Customers place brands in categories.
These categories are a frame of reference.
- Volvo = Cars
- Apple = Electronics
- Louis Vuitton = Bags
Define your frame of reference, otherwise, your customers will.
Position, or Be Positioned
A frame of reference is a coordinate system for the customer.
The customer wants to know where to place your brand.
- What are you offering?
- What can they expect?
As mentioned in a previous article, a brand tries to occupy the corner of someone's mind.
Your job as a brand is to make it easy for your customers to place your brand in that corner.
Competing in Existing Categories
The easy way is to pick an established category for your brand.
- Products: Cars, Mobile Phones, Meat
- Services: Healthcare, Consulting, Haircut
You communicate points of parity (= what you have in common with the category) and points of differentiation (= what makes you unique).
You compete with other brands in the same category.
Creating New Categories
Another way is to address the same customer group but give them another way to look at your brand's positioning.
- Products: Family station wagon, Smartphones, Butcher's Finest
- Services: Preventative Medicine, Coaching, Styling
You might notice that the products/services are effectively the same but positioned in a different way.
Your goal is to be top-of-mind for a particular category.
With undifferentiated products/services you do it with a twist on existing categories.
With highly differentiated products/services your brand is able to create a "Category of One".
Bottomline: Design How You Want to Be Remembered
A customer places your brand into a corner of their mind.
Make sure your brand controls which corner to occupy.
Ideally, it is a corner where your brand can sit on its own.
This post is an excerpt from my online course Fundamentals of Brand Strategy where you learn how to build successful brands.
The self-paced online course contains 5 hours of video material and teaches you how to use the Brand Pyramid.Learn the Fundamentals of Brand Strategy 🧰
You can hit me up on twitter. DMs are open.
- My guide to positioning (Marketing Examples)
- Differentiation Strategy: What It Is, Why It’s Critical, and How To Get It Right (CXL)
Short Excerpts from the Course
These posts are short snippets of the course curriculum 👇
- A Pragmatic Look at Branding: What Is a Brand?
- Touchpoints and Brand Strategy: How do We Build Associations?
- Positioning and Differentiation: How to Stand Out as a Brand?
- Brand Vision: What Is the World That Could Be?
- Brand Purpose: Why Bother?
- Brand Promise: How to Communicate in One Statement?
- Mission Statement: How Do You Do It?
- Brand Attributes: How Does the Brand Present Itself?
- Frame of Reference: Where Is the Brand Placed?
- Target Customer: Who Is Your Audience?
- Customer Need: What Is Their Real Job-to-be-Done?
- Value Proposition: What Are You Offering?
- Reasons-to-Believe: What Are Your Proof Points?