What is market positioning? 7 Tips to create a recognizable brand

A solid market positioning strategy answers three fundamental questions: who you’re serving, what promises you’re making, and why your audience should trust those promises.

With those answers ready, you’ll have an effective market positioning strategy that influences, well, everything. It’s a starting point for creative campaigns, it guides product development and touches every other element of your business and brand, which will make it noticeably easier to make decisions that are in line with your brand positioning.

If you’re a brand manager or marketer looking to build a brand that turns your target audience from curious to convinced, this article is for you.

What is market positioning?

Successfully positioning your brand means having a distinct place in the market – a place you can own.

An effective positioning strategy ensures your brand isn’t just wandering around, trying to fit in everywhere and ending up not truly belonging anywhere. It’ll ultimately make it easier for your ideal target customer to find you.

So why is market positioning important? For one, it helps you play into market trends in a way that feels authentic to your brand. This will strengthen brand recognition and gives your entire organization guardrails for decisions to make. It also helps you build a stronger emotional connection within a specific market segment, by matching your brand identity to what your target customers relate to.

The list goes on: your brand messaging will become stronger by becoming more focused. This will help you create effective marketing campaigns with more ease.

But the best way to describe its benefits, is by comparing it to a more scattered approach – AKA a business and brand without market positioning:

  • Clarity and focus: When you have a clear market position, your marketing efforts are going to be more targeted and efficient. You know who you’re talking to, what they care about, and how to speak their language. This focus saves resources and increases the impact of your campaigns.
  • Customer loyalty: Customers gravitate towards brands that they feel are made for them. By positioning your brand in a way that resonates with a specific group, you’re more likely to build a loyal following. Sure, these customers buy your product, but more importantly they believe in your brand.
  • Competitive edge: A niche market position helps your brand stand out for those looking for something specific. Rather than trying to be different for the sake of it, you’re doubling down on the reasons you are uniquely meeting your customers’ needs.
  • Control over consumer perceptions: By carefully designing a differentiation strategy for your brand, you take charge of your brand image. Instead of blindly reacting to the market and having that influence your brand’s perception, you guide your target audience’s attention to the things you want to highlight.

Ace your market positioning!

Win and protect market share with a positioning strategy based on solid consumer intel – check these top market analysis tools

Get your market insights

The three levels of brand and market positioning

There’s no positioning that is ‘simply the best’ in the market. The ”market” is composed of so many different elements and factors, and what is viewed as the best by one consumer might be a complete miss for another.

So it’s up to you to find a positioning that makes sense for your business, and for your target audience. Instead of looking at the market as a whole, positioning can often be done on three different levels:

1. Comparative positioning

This focuses on how your brand stacks up against the competition, making it clear why you’re the better choice.

2. Differentiation positioning

This highlights what sets your brand apart, whether it’s an innovative feature, exceptional service, or value for money.

3. Segmentation positioning

This involves tapping into specific customer groups and tailoring your messaging to meet their unique needs and preferences.

Better yet: mix these strategies to create a strong, multifaceted approach.

What’s involved in market positioning?

You can’t just ‘choose’ a market positioning. In the real world, it’s the results of research and making data-driven decisions.

Here’s how you go about finding your brand positioning strategy:

  • Start with market research to get a broad view of what’s happening in your space. Look at demand, industry trends, and where you might fit into the bigger picture.
  • Competitor research then narrows down the focus to whom you’re up against. Look at both every competitor’s unique features and where you can carve out your own niche. You can run competitor-specific intel gathering, and you can (and should!) run market research to ask how your target audience feel about those competitors.
  • Differentiation is all about what your brand competes on. Find and clearly communicate the unique value you offer that no one else does.
  • Stay on top of industry trends. Make sure your brand is ready to adapt and innovate in response to shifts in the market, in a way that fits your brand’s identity.
  • In the meantime, brand health tracking helps you keep an eye on your brand’s perception. Do this continuously to make sure you’re moving in the right direction and adjust as necessary.
  • Understanding your target audience through detailed research helps you figure out who exactly you’re talking to, what they care about, and how your brand can become a part of their lives.
  • Segmenting the market lets you break down the broader audience into more manageable groups, defined by demographics, behaviors, or specific needs.
  • Targeting begins with choosing which of these segments you’ll focus your marketing efforts on, assuring you’re speaking directly to the most receptive audiences.
  • Form a clear positioning statement to sum up what your brand stands for, who it’s for, and why it matters, in a way that resonates with your target market.
  • Your branding and messaging need to consistently reflect your positioning, creating a cohesive image and voice that speaks directly to your audience.
  • Aligning your product strategy with your market position means every new feature or product launch reinforces the unique place you occupy in your customers’ minds.
  • Your pricing strategy sends a strong message about your brand’s value and positioning. Whether you’re aiming for premium or budget-friendly or somewhere in the middle, your prices should reflect the perceived value you offer.
  • And finally, your promotional strategy should bring all of these elements together, showcasing your brand’s unique position through campaigns that capture your audience’s imagination and loyalty.

