The Art of Brand Positioning

June 29, 2016
Brand Days

In marketing and advertising, the most important piece of real estate is the mind of a customer. Look at any major company across any industry – each and every one conjures certain feelings and emotions when you hear their name, see their ads, or use their products.

That feeling and those emotions are what we call brand positioning. Positioning is more about emotions and less about facts, and when done correctly, serves as the line in the sand for what your brand stands for. Here at ROI·DNA, we’re obsessed with positioning, and use it to guide our process of building brands and getting them from point A to point B. Over the past few months, we’ve made a concerted effort to build brand positioning into nearly all of our client work and we wanted to share our insight on how establishing positioning early can help a brand reach that next step, whatever it may be.

Current State of Brand: In Their Own Words

In order to guide the future brand trajectory, we begin our process by determining the current state of the brand. To do so, we conduct hour-long interviews with internal stakeholders at the company and also several of their clients. The questions during the interview process range from straightforward questions that get specific about what they do and the audience they’re targeting, to more esoteric questions like what five words describe their brand experience and what keeps them up at night.

Conducting both internal and external interviews is imperative to this exercise because if there is a discrepancy in answers between the two, it means that the current state of the brand does not align with market and client needs. Remember, the perception of the client is of the utmost importance, and even though internal stakeholders may think their brand experience is aligned and consistent, it’s the outside perspective that determines if that’s true, not the internal perspective.

After conducting the interviews, the next step in the process is to map the competition. This goes deeper than simply asking who are our direct competitors and what differentiates them from other players in the space. It seeks to answer questions like what do they stand for and what type of emotional response is generated from their overall brand experience.

Brand Days: Where the Magic Happens

The interview findings and competitive analysis along with customer research are then presented to the client in a state of the brand document during a two-day exercise that we like to call brand days. During the brand days, our brand team meets with the client’s internal stakeholders to deconstruct their brand and create the brand roadmap that will inform all future messaging and positioning. By getting everyone in the same room, we act as a sort brand sherpa, facilitating the discussion but letting the the stakeholders drive the process. We start with a big picture approach by determining what the brand stands for and eventually hone in to answer questions like what is their brand footprint, what are their core values, and what is the core promise they’re delivering to their customers.

This is where the magic happens. It’s amazing to see the different stakeholders make their case for why they view things a certain way, and as the sparks start flying, the overall positioning beings to crystallize. Even though it can be difficult to gather a company’s executives for two full days of brand work, without getting their opinions and having them play an active role in the process this exercise is not served justice.

Making a Brand Roadmap: The Final Stretch

Following the brand days, our brand team holes up in a conference room for several days to share the key takeaways from the exercise and hash out the final brand roadmap. In addition to the brand footprint, core values, and core promises, we write a manifesto – a single, emotional piece that surmises everything about the brand into a powerful narrative. The manifesto is an internal rallying cry that the entire organization can get behind. It encapsulates everything we’ve explored, created, negotiated, and decided upon in a single, expressive, emotional piece that is remarkably effective as a springboard for all marketing materials and brand expressions to follow. Though the manifesto is an internal asset that’s not expressed in and of itself to the outside world, it informs every other piece of communication that follows – logo, tagline, collateral, website, advertising, direct marketing, PR, brand video, and style guides, as well as the HR manual that employees receive on their first day.

Repositioned and Ready for Growth

When it’s all said and done, the brand now has an established framework for all marketing and advertising materials and evokes a consistent emotion and experience throughout everything they do. The value of this framework should not be understated. Even though it’s a concept that can be difficult to pin down on first approach, once established, you have a roadmap for future success and can stake your claim to emotional real estate in the mind of a customer.

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