If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity.” Robert Kiyosaki – author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”

Branding is what separates Beats By Dre headphones from the crappy $5 headphones you buy at CVS on your way to the airport. Same exact product, but one is a nameless throwaway brand and the other is a contemporary example of best-in-class branding that was acquired by Apple for $ Yeah, that’s a “3” followed by nine zeroes. Which company would you rather own? 

Beats By Dre Branding ExcellenceIn order to fully understand how that is achievable, we should probably define branding and make sure we’re not confusing it with marketing. In short, marketing is mostly tactical – it’s what you do, it’s the actions you take. Branding on the other hand, is bigger than that. It’s philosophical – it’s your identity, it’s who you are. Branding is the summation of all of the attributes you have chosen for your company in order to stand out from the competition.

Unfortunately, this process isn’t entirely up to you and can’t be completed during some strategic meeting or brainstorm session in the comfort of your cushy offices. Branding is a collaborative effort with your audience and customer and the market in general. In fact, the most critical outcome of your branding efforts are determined by the market. This is called Brand Positioning. Positioning is the perceived value of your company and it’s product/service offerings. 

Part 1 of this multipart series will focus on the importance of developing your brand and outlining the Brand Positioning Strategic Process. The next instalment will help you create your very own Brand Positioning Statement to guide your brand development and provide the foundation and strategic direction for your marketing strategies.

Why Is This Important? 

This is what the SaaS Marketing Industry landscape looked like in 2011:

SaaS Marketing Landscape 2011

Busy right? This is what it looks like today:

SaaS Marketing Landscape 2015

You better have a damn good plan to stand out from all these fuzzy little logos, all of which are “indispensable” and “game-changing”. During times of rapidly-changing conditions, for example in the uncertain world of marketing strategies in the 21st century, people gravitate towards brands that they can trust. As products keep changing and new updates flood the market, they’ll take comfort that your brand has firm values and can be counted on as their lighthouse guiding them in a rapidly changing world.

Outlining The Brand Positioning Strategic Process

If you’re not deliberately crafting your brand and consistently re-affirming your values to your target audience, it will happen on its own. This is not something you want to leave to chance. Luckily, for most of your competitors “branding” is what’s happening to their company while they’re too busy adding new features, raising money or “growth-hacking”.  But you’re much smarter than those jokers, so you’re in full control of your company’s brand positioning. Are you sure?

Jeff Bezos on BrandingRemember, the market determines you brand’s positioning relevant to your competitors, not you. The best thing you can do is to try to make a unique and desirable impression in the mind of your target audience. Through your actions (marketing and otherwise), you need to reaffirm that message inside their mind over and over and over again, and until they are ready to accept it as truth. That’s called building trust and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Before you can determine how you “want” your customers to perceive your brand, you need to identify how your brand is currently positioning itself in the market. Unless your brand is currently in the idea stage, you most certainly already have brand positioning in the market. So how do you find out how your brand is currently positioned? By asking your audience – all of the people and organizations with whom you have a relationship, ie: your customers, your suppliers, your vendors, your investors, your advisors, your employees and your mom and her friends – all of your stakeholders matter and their opinions should be considered when determining your current positioning. 

Next, you need to do the same exercise for each of your direct competitors. It’s critical to understand how each one of your competitors is positioning (or, more accurately, “trying to position) their brand in the marketplace. Here’s a template to get you started:

Brand Positioning Statement

As you develop your Brand Positioning Worksheet, patterns will begin to emerge. Where is your brand relative to the competition?  Are you identical, competing for the exact same audience?  Furthermore, gaps will appear. Look for critical niche markets that are being ignored by the competition. Who’s needs are not being met by the current players?

Armed with this new information, you can develop a unique and value-driven brand positioning target. You are now ready to create your Brand Positioning Statement and test it on your target audience.

Next Week: How To Develop An Effective Brand Positioning Statement (stay tuned)