Examples of market positioning done well

Market positioning can be done on all levels and checking in on your strategy is always a good idea. Here are two examples we love.

Best-in-class university marketing by psLondon

University marketing is boring and cliché, right? It doesn’t have to be. psLondon took a fresh approach by focusing on what makes each university distinct.

They used market research to put together marketing messages that resonate with the unique values of each institution’s target students. For instance, they discovered that freedom was a core value for one university’s audience.

By highlighting these unique values, psLondon helped universities stand out with a brand positioning strategy that attracts the right students by speaking directly to their aspirations.

Razor-sharp positioning by Manscaped

Manscaped made its mark by identifying a specific niche in the male grooming market: below-the-waist grooming.

This focus allowed Manscaped to address a unique customer need, setting itself apart from competitors with a mix of quality products and a distinctive brand voice.

Their clear, humorous branding is a great example of how products can shape a positioning strategy that affects marketing strategies.

Market positioning types

A strong market positioning strategy is easily recognizable and understandable for your target market. Here are some examples of positioning strategies you could consider:

  • Value-based positioning
  • Celebrity-driven positioning
  • Lifestyle positioning
  • Emotional positioning
  • Disruptive positioning
  • Quality-based positioning
  • Convenience positioning
  • Eco-friendly positioning
  • Price leadership positioning
  • Heritage or legacy positioning
  • Exclusivity or prestige positioning
  • Community-focused positioning

How to create a market positioning strategy

Here are the steps to take to create your very own unique brand positioning strategy, with tips on how to conduct market research, defining your current market position and creating a compelling positioning statement.

1. Gather insights through market research surveys

Start with getting knowledge about brand perception, competitors and your target market. The best way to do that? Surveys. Follow these steps to gather meaningful data for your market positioning:

  • Focus your research: Determine whether you’re checking in on your brand’s current standing or identifying a niche for a new product positioning. This focus guides your survey design.
  • Ask positioning-specific questions: Formulate questions that give insight into how your audience perceives your brand or product against factors like price, quality, and competitor offerings.
  • Segment responses for clarity: Break down survey responses by demographics or usage patterns to see how different groups view your brand.
  • Don’t fear open-ended questions: Use qualitative questions to gather in-depth reasons behind customer preferences.
  • Analyze with Attest: Use our platform to spot trends and patterns in your data. Our survey and research analysis tools help you work quicker and more accurately.

2. Analyze the competition

Look at who’s already out there.

What are they doing in their positioning strategies that resonates with customers? More importantly, where are they dropping the ball? Do consumers need an alternative to them, or something completely different? Analyze the competition not only from your brand’s POV, but more importantly from the eyes of your target customers.

3. Determine your current brand position

Now, let’s do some self reflection.

How do people see you right now? Are you the go-to for something specific, or are you blending into the background? How would you describe your current positioning? You can use surveys, social listening, and customer feedback to get a clear picture, and nail your positioning strategies.

When analyzing your brand’s current position, several aspects need careful consideration:

  • Accessibility: How easy is it for customers to find and engage with your products or services? This could range from your online presence to the availability of your products in physical stores.
  • Durability: This speaks to the quality and longevity of your products. Are customers seeing you as a brand that delivers durable, long-lasting products, or are there concerns about quality?
  • Messaging clarity: Evaluate how your brand’s messaging and value proposition resonates with your target audience. Does it clearly communicate your unique value proposition, or is it getting lost in the noise of the market?
  • Innovation and novelty: How are your products or services perceived in terms of innovation? Are you seen as a front-runner who’s always pushing the envelope, or as a follower? How are competitors approaching product positioning?
  • Price point and value perception: Lastly, look at how your pricing strategy aligns with customer perceptions of value. Are your products viewed as worth the investment, or are potential customers put off by price?

