Why positioning your brand matters more than ever
A young professional posted a question for The Brand Strategy Discussion Group on LinkedIn. She's a lifestyle and brand communications intern at Daimler (Mercedes Benz). She asks: "Does positioning still matter in today's fast-growing market environment? Are the alternative communication methods slowly taking over a good positioning strategy?"At first I balked, thinking the question made no sense, that it was like asking if a brand is still a brand. Then I started thinking about how many companies don't bother with positioning exercises and why that is a major reason they don't lead their categories.So I decided to read the comments and was pleased to see that this LinkedIn group clearly understands the importance of positioning. The comments in the thread were excellent and well-informed. The young lady is probably better educated now -- more so than her years of college taught her about branding. Why else would she ask the question?I can understand why young people starting a marketing career may question such old-fashioned marketing fundamentals as positioning. After all, it's a concept expounded upon by Al Ries and Jack Trout during the stone ages of 1980s in their bestselling book, "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind."New media technologies and communication channels have some novice marketing professionals dazzled by mere tools, and that's where they focus their energies. They concentrate on where and how to advertise rather than why customers should pay attention to real value. They confuse tactics with good strategy.You can't fake itThe speed with which tech changes have been occurring is quite dazzling, but principles of human nature and the mind remain constant. The battle for the mind is still raging.It will always be vitally important for brand marketers to occupy a position in customers' and prospects' minds. That's what positioning is all about and it's more important today than ever. Short attention spans and message clutter challenge us to hold a consumer's mind captive for even a few seconds. Therefore, the brand that is positioned best in the mind (and heart) will always be the winner in the market.Think of some examples. Does Apple position its brand? What about BMW? Of course -- they both do. These are two companies that do a superb job of it, in my opinion. They occupy dominant positions in consumers' minds that are communicated with consistency. When asked about these brands, consumers know what they stand for.Some brands use taglines effectively, while others don't even need them. Apple's brand positioning is communicated so well at the product level they don't use tag lines. Mac, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple Store - you get the picture.BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Machine" states clearly that no other automobile can be a BMW. "Ultimate" is an exclusive word, so BMW must authentically live up to that standard, and they do. Note well, if they start making less-than-thrilling-performance cars, their brand value will drop and their positioning will be meaningless.The lesson here is you can't fake it. When positioning a brand, "truth well told" is our highest ideal.Positioning is what helps your customers and prospects understand why your products and services are valuable to them. So by all means, invest time and effort in a strong positioning strategy and then start using the myriad communication channels available to you to win the battle for the mind.Chuck Sink, an independent marketing consultant and writer specializing in copywriting and Web content strategies, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.