This is the second in a three-part series on branding. For the first part, go here. The third part can be found here.
As mentioned last week, the ideal brand position can be thought of in formulaic terms; it is all the “valid” brand positions, less the positions that are occupied strongly by competitors, less those that are unimportant to your target market(s).
So how does one go about solving that equation?
Start with determining all of your company’s valid brand positions. To do this, you need to answer the question: “What are all the positions which we could validly claim?” The answer is dependent on a multitude of internal factors – everything from company vision and mission, company culture, down to the details of how you do business. This process therefore requires a holistic internal investigation, usually gathered via internal documents and from team members. It should be structured like a market research project with a qualitative and quantitative component and both primary and secondary research. Qualitative secondary research is a good place to start, where you can assess things like mission and vision as well as company processes that might give insight to potential differentiators. Qualitative primary research is generally next, with interviews of influential employees to get their opinions of what the company or brand means to them. A quantitative survey of a larger set of internal participants (presuming the organization is large enough to merit it) is helpful to validate and clarify the results of the qualitative research.
Next, look to see how your competitors are positioned. Start with analyzing how they are attempting to position themselves. At most basic, this could be done with an attribute analysis using their publicly available brand messaging. (More details on how to perform an attribute analysis can be found here.) If you want to dig even deeper, put yourself in the customers’ shoes and try to interact with your competitors to determine how they present themselves. This is difficult to do impartially by yourself, so it’s best to have neutral participants interact with the competitors on your behalf and report their experiences to you. Ask yourself: how does it feel to interact with the competing companies? What kind of experiences are they providing and directing customers towards?
After determining the competitors’ projected position, you also need to determine their actual position. This asks the question: “How are our competitors perceived by the target market?” If your market is large enough there may be data on the competitors in published market studies, but generally this requires your own primary market research. Qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys will provide the data to analyze your competitors’ actual positions.
Lastly, you need to determine which of the valid brand positions are actually relevant and important to the target market. Similarly to determining the actual competing brand position, this requires speaking with the target markets. To save on cost and time, these two questions can be answered simultaneously. As with any market research project, what questions you ask and how you ask them is extremely important such that you obtain unbiased answers.
With all the values on the right of the equation known, you can now complete the equation and determine your ideal brand position.
The next step is to translate the results of this equation into tangible elements which will align with the desired position. We’ll discuss this in our next post.