Competitive Positioning: The Definitive Guide (Top Brand Examples)

The term “Competitive positioning” sounds like an intimidating business term to describe a complex topic. 
 
To add to the apparent complexity, you’ll often hear the term used interchangeably with any number of equally complex sounding terms such as â€śpositioning strategy”, â€śdifferentiation strategy” or â€ścompetitive differentiation”. 

Semantics aside, there are all more or less the same topic which is not that complicated.

Once you understand it you can define a positioning strategy for your brand, to give it a competitive edge and maneuver it into a position of strength.

In this article, you’ll learn the simplicity of competitive positioning and a process to define an edge for your brands.

What Is Competitive Positioning? (Examples & Types)

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What Is Competitive Positioning?

Competitive positioning, more often than not, is overlooked or avoided by many entrepreneurs, business leaders and even professional brand builders.

It’s the cornerstone of brand strategy though the strategy of the brand is still a new concept to some, with many business leaders opting for the easy (and cost-effective route) which is to develop a visual brand without considering a strategy. 

 But as is often the case, there are consequences to taking shortcuts and  

a brand without a competitive positioning strategy is a brand without a compelling reason to choose it. 

Competitive Positioning Definition

In his time, Philip Kotler was defined as the Father Of Modern Marketing. 

 He defines Competitive positioning as:  

The act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market. 

 If we were to define it in more conversational language, your competitive position is:

The defining reason customers choose a brand over it’s competitors 

 So as you can see all of these terms are not really that complicated at all. 


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Why Is Competitive Positioning Important?


Well, the reality is, 
when consumers choose one brand over another, there are defining factors in their decision-making process. 

One of the biggest mistakes of business owners and brand builders around the world make, is assuming that their visual brand is enough to appeal to their audience and quite simply it’s not.

Consumers make buying decisions everyday. Many of these decisions are made subconsciously, but that doesn’t mean there’s no reason behind the decision.

Subconscious or not, for every buying decision, there is a defining reason for the purchase.

Brands that overlook competitive positioning, overlook the requirement to provide the audience with that compelling reason

They assume the visual brand will be enough to attract or that their audience will come up with their own compelling reason… But they won’t. 

If you don’t give your audience a compelling reason, they’ll find a brand that will. 

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Decision-Making Factors Of Buying Decisions

The most important decision-making factors for customers within a given market segment is largely dependant on the people in that segment and the outcome they’re after.

For example, within the car market, a growing family with a limited budget is a market segment that needs to be served.  

Examples of their most important decision-making factors could include. 

Price 

Size / Space 

Fuel Economy 

Reliability 

 The brands operating in this space need to define the decision-making factors they want to be best known for, then communicate those factors consistently until they build that reputation. 

Competitive Positioning vs Competitor Positioning

Competitive and competitor positioning are often confused. 

Competitive positioning relates to the competitive edge or your brand while competitor positioning relates to the competitive edge of the competition. 

Before defining your competitive position in the market, it’s important that you understand who else is playing in the market and what their position is. 

For example, if CAR BRAND A has developed a reputation as the most economical in a category, then CAR BRAND B, rather than competing on that decision-making factor, might position themselves as the most reliable. 

An effective competitive positioning strategy considers the competitive landscape. 

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What Is A Positioning Map?

A positioning map which is also known as a   

Perceptual Map 

Positioning Matrix 

Perceptual Matrix 

is a positioning tool that allows brand strategists to compare decision-making factors and visualise the competitive landscape. 

The comparison allows for two decision-making variables to be considered and the brands within the category plotted by their reputation based on the criteria. 

For example, to visualise the economy family car market we might use the positional map consider the “Fuel Economy” and “Reliability” variables, then plot the brands on the map based on their reputation in the market.

The perceptual map is a tool that’s been around for decades and although it’s not an exact science, 

it’s a great way to visualise the market and find opportunities competitive positional opportunities.

Competitive Positioning Examples & Types

There are many different approaches a brand can use to position themselves in the market and provide their audience with a compelling reason.

The key is in understanding the buying decision factors your audience places a high value on and creating a perfect combination to appeal.

Here are some examples of competitive positioning approaches. 

Create A Competitive Positioning Strategy (Process Framework)

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Against Brand Positioning

This approach uses another brand, category or audience as a reference point of their difference.  

