Positioning 5 of 5: 5 tactics to communicate your brand positioning

This is the last issue in the Positioning series. And today we’re going to talk about tactics.

We’ve covered so far:

  1. The mindset that’s preventing you from picking a position
  2. The core principle of positioning
  3. The 3Ws framework to find your positioning
  4. How to create contrast between you and your competitors

By now you should have a clear understanding of the process to piece together your unique positioning.

But without communicating it effectively, having a positioning is useless.

Our goal with this issue is to give you 5 tactics that’ll make you stand out in the sea of competition.

Before we get into the tactics, one important warning:

These 5 tactics we’re sharing here are some of our favourites when it comes to positioning. But bear in mind that a tactic should always fit a strategy. Not the other way around.

When deciding which tactics to use, make sure you pick the ones that help communicate your positioning.

Tactics 1 & 2: Brand Enemy + Voice

Back in 2007, the UK beer market was made up of mass-market lagers and micro-brewed ales (which were all traditional ’old man’ brands).

BrewDog identified a new position as a modern and ‘cool’ brand that would offer quality, microbrewed craft ale.

An x y diagram of the UK brewery market in 2007

Identifying desirable contrast is half the job. Communicating that difference is the other half.

BrewDog did it through voice and enemy.

The existing British beers were seen as part of the establishment. So BrewDog created a brand around anti-establishment. Another British label for anti-establishment? Punk.

Brewdog introduced cool, vibrant packaging

Humans like binary opposites.

We categorise everything into groups A or B. You’re with me or you’re against me. That’s how enemy positioning works. Rather than directly telling the world what you are, you tell the world what you’re not. And you invite them to stand with you.

BrewDog did that with a constant stream of anti-establishment marketing campaigns, combined with other campaigns which simply expressed their punk ‘don’t give a fuck what haters think’ PR stunts.

Some examples of the wild PR campaigns Brewdog deployed

Tactic 3: Labels

Labels are a mechanism we use to cope with the overwhelm of information. It helps us simplify and remember complex ideas.

Smart brands create labels to carve a space in the customers’ minds, making it easier to be recalled and spoken about.

For example, here are 3 labels that you might have heard about:

  • Solopreneur: You think of Justin Welsh.
  • Small Bets:  You think of Daniel Vassallo
  • Visualize Value: You think of Jack Butcher.

If people need to think deeply about your label, your chances of success are much lower.

I don’t know if you noticed, but these 3 labels combine two familiar elements. Because of that, they feel like something “new”, but at the same time, we can immediately understand what they mean.

Solopreneur, Visualize Value, and Small Bets. They didn't invent lables, they just combined existing elements.

Tactic 4: Exclusivity

Supreme began life in 1994, a store in downtown New York where the skate community would hang out. That was critical, they targeted a sub-culture and became their local hub.

But, whilst that was the initial position, it was really a vehicle to get the brand out on the streets. Cool ‘shit’ that’s quality, fits well, and lasts a long time.

Supreme’s genius was how they communicated that position – through exclusivity.

They regularly release small limited edition collections. By making less, it meant they sold out of stock, quickly. Summer products would sell out by the end of March.

An example of the Supreme drop

If something sold well, they wouldn’t manufacture more, they’d manufacture something different. They’d build demand, because customers knew that this limited stock wasn’t some fake gimmick, it was real.

Demand leads to queues and buzz. Queues and buzz communicate the Supreme position of quality and exclusivity.

Long queues outside the Supreme stores

Tactic 5 - Associations

Back in 2006 everybody used to listen to music on their iPods. But there was a problem…

Every iPod came with a free pair of cheap earbuds.

Musicians were getting reduced to 128kbps mp3s on $1 plastic earbuds. And one, in particular, wasn’t very happy about it: Dr. Dre.

“It’s one thing that people steal my music. It’s another thing to destroy the feeling of what I’ve worked on.”

He decided then to join forces with record company executive Jimmy Iovine and launch Beats.

Now the interesting bit is…

When manufacturing their early prototypes, they didn’t ask for feedback from sound engineers or technicians. They showed it to actual music artists and producers.

Since its very beginning, they went with a “for us by us” mentality. They wanted people to “hear what the artists hear.” Their goal was to associate their headphones with music artists and producers.

They used celebrity endorsements by pop and hip-hop music performers to promote their headphones.

Beats got their product on the ears of A list celebs, like Eminem and Gwen Stefani

Almost 10 years later, in August 2014, Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion.

And “association” is not a tactic used exclusively by Beats. Nike did it as well with athletes and Apple with creatives.

Putting it all together

Now you have all the pieces of the positioning puzzle.

As you’ve seen in this series, it takes work to figure out your positioning and communicate it effectively.

Sure, it’s possible to survive without a strong and clear positioning…

But it’s 10x easier to play this game when you have one. Because when you do, you don’t need to change strategy every 6 months to stay relevant. You no longer need to fight with competitors for attention. You’re now the only choice in your customers’ eyes.

Now get going!

A note: This article was a joint collaboration between Gianni Cara and myself. Gianni is a clear and masterful thinker when it comes to positioning. I highly recommend his newsletter (which you can subscribe to here).

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