What is brand positioning? Definition, benefits, and strategies

Millions (yes, millions) of startups launch every year, but there’s not enough room in a crowded marketplace for everyone. So, how does your brand stand out, rise above, and create a lasting business? The answer is brand positioning.

Brand positioning sets your business apart from competitors by creating a unique impression in your customers’ minds. However, it’s not just about being different—it’s about being remembered, preferred, and chosen. Your goal is to carve out a distinct place in the market and lay the groundwork for lasting relationships and brand loyalty.

Creating a built-to-last brand is easier said than done, though. It requires know-how, market research, planning, investment, and commitment. Brand positioning involves deeply understanding your market, competitors, and (most importantly) your audience.

Effective brand positioning elevates your brand from just another choice to the one-and-only preferred choice, whether through differentiation, relevance, credibility, or uniqueness. Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to nail your brand positioning and secure your business’s place in the market.

What is brand positioning?

Brand positioning is the process of carving out a distinct spot for your brand in the marketplace and in the minds of consumers, making sure they see your brand as different and more desirable than the competition… It describes the process of differentiating your brand by linking specific qualities, values, and attributes directly with your brand identity.

How does brand positioning work?

Brand positioning involves the art and science of making your brand appealing to a specific market segment by aligning your marketing strategy with your brand’s differentiators. Brand positioning typically includes:

  • Evaluation of the market

  • Competitor analysis

  • Problem and pain point targeting

  • Unique selling proposition (USP) identification

  • Communication and marketing strategies

Ultimately, you might have the world’s coolest, most relatable brand, but a huge part (arguably the most important) is how you drive that message home to your consumers. It requires consistent reinforcement through brand positioning statements, marketing messages, product quality, customer service, and every touchpoint between your brand and its customers.

Sometimes, top-notch brand positioning can be hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. For example, take a look at some of these successful companies that nailed their brand positioning strategies:

  • Tesla: Positioned itself as a leader in sustainable energy and high-performance electric vehicles, emphasizing clean, sustainable energy for the planet.

  • Apple: Known for its innovative hardware, software, and services, Apple has cultivated a brand identity that encourages customers to “Think Different,” aligning with creativity and innovation.

  • HubSpot Pioneered the concept of “inbound marketing” and evolved to offer a comprehensive platform for marketing automation, CRM, sales, and customer service, all integrated under one roof.

  • Chipotle: Distanced itself from other fast-food chains by focusing on “food with integrity,” appealing to conscious eaters with quality ingredients and transparency.

  • Dollar Shave Club: Positioned against established brands with a direct-to-consumer model offering better value, simplicity, and convenience in men’s grooming.

Why is brand positioning important?

Often, brand positioning gets pushed solely into the realm of marketing. However, its purpose, reach, and viability extend beyond just marketing—it’s the why behind your entire business.

You should be thinking about brand positioning before you even launch your product or service. It should be in your original plans and business conceptions when you ideate on what’s going to make us different from all the other competitors—and how will our customers recognize and value it?

Here’s why brand positioning is so important to your startup:

  • Differentiation: Effective brand positioning helps your brand be noticed and remembered in a sea of competitors.

  • Clear value: It clarifies your brand’s value proposition and competitive advantage, making it easier for consumers to understand why they should choose your brand over others.

  • Connection: Strong brand positioning establishes an emotional connection with your audience to build long-term loyalty.

  • Marketing strategy: Knowing your brand’s position helps guide your marketing brand strategy to ensure all messaging, campaigns, and content align consistently.

  • Perception: It influences how your target audience perceives your brand and directly impacts their purchasing decisions.

  • Pricing: A well-positioned brand can often command higher prices because customers perceive extra value in the brand promise and experience.

  • Expansion: A clear brand position makes introducing new products or entering new markets easier while maintaining a cohesive brand identity.

How do you measure brand positioning success?

Successful brand positioning isn’t just a nebulous concept or a marketing buzzword—it’s a tangible strategy with real impact that can be measured and optimized for success.

Measuring the success of brand positioning involves assessing how effectively your brand occupies the desired space in the target customers’ minds compared to competitors. It’s about gauging the strength and clarity of your brand’s image, identity, and promise.

