brand positioning pepsi example

Brand positioning deserves your attention. I know with all of the hype about digital marketing, data, social media and the Facebook Gods, you probably don’t know there’s another place you should be waging war on your competitors. In people’s minds.

No, this is not some mind control trick I learned at David Copperfield or a secret science experiment only the government knows about. That would be a little (okay, more than a little) creepy.

Marketing has a concept called targeting. Most startups, small and micro business owners I speak with can grasp the concept of finding their target market easily. But did you know there’s a step you need to take before and another after targeting? Most startups and marketers skip segmentation and take a shortcut straight to targeting, then forget (or never know about) the final step of positioning.

I’m talking about a concept that’s been around since Al Ries and Jack Trout coined the term in the 1960’s. Their book, Positioning, made a lot of sense to me. Brand positioning is as relevant today as the day it was written because it doesn’t depend on any specific medium or platform.

Overcommunicated society

What I found most remarkable in Ries and Trout’s book about brand positioning is that they wrote how busy people’s lives were, how many ads they were exposed to daily and that they were living in an “overcommunicated” society. Imagine how this problem has compounded some 60 years later.

Advertising is everywhere

Now advertising can reach us everywhere, through our TV, radio, magazines, websites, video streaming, blogs, podcasts, text messages, smart phones, social media advertising, social media messaging, billboards, cereal boxes, packaging, and more.

Yep, it seems if there is a blank space, marketers will mark their territory write their name on it.

Indeed we are over stimulated with advertising messages. So, while most of the hype seems to be on pumping out more content on social media, it’s not helping. Perhaps we need to be more deliberate in the content we share, rather than posting content for the sake of content.

How memory is organised

I once heard human brains described as filing cabinets. We organise our memory by associating it with something else we already have in our memory. Perhaps that’s an oversimplification.

Associative memory is a type of memory where people receive new information and associate that with an existing memory. So, it makes sense that we draw comparisons between what we know and something new we are learning. We’re seeking an answer to the question, where does this new information fit?

Brand positioning is about recall

Brand positioning is all about the position we occupy in people’s minds. If we can communicate clearly about where we fit in the world, customers might be able to recall our brand when they are in the market for what we sell.

Previously I made the below video about why brand advertising is important. Estimates of active buyers, or those in the market who are ready to buy what you have right now, range between 3 and 10 percent. This means between 90 and 97 percent of your audience are non-active buyers. Not ready to buy now but you want them to think of your business when the time comes.

Repetition works, repetition works, repetition works

Okay, you get the idea. An old rule of thumb in advertising is that someone must see your brand a minimum of 3 times but being in such a noisy world, I would argue that figure has multiplied. Assistant Professor at the University of Tampa, Jennifer Burton, recently conducted a survey and her findings were that people must see your brand at least 10 times for it to leave an impression.

Every town has their radio jingles. Annoyingly effective. In fact, if someone asks who installs carpet in Dubbo, my first thought is to recall the jingle, “Crampton’s Carpets, Dubbo!”. If someone asks where they can get a new mower or chainsaw, I can’t help but think of “Duuubo Mowers and Chain-saws”. These are the jingles I hear every time I turn on the radio and occasionally TV.

If someone asks who installs carpet in Dubbo, my first thought is to recall the jingle, “Crampton’s Carpets, Dubbo!”. If someone asks where they can get a new mower or chainsaw, I can’t help but think of “Duuubo Mowers and Chain-saws”


Every newcomer to town makes fun of these jingles, which makes them even more effective when it comes to brand recall.

Comparisons in brand positioning

What comparisons can we draw in our marketing communication, so people think of us when the time is right? Ideally our product or service would exist in isolation but it doesn’t, so what do we want people to think about when they think of our brand.

Ries and Trout suggest, in Positioning, the maximum number of brands people can hold in their mind, in any particular category, is 7. Think of a category like fast food. Off the top of your head, how many national or international fast food chains can you name with a drive through? Honestly I got to 8, without needing to do any research. I’m sure I could think of a few more but they’re not top of mind or what marketers refer to as the consideration set.

What is the consideration set?

According to Monash University, the consideration set are “alternatives which consumers actively consider before making their final purchase decision; also referred to as the evoked set”. Think about your own brand. Would your average consumer think of you among the top 3 brands if they were put on the spot? As a small or startup business, you might be able to occupy this position in people’s minds if you focus on local branding options.

Which category do you compete in?

If you are in a highly competitive industry, you can make some changes and create a sub-category to your industry. Therefore, you are no longer competing with every brand in people’s mind. Now people can recall your brand when they think of that sub-category. For example, in Dubbo, there are dozens and dozens of cafes. But when I think of drive through coffee, Fast Lane Drive Through Coffee comes to mind because it was among the first (yes, even before Maccas was doing proper coffee) in this sub-category.

What are salient attributes?

What features or attributes do people in your target market consider most important when they make a decison to purchase? These are called salient attributes. How do people perceive your brand when it comes to these salient attributes? How do you compare to other brands in your category? It can be helpful to map out your brand in comparison to others, when it comes to the 3 most important attributes.

Who do you compete with?

Hungry Jacks made itself easy to compare by positioning itself against McDonalds in their cheeky advertising campaigns, which all began with “The Burgers are Better at Hungry Jacks”. In the ad below, they took direct aim at the Big Mac, with their own burger, the Big Jack. They made reference to the fact their burger was bigger and 25 percent more beef. Now, by comparison, you already know what category Hungry Jacks is in.

Who do you fight? And who for?

I am not one to suggest business needs to jump on board with whatever the cause of the day is, which happens to be doing the rounds on social media. Sometimes, making a stand and fighting for something you believe in, makes sense for a brand. Before you start a fight, make sure it is sensible and consistent with your brand values.

Think of some great brand rivaries in days gone by. Pepsi vs Coke, iPhone vs Android. we’ve already mentioned Hungry Jacks vs McDonalds.

But you don’t always need to be fighting brands. Think of late night ads for worker’s compensation solicitors. As one ad put it, they fight injustice to get you the compensation you deserve. Injustice in an ad campaign is just a conecpt but chances are that means something different to everyone who sees it.

Brand positioning matters

Brand positioning starts with being crystal clear about who you target, what you want them to think and how you want them to feel when they think of you. Most importantly, you need to be among the top brands in consumer’s consideration sets when they are ready to buy.


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