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The three most effective brand positioning models

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most effective positioning models

If you have something interesting to say about your brand, it does not really matter what brand strategy template you use to say it. However, for reasons beyond our comprehension, many companies use positioning models that are so complicated that they can dilute even the most unique brand proposition.

If your company has too many “strategic statements” existing in parallel (mission, vision, brand essence, purpose, manifesto, values, benefits, etc.), it is likely that both your employees and customers are confused with regard to what your brand is really about. Such strategic overeagerness creates anything but clarity—not to mention the time wasted on deciding which part of your brand proposition should be captured in which section of the positioning model (e.g., what constitutes a mission and what constitutes a higher purpose).

Successful companies use positioning templates, which help their brands be easily understood. Today, we will take a look at three popular brand strategy models, which, if used properly, should create more clarity than confusion.

1. Brand benefit ladder

a) What does the template look like?

Product feature (often taking a form of an “RTB”, or “reason to believe”)
Rational benefit resulting from this feature
Emotional benefit “laddered” from the functional benefit

Let us take a look at the Always brand:

Product feature: High absorbency of the pads
Rational benefit: Girls can feel confident during their periods
Emotional benefit: Boosting girls’ confidence in everyday life and championing a world free from gender bias

b) What kind of brands use this template?

Mostly FMCG brands, whose brand strategies are single-minded.

c) What are the advantages of this model?

It’s simple and it forces brand strategists to translate product features into benefits relevant to consumers.

d) Are there any downsides?

The model is difficult to apply in more complex categories (media, professional services, etc.), where single-mindedness is not often possible.

2. Simon Sinek’s “Why, How and What”

a) What does the template look like?

Why: Why does the organization exist? What is the company’s purpose?
How: How is the company’s offering different from others? What is unique about it?
What: What does a company or a product do?

According to Simon Sinek, most brands communicate “the what” and “the how” and forget about “the why”, when they always should start with “the why”.

Here is what Virgin’s “why, how and what” looks like:

Why: We change businesses for good
How: By disrupting industries, fixing what is broken and changing things for the better in the long run
What: TV and Internet, radio, wine, airlines, hotels, gyms etc.

b) What kind of brands use this template?

This mostly applies to corporate brands (companies rather than products), who often use purpose-driven branding to position themselves as good corporate citizens (brand purpose is often associated with CSR but does not have to be).

If you want to read more about purposeful brands, read our post about this topic.

c) What are the advantages of this model?

Some companies (e.g., Unilever) believe that purposeful brands achieve better financial results. This model is currently extremely popular among strategists, marketers, branding journalists and bloggers, so if your company has a higher purpose and delivers on it effectively, this should lead to more media exposure, and, as a result, a higher brand awareness.

d) Are there any downsides?

What is the purpose of a toilet paper brand? Not all brands will sound authentic when communicating their purpose. The model focuses on the organization and not on the consumer, which is not always a good approach. Unfortunately, it also often leads to a significant amount of “brand strategy fluff”, when words are not followed by action and the purpose is a pure communication exercise that is not rooted in the business strategy. Consequently, a lot of companies have similar purposes (most of them are about empowering or connecting people, enabling progress or improving lives).

3. Bull’s eye

a) What does the template look like?

Brand essence: What does the brand stand for, in one sentence?
Brand values: What are the brand pillars and the main communication themes (e.g., heritage, inclusiveness, innovation, etc.)?
Brand character: What is the personality and the tone of voice of the brand (e.g., is it warm, high-tech, trendy, corporate, etc.)?

At BrandStruck, we add one more element to this model, which is a brand archetype (you can read about brand archetypes here).

Dove’s brand strategy in this model is as follows:

Brand essence: Empowering women to feel beautiful and self-confident
Brand values: Beauty, empowerment, care
Brand character: Feminine, warm, caring, positive, innocent, inclusive
Brand archetype: The Innocent

b) What kind of brands use this template?

All brands can use it.

c) What are the advantages of this model?

It is easy to communicate (internally and externally) and makes measuring brand performance more straightforward, as brands can be tracked against a set of agreed values and brand character attributes.

This model is particularly useful when decoding the brand strategies of competitive brands, as any brand’s positioning can be described using this model (this is the main reason why we use it at BrandStruck for our brand strategy case studies, so that they are easily comparable).

d) Are there any downsides?

While it is easy to use for decoding other brands’ strategies, it is more complicated when applying it for your own company’s brand. Explaining a brand using one sentence (brand essence) requires discipline and internal agreement with regard to what you want to say. This template does not make the process any smoother as, unlike the two previous models, it does not offer any leading questions.

The brand benefit ladder, “Why, How and What” and the bull’s eye are three positioning models which are commonly used by brand strategists and which do not overcomplicate things. However, if you have not done your homework and do not really know what your brand stands for, the models will not offer any help.

If you want to read the full brand strategy case studies of all brands mentioned in this post, subscribe to BrandStruck. Our free trial is coming soon!

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If you want to hire Magda for a brand strategy-related project, email her at: magda@brandstruck.co

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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.

BrandStruck ithe only online database of brand strategy case studies.
This is a tool that is dedicated to brand and marketing professionals, allowing them to better understand the positioning of the world’s most admired brands, the similarities and differences between them and to learn more about certain categories.

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