Positioning. Figuring out where your product or service stands in the marketplace – and using that standing to differentiate yourself.
Sounds generally pretty simple, but how do you actually DO it? How do you POSITION what you’re selling?
Time for a contextual exercise: about water.
There’s bottled water. There’s tap water. There’s premium bottled water. There’s discount water that’s basically tap water put into a bottle.
There’s flavored water, there’s bubbly flavored water.
Unless you’re in the CPG industry, though, you’re probably not paying too too much attention to the positioning of water.
I didn’t think about it much either…then I saw this commercial:
SO…there’s something interesting here: Nestle is positioning its water not as an alternative to other brands of water, but as an alternative to another beverage.
Positioning may be more about “choice” than anything
You have a choice when you take the kids off to the soccer game. You can bring a bottle of water that you picked up at the store (at an insane markup) (at a potentially high cost to the environment), or you can fill up your reusable water bottle with tap water that costs you 0.2 cents per gallon.
You have a choice between tap water and bottled water. Pragmatism, cost, the environment: those factors help you decide to choose tap.
In Nestle’s eyes, though, you have a different choice – and they have decided to position the choice of their water against a much more expensive drink. “If we’re losing water, why don’t we just drink water?” asks the soccer player.
You have a choice between bottled water and the much more expensive flavored water/electrolyte alternative. Cost, convenience, no artificial ingredients: those factors help you decide to choose bottled water.
You can take this positioning all the way up and down various choice “decision trees.” Should you choose tap over bottled? Cheap, generic bottled over more expensive brand names? Premium names over everyday brands?
How to apply this thinking to your brand
You have a brand – even if you are in the service industry and it’s just you, you have a brand.
Let’s say you’re a Life Coach. You might succeed if you use similar positioning to Nestle: why would you go with an expensive consulting firm at thousands of dollars, when an engagement with me is just hundreds of dollars.
Of course, your target customer might ask itself whether it can just get an inexpensive alternative to your coaching through something like blogs, books,or a trip to the library. But, in this case, you are positioning your service as an alternative to paying someone nothing and getting average results in return.
And, beautifully for you, you can do this without negativity.
Positioning without cutting the competitor down
Notice how Nestle didn’t say anything negative about their perceived competition – the sports drink category?
Notice how our Life Coach doesn’t have to say “I’m the best Life Coach, better than the other Life Coaches?”
In addition to being about choice, positioning can also be about value. You will value our bottled water product when compared to other products – less cost, more money in your pocket, you’ll benefit. You will value my coaching services when compared with what you’ll get from doing nothing – more growth in your life, and more money in your pocket when compared with the cost of hiring a really expensive coaching firm.
And you don’t have to say a darn thing about how much better you are than your direct competitor.
Positioning: Putting your choice on the canvas
You are painting a picture, you are telling a story, and your product or service needs to be one of the ones on the canvas. It is impossible to position your product without mentioning other categories – but it is possible to position your product as a solid choice for your target customer without mentioning your direct competitors.