Positioning deals with creating a ‘position’ for your business in the minds of the customers and the market. It is a marketing and branding strategy that plants an “identity” for your brand in consumers’ minds that we discussed previously. In this post, we will explore the importance of differentiated value in a brand when it comes to a positioning strategy.
A POSITION MUST BE BASED ON A UNIQUE DIFFERENCE
“Good to be great, great to be different” was the title of a TedXTalk I gave at Nanyang Technological University a few years back. The essence of the talk was that professionals and businesses should always strive to be good, and if they can, try to be great. But, if for whatever reasons, circumstances do not allow one to move from good to great, then it is better to be different. Specifically, to have a differentiated value that provides a competitive advantage.
For example, if you sell pizzas but are not the great-tasting or highest quality pizza in town, you can still be successful if you sell a pizza that no one else sells, such as a 5-cheese pizza, that tastes good and appeals to customers. Assuming there is customer demand for such a pizza, and you are the only one selling it, you can use this as a differentiating point.
Having a differentiated advantage that only you own against the competition is what positioning is all about. A position that is interchangeable with another competitor is very weak and should not be used. For example, a business who does not understand positioning is likely to choose a position like ‘”The #1 Pizza Parlour in Gotham Town” or “The Best Pizza in Gotham Town”, or “Different Pizzas for Different People”.
The reason why these positioning statements are tremendously weak is that they do not say anything about the brand’s uniqueness or strengths. There is also no empirical evidence that can back up the claim of being #1 or the best. There is no standard or reference to what being #1 is or what being the best relates to.
“Different Pizzas for Different People” is also not a differentiating value statement because this statement can apply to virtually every other pizza parlour in the world. An interchangeable position is not a position with differentiated value.
I coined the phrase “good to be great, great to be different” as it was an intriguing way to introduce the concept of differentiation which is the cornerstone of your positioning strategy.
A POSITION MUST HAVE VALUE
While differentiation was emphasized above, it is just as crucial for your position to have value to your customers.
It is not enough for your position to be based on a unique difference; customers must think the difference has value and is worth paying for.
With the 5-cheese pizza example above, it will work as a positioning strategy only if customers think there is value in a 5-cheese pizza. Maybe, they believe a traditional 4-cheese pizza is good enough and having another cheese does not add any meaningful value. In this case, the positioning strategy will fail because the differentiating point has no value.
Your positioning strategy should be based on your most unique differentiating point that has the most significant value to customers. There are a few ways you can analyse your strengths against the competition to determine your most unique differentiating point that has the highest value. One way is to use a tool called the Strategy Canvas that I will discuss in a future post. It is used by practitioners of the “Blue Ocean Strategy”, conceptualized by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.
 Kim, W. Chan.; Mauborgne, Renée, “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant”, (2005). Harvard Business School.