
5. Positioning by Competitors
6. Positioning by Product Class
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