Professional Studies for Screen-Based Media
Foundation Degree South West

Brand Positioning


Positioning of a brand means emphasising its distinctiveness based on characteristics that are relevant to the potential/ actual customer. One way to start this process is the answer the following questions about your brand.

  • What is the brand for?
  • Who is the brand for?
  • When is the brand for?
  • Who is the brand competing directly with?

Here's an example to illustrate:

A company has decided to launch a new theme park just outside Bristol and addresses these questions to help it position itself more clearly.

1. The brand is for entertainment of the 'high thrills and spills' variety
2. The brand is primarily for older children and adults up to about 40 years old who live within a 60-mile radius of the location
3. The brand is for all year round, the design of the park and rides allows for excellent weather protection
4. The brands main competitors are nationally recognised theme parks like Alton Towers

Heather Moore, Marketing and Promotions Officer Marwell Zoo, Hampshire

Perceptual brand maps
An excellent tool to help understand brand positioning is positioning or perceptual mapping. Brands occupy a space in a consumer's mind whilst other brands compete within that space. Given that consumers use specific criteria to evaluate a set of brands (depending on what they value) we can put these two elements together and produce a brand 'map'.

We have drawn up an imaginary positioning map for the ‘out of home coffee marketplace

Figure 10.1 Positioning map for coffee marketplace

This positioning map is suggesting that two of the important criteria used by consumers when making judgements in this marketplace are the type of environment created in the premises and the range of coffee's on offer. It has then plotted a number of brands (bookshop cafes being a variety of individual brands) by judging where they would be positioned in a consumer's mind when considering these two criteria.

We can see that McDonalds is considered the fastest delivery environment but with very limited choice whilst Caff» Nero creates a much more relaxing environment in which to choose and consume one of the many different coffee's offered. This is not to say one is better than the other just different. Consumers make their preferences known by deciding which to frequent.

The important issues concerning positioning maps for brand owners are as follows.

1. It helps you spot gaps in the marketplace.
2. It helps you to see if you are launching into a crowded marketplace.
3. It helps you to understand who your closest competitors are.
4. It helps you to appreciate the most important criteria customers' use when 'positioning' different brands in their mind.

As a result of this it helps inform decisions being made about an organisations marketing activities. For any major decisions being made it can be asked, what is the likely effect of this action on the current position of our brand and is this a wise move? Of course its more complex than this perceptual map shows because any change in one element is likely to have knock on effects on other elements. Each time McDonalds increases its range the chances are the speed of service is reduced.

Branding critique
As you may have gathered by reading the Branding section, the concept itself is rather transitory and elusive. It can be rather vaguely defined at times and so people are not really sure what is being talked about when the word branding is used. A marketing perspective here suggests any use of the term must in large part be determined by how consumers view branding, it is after all a perceptual concept. That is to say it is based largely on what people think it is.

Some argue that branding has become so powerful in modern western societies that people place too much importance on what are really quite trivial things like labels and styles. In this sense brands are seen as inducing fantasy and delusion particularly among the more susceptible elements of society (i.e. children).

So brands, to some extent, may mislead us by making us believe they have wonderful abilities from making us look younger to making us feel happier. This raises ethical considerations which marketers increasingly need to address as consumers get more knowledgeable and more discerning. See the Nologo website for more ethical issues involving marketing.

Another concern raised about branding is the difficulty all organisations encounter when trying to measure the value of a brand to them. If they measure sales and profits are they not just measuring the value of the product or service itself? What additional value is there in making a product into a strong brand? In recent years some measurement systems have been introduced but many of these are very complex and remain subjective. If Sheraton Hotels is ever sold just how much of the price is attributed to the physical buildings and how much to the name Sheraton?

Jon Weaver, Marketing Manager, Bournemouth Borough Council