Brand Positioning & Differentiation

in Branding | by Ethan Lyon

What makes Madonna, Coca-Cola and Apple iconic cultural leaders? Why do Apple fans spend hours standing in line to buy the next innovation? It is a brand’s ability to creatively, uniquely and strategically position itself in the market that makes it successful. In essence, they learned to think outside of the box and be different.

How is your product or service perceived in the market? If the brand and product is similar to competitors, a brand positioning and differentiation strategy can increase your customer appeal. Combine insights from customer research with a thorough competitive analysis and creative stretching to determine the optimal brand position:

Quick jump: Segmentation / Focus groups / Online survey research / Customer insights / Competitive analysis / Brand re-positioning

Competitive Analysis

Consumer research identifies audience needs states, key decision drivers and the determines if market peers are meeting the needs of your target segments and how to better meet those needs. To differentiate yourself amongst peers, examine the market through the lens of a company and brand. A company makes products and services and a brand conveys the emotional attributes of both the company and products.

Questions to answer when examining companies and products:

  • Who are the top market players and what space do they occupy in your category?
  • Who is their target market, and what are their products and services?
  • What have been their successes to date?
  • What are their competitive strengths, and how will you position your company uniquely

Questions to answer when examining brands:

  • What three adjectives best describes each competitor?
  • What traits are aligned with customer expectations?
  • What key messages do brands convey in marketing materials? (Including website, social media, print, collateral)

Consumer Research

defines who you’re targeting, what you’re going to offer them, where you’re going to reach them, and how you’re going to sell them on your product and brand. Use demographics, such as age, household income level, and psychographics, such as hobbies and favorite brands to define target segments. To examine potential segment need states and decision drivers, our team developed a generational analysis and psychographic report.

After defining the target audience, find what drives their buying decisions. To do so, find a pool of representative customers and either perform focus group research or online survey research. can provide insight to improve products, prioritize development, and elevate communications. With the benefit of real customer feedback, your strategy and development will be much stronger. , on the other hand, is more affordable, accessible, and timely than focus groups. In fact, most online research surveys can go from setup to response to data in a week or less.

to drive your differentiation and positioning strategy. Customers will inform overall market trends and specific need states. Insights tie the two together. For instance, with the advent of iTunes and pirated music, customers no longer pay for whole CDs anymore, therefore record labels should focus more on digital music, concert sales and rights management instead of traditional profits from CDs.

Brand Differentiation and Position

A chart should illustrate what makes your brand distinct among competitors. Outline key customer needs on the x and y axises and plot competitor brands. Identify the opportunity based on customer need states and decision drivers to find the optimal brand position. Then, write a positioning statement: Our product [list benefits] for [target audience] because [name unmet need]. Finally, creatively build a brand around that position, including a distinct voice and personality to make a meaningful connection with target audiences.

Brand positioning chart:


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