Branding Fundamentals - Part Two: Perception and Positioning

Jan 03, 2024 — Dmytro Grybach

In our ongoing exploration of the art of creating a brand, we've already covered two fundamental pillars: Purpose and Personality. If you haven't had the chance to read the previous article yet, you can catch up here. If you've already read it, let's delve further into the subject.

While the first two pillars focused on the brand itself—the look, feel, and self-identity—the next two pillars shift our attention to the audience and communication. It's crucial to understand that a successful brand must ensure it is understood by others. To achieve this, you must craft and manage your public persona.

Perception - Becoming the Ideal Version of Your Brand

Brand perception is essentially a blend of what your brand currently represents and what it aspires to be. If your brand's image is too straightforward and true to reality, it may come across as mundane. Conversely, if it's excessively abstract and aspirational, people may sense a disconnect and be less engaged. Striking the ideal balance lies somewhere in between, and every brand striving for success must find that sweet spot.

Perception can be classified in numerous ways, but for the sake of simplicity, let's focus on three primary components:

  1. Brand Image: This encompasses the written, visual, spoken, and contextual aspects of your brand. Everything from your name and logo to product packaging contributes to your brand's image. Depending on your business type, certain aspects of your brand image may hold more significance. For example, a bakery's delightful aroma is more crucial than that of an auto shop or pharmacy. Each business has its unique sensory components.

  2. Brand Reputation: This is something that all brands want to control but few truly understand how. Reputation is primarily shaped by your audience and carries significant weight with potential customers. Word of mouth has been the most reliable method of information sharing throughout history. While it's tempting to rely on paid promotions to counter negative reviews, in the long run, authenticity and open communication are more effective in maintaining a positive reputation. Brands that openly acknowledge their mistakes are often seen as more human and trustworthy.

  3. Brand Experience: This aspect is a culmination of the first two components. People initially form an impression based on your brand image, confirm it through your reputation, and finally decide to engage in a personal brand experience. While you can influence this experience in various ways, you can't manipulate it entirely. Brand experience is shaped by those who interact with your brand. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that your customers feel respected and cared for rather than merely "sold to." Brands that promise more than they deliver tend to have short lifespans.

To succeed, you must maintain a delicate balance between these three components, fostering recognition and building a lasting relationship with your audience.

Positioning - How Do You Want to Be Perceived?

Positioning is about defining what makes your brand worth choosing. There are countless answers to this question, such as offering the best price, high quality, eco-friendliness, or patriotism.

The cardinal rule of positioning is that it should align with your Brand Personality. If your brand conveys exclusivity and uniqueness, offering low prices as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) contradicts this image and can deter potential customers. So think of these two P’s - Personality and Positioning - as a logical evolution of one another.

To create a clear and effective positioning, you must understand your audience's profile and what they expect from a brand like yours. While we will cover methods for creating precise audience profiles in future articles, let's focus on different types of positioning for now.

There are several common types of positioning:

  1. Value-Based: This type revolves around the value your customers receive for their money. It includes special offers, discounts, bonus products, and bundles. Value-based positioning works well for everyday products and services, where consumers prioritize value over intricate features.

  2. Feature-Based: Typically used in the tech industry, this positioning emphasizes the latest features and upgrades in a product, like a better camera or lighter device. Tech brands like Nvidia often rely on this approach to showcase their products.

  3. Lifestyle-Based: Lifestyle brands connect with a specific lifestyle or class of people. We all have those top-of-mind brands for many aspects of life. Whiskey? Jack Daniels. Outdoor life? Northface. Fashion? Prada. Tech? Iphone. And so on. These brands may not always represent the reality of the lifestyle they promote but excel in creating a strong bond between that lifestyle and their brand.

  4. Experience-Based: This type suits service-oriented brands, such as law firms, banks, universities, and consultancies. It relies on expertise and the message that "we know better than others." Things like "20 years in business" is the most popular and oftentimes really the only thing they do to show their experience.

As you can see, positioning depends on your brand's purpose, while perception combines controlled and uncontrolled factors. Regardless of these variables, ensuring that you excel in areas under your control will minimize concerns about those you cannot control.

In the third and final installment of our series on brand theory, we will explore the pinnacle of branding: Promotion. We'll discuss various strategies for introducing your brand to the market. Read now, Part Three: Promotion.

Dmytro Grybach

Dmytro Grybach

Storyteller, Branding Expert, Writer.

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