Here are several methods to measure brand positioning success:

  • Brand awareness surveys: Conduct surveys to understand if your target audience recognizes your brand and recalls it in relation to your positioning strategy. Awareness levels indicate how well your brand stands out in the marketplace.

  • Market share analysis: Increasing market share suggests that your brand positioning resonates well with the target audience and leads to higher sales.

  • Social media monitoring: Analyzing social media conversations about your brand can provide insights into consumer perceptions, brand sentiment, and how well the public perceives your positioning.

  • Customer loyalty and retention: High loyalty and retention rates suggest that customers have a strong, positive association with your brand.

  • Competitive analysis: Evaluating your brand’s position compared to your competitors can help you understand your unique value proposition and distinctiveness in the market.

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): This metric assesses the likelihood of customers recommending your brand to others, which can be a powerful indicator of your brand’s position and appeal in the market.

4 ways to improve your brand positioning strategy

While it’s best to launch with your ideal brand position in mind, you can take steps to alter and improve it over time. It’s not going to be an overnight shift, but with the right strategies, you can influence your brand positioning in the right direction.

1. Use perceptual mapping

Perceptual mapping helps improve your brand positioning by representing how consumers perceive your brand in relation to competitors. It involves plotting brands on a graph based on two dimensions that are important to the target audience, such as quality and price or luxury and utility.

This method helps you identify gaps in the market, understand competitive landscapes, and pinpoint areas where you can differentiate.

Perceptual mapping is not just about seeing where you currently stand—it’s also about planning strategic moves to reposition your brand more favorably in the eyes of your target customers. Visualizing where your brand stands in the minds of consumers lets you make informed decisions on how to adjust your positioning strategy to occupy a unique and desirable space in the market

2. Build (and commit) to your personality

Choose and commit to your brand’s voice and personality. This strategy involves defining how you communicate with your target market and what kind of personality your brand embodies.

Ideally, you should create a brand positioning statement that informs all your messaging and marketing activities.

For example, think about popular tech companies and how they show up in the market:

  • GitHub: GitHub’s brand voice is knowledgeable, collaborative, and community-driven, designed to resonate with developers worldwide. It positions itself as an essential platform for code sharing, project management, and collaboration on software development, emphasizing the power of open source and community contributions to drive innovation.

  • Mailchimp: Mailchimp’s brand personality is quirky, creative, and approachable, designed to appeal to small businesses and creative individuals looking for an easy way to manage their email marketing. They stand out by making marketing feel accessible and not just a task for experts, often using whimsical illustrations and a conversational tone in their communications.

  • Slack: Slack’s brand voice is helpful, friendly, and slightly humorous, aiming to make workplace communication enjoyable and less formal. It positions itself as an essential tool for teams who want to streamline their communication and collaboration efforts, emphasizing efficiency and a bit of fun in the workday.

  • Salesforce: Salesforce projects a confident, innovative, and customer-focused brand voice. It positions itself as a leader in customer relationship management (CRM), helping businesses of all sizes connect with their customers in meaningful ways.

3. Maintain consistency

Consistency in your brand messaging across all platforms and touchpoints reinforces your brand positioning. Every interaction with your brand, from website navigation and customer service to product quality and after-sales support, should reflect and reinforce your brand positioning. Ensure your brand’s voice, tone, visuals, and messaging align with your positioning strategy.

This consistency builds brand recognition and trust, making it easier for customers to understand and remember your brand’s unique place in the market.

4. Focus on your customers

To improve your brand positioning, start by zeroing in on what your customers really want and how they see your brand. Dive into market research to understand who your customers are, what they need, and how they make their buying decisions. Then, shape your brand’s story and products to fit snugly into your customers’ lives, answering their needs and solving their problems.

Building a strong connection with your audience also means listening to them closely. Reach out through surveys and social media to get their honest opinions about your brand. Take what you learn to fine-tune your brand’s promise, making sure it hits home with your customers and stands out in their eyes as something they can trust and get behind.

Focus on your business with DigitalOcean

Whether launching a new app, scaling up your services, or optimizing your online presence, DigitalOcean’s cloud computing platform offers the simplicity, scalability, and performance your brand needs to succeed. With predictable pricing, world-class support, and a community of resources, DigitalOcean empowers you to focus on what you do best: building a brand that stands the test of time and leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

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