4. Write a clear positioning strategy statement

Before explaining what a great positioning statement is, let’s look at what it isn’t.

It’s not a slogan or tagline.

It’s not marketing talk.

It’s not an empty promise or a dream for the future.

An effective market positioning strategy needs to have authentic, reasonable and actionable positioning statements. That should include the following elements:

  1. Target audience: Clearly define who your product is for. The more specific, the better.
  2. Market definition: Describe the category your product or service lives in.
  3. Brand promise: What are you promising to deliver to your customers that’s unique?
  4. Reason to believe: Why should your customers believe your promise? What evidence supports it?

5. Create a perceptual map

A perceptual map is a visual tool that helps you see where your product stands in the hearts and minds of your customers compared to your competitors. Here’s how to create one:

  1. Identify the criteria: Start by picking two attributes that are important to your target audience. For example, price and quality.
  2. Survey your audience: Ask your customers to rate your brand and your competitors based on these attributes. This can be done through market research surveys.
  3. Plot the data: On a graph, plot where each brand lands according to the surveyed attributes. Your product will be a dot on this graph, as will your competitors.
  4. Analyze the map: Look for gaps in the market. These are areas where customer needs might not be fully met by existing products. They represent opportunities for differentiation and growth.

By understanding where you stand, you can navigate your brand towards uncharted territories or strengthen your position in the market. It’s a visual guide to making strategic decisions that resonate with your target audience, and communicating about said decisions with stakeholders. It might seem silly, but it’s a lot more clear than just using words.

6. Implement a strategy that maintains brand reputation and perception

Implementing a strategy that maintains your brand’s reputation and perception is about consistency and responsiveness. Here’s how to stay on top of your game:

  1. Stay true to your promise: Whatever your positioning statement claims, live up to it in every product, service, and interaction.
  2. Monitor feedback: Use recurring surveys, social listening tools and customer feedback platforms to keep an ear to the ground.
  3. Act on insights: When feedback reveals a gap between your brand promise and customer experience, act swiftly to close it.
  4. Communicate changes: When you make changes based on customer feedback, let your audience know.
  5. Educate your team: Everyone from your frontline staff to your top executives should understand your brand’s positioning and how it influences their roles.

7. Knowing when to reposition

It’s important to recognize the signs that your current market positioning isn’t serving your brand as effectively as it could. Here are some indicators that it might be time for a shift:

  1. Market evolution: What worked yesterday might not work today. If industry trends or consumer preferences have shifted significantly, your positioning might need an update to stay relevant.
  2. Feedback and data: Consistent customer feedback indicating confusion about your brand or dissatisfaction with how your products meet their needs suggests your positioning may be off the mark.
  3. Competitor moves: If competitors have repositioned themselves in a way that threatens your unique position, or if they have successfully identified and occupied a new niche, it might be time to reassess and redefine your own positioning.
  4. Brand evolution: Your brand might have grown or changed direction since you last defined your positioning. New products, services, or values often call for a repositioning to accurately reflect who you are now.
  5. Customer base changes: If you notice significant changes in your customer base – such as appealing to an unintended demographic or losing touch with your core audience – this is a clear sign to reevaluate and adjust your positioning.

Repositioning doesn’t mean starting from scratch but refining and realigning your strategy to ensure it’s as effective as possible. It’s about staying attuned to the ever-changing market and ensuring your brand continues to resonate with your target audience.

Use a clear market positioning to connect with consumers

The right positioning can transform how customers see your brand, making your products and messaging resonate more deeply with them. But markets and consumer preferences are always changing. Regular research and analysis are crucial to stay aligned with your audience’s needs and ahead of the competition.

Make sure you fill your toolkit with solutions that simplify this process. Read on to find a market analysis tool that helps you find your most effective positioning strategy.

Ace your market positioning!

Win and protect market share with a positioning strategy based on solid consumer intel – check these top market analysis tools

Get your market insights

Jacob Barker

Senior Customer Research Manager 

See all articles by Jacob