Once you and your positioning team have determined what the positioning for your brand should be and identified the points of difference, points of parity, and maybe even a brand mantra, consider checking your work with the following approach I learned from branding expert Kevin Keller.
Write up your key points of difference and points of parity (and your brand mantra if you have it) where you can see them together, representing the sum of your positioning. When you look at these pieces as a whole, does your chosen positioning pass the following three-question test?
1. Is this positioning desirable to your brand community?
Does the positioning reflect characteristics your brand community would want? It isn’t enough just to be different—the positioning should show that you are different in a way that people would value.
2. Is this positioning deliverable by the brand?
Does your brand experience already deliver on this positioning? If not, and if you’ve identified aspirational points of parity or points of difference, can you make changes to the organizational strategy that will ensure this positioning will reflect the actual brand experience at some point in the near future? If your brand can’t deliver on the positioning, it won’t feel authentic to your brand community and may actually do some damage if people perceive it as false or misleading.
3. Is this positioning differentiated from your competitors?
Does this positioning distinguish your brand from everyone else in the competitive frame of reference? Even if the positioning is desirable and deliverable, if it is indistinguishable from the positioning of your competitors it won’t be effective.
Desirable, deliverable, and differentiated: great positioning will be all three at once.
In my last post, I shared some of the sources of data that you can use to inform your brand positioning. But once you’ve collected all of the information you can get your hands on, what do you do with it? In this post, I’ll share some tips for how to synthesize your brand positioning research so you can begin to draw some meaningful conclusions from it.
My advice? Get a room. No really, try to find a dedicated space inside your office where you can begin to hang materials on the wall, sort them into piles, and write up your ideas. The physical act of organizing materials often helps you draw connections between them.
You might want to create a wall like the one we created for the Red Hat brand inventory. Here’s a picture of it:
Consider hanging things by where they were created, or how old they are, or whatever other variables are important to you. You might want to reorganize them multiple times in different configurations to see if that gives you new ideas.
If you can’t afford the space or don’t want to create a big messy room, you can create the equivalent on your computer. Organize your research into folders, one folder for each of the four key questions. Make duplicate copies of or shortcuts to research that informs the answer to more than one question, and put one in each folder that applies.
Once you have all the research that informs the answer to each question in one place, it’s time to start doing some analysis. If you are like me, you aren’t starting from scratch, but have been beginning to analyze the data and information as you’ve collected it. But looking at all of the data at once will help you see it differently, making new connections and revealing things you might not have noticed before.
At this point, your goal is to synthesize all your sources of information into the clearest, simplest possible answers to the four key questions. Are the data points revealing common themes, ideas, or opportunities?
When it comes to positioning terminology, I sometimes get questions like “what is the difference between a brand mantra and a brand essence?” or “is a point of difference the same thing as a key differentiator?”
I have standard terminology I use for brand positioning projects, which you can read more about in my Brand Positioning Tips. I picked up most of these terms from Dr. Kevin Keller, one of the world’s foremost brand positioning experts, and the brand positioning guru we used for a lot of our Red Hat positioning work.
Kevin uses terms like point of parity, point of difference, competitive frame of reference, and brand mantra to describe his positioning process. I like these terms and they have become comfortable for me to use in my positioning work.
But often, I’ll be working with a client who approaches positioning from a slightly different point of view. Perhaps they’ll talk about what I call a brand audit as a brand diagnostic or they’ll refer to the brand mantra as the brand essence.
When working with clients on positioning projects, I operate using the when in Rome principle. I use their words instead of mine. Why? Because they are just words, after all.
What really matters is whether we agree on what the heart and soul of the brand is and what makes it different from other similar brands.
Using Kevin Keller’s terminology to describe your brand positioning won’t automatically make it good brand positioning, and some of the best-positioned brands I have ever seen were probably developed by people who had never heard of a point of parity.
So use whatever words you like as long as you understand the concepts.