This strategy essentially points the finger at their opposite to say â€śWe’re the opposite of this”.

It’s a bold strategy but an effective one if the audience has a beef with the point of reference. 

For example, the Dollar Shave Club indirectly used Gillette’s expensive feature heavy razors as a point of focus, highlighted the pain-points and offered an alternative. 

Experience Positioning

This approach puts a focus on the entire end-to-end experience of the brand rather than a single focal point. 

Throughout any brand experience there may be multiple pain-points that hamper the experience. Experience positioning aims to iron out those pain-points and communicate their absence to the market.

JetBlue was one of the first airlines to disrupt air travel in the U.S. 

Coming into a market when competitive fares and comfortable travel were mutually exclusive, JetBlue placed a focus on the entire experience competitive fares, extensive in-flight entertainment, comfortable leather seating and additional legroom. 

How To Develop A Competitive Position

Defining a competitive position in the market is easier said than done.

If you want a house with ocean views, chances are, someone is already living on your perfect plot of land. But where competitive positioning differs to physical positioning, is there are no limitations to creativity.

Extremely competitive markets are disrupted every year by innovative brands with new ideas and new approaches.  

 Some use groundbreakingly innovative technology while others simply find a new way to provide a better end-to-end experience. 

Ultimately, all define a competitive position to give their audience a defining reason to choose them. 

There’s no guarantees, no quick fixes and no silver bullets but there is a proven process you can follow to increase your chances of finding a competitive edge over your competition. 

Step 1: Define Your Market Segments

When the time comes to define your position in the market and the reason you give your audience to choose you there is one rule that mustn’t be overlooked.

You cannot mean everything to everyone 

The broader the market you try to appeal to, the more diluted your message becomes. The more focused and specific the market, the easier it is to be more relevant. 

The first step to achieving this is to exclude all of the people you don’t need to appeal to by segmenting your market using key categories. 

For example, instead of targeting “Men”, you would look to add much more specificity to enhance the focus on a specific group of men such as “Single, Stylish Businessmen in their early 20’s”. 

Step 2: Uncover Your Market Demographics

Once you’ve categorised your market segments it’s time to get to know them.

The demographics of your audience provide you with a window into the circumstances and situations of their lives.  

Aim to uncover key demographics that define their day-to-day circumstances such age 

Age 

Gender 

Ethnicity 

Geographic Location 

Education Level 

Income 

Family Status 

Although this information doesn’t tell you too much about their behaviour, it does begin to bring some tangibility to them. 

Step 3: Uncover Your Market Psychographics

The demographics you uncover in the previous step begins to shine a light on their lives though you need to dig a little deeper with psychographics before you can begin to understand them as people.

Psychographics uncover the preferences and surface level behaviours or your audience to give you an insight into their mind.

Psychographics include: 

Interests 

Hobbies 

Lifestyle 

Sport 

Music 

Food 

Beliefs  

Values  

Religion 

 

When you couple psychographics with demographics, your audience comes to life through the detail to give you a clear picture on who your target market segment is. 

Step 4: Develop & Refine Your Audience Avatar

By this step, you’ll have clarity on who your audience is yet you’re not done yet.

All of the information you’ve gathered about their circumstances and their lives will give you clarity though you still need to understand how you can best resonate with who they are.

This is where their goals, desires and fears provide you with the tools to make human connections.  

When you know where they’re going, what’s standing in their way and the emotions attached to the journey they’re on, you have the means to resonate with who they are and what they’re feeling. 

Step 5: Research Your Competitors

As I mentioned earlier, effective competitive positioning hinges on an understanding of the competitive landscape.

By definition, you can’t define a competitive advantage without knowing the competitive nature of the completion.

Your target market is already flirting with your competitors. Some have gone even further. At the very least, your potential customers know who they are and the value they can bring to their lives.

When you understand the reasons your audience may choose your competitors, and more importantly, why they may not, you’re much better positioned to find gaps and opportunities in the market. 

Step 6: Define Your Differentiation Strategy

Defining your differentiation strategy isn’t rocket science, but it’s no cake walk either.

There’s no beautiful untouched sunny patch of grass amongst the noisy competitors. If you want to find a compelling difference, you have to look more closely where others haven’t. 

Maybe your target market would prefer shorter turnaround times or maybe they don’t have a problem with the turnaround time and instead want a more guided experience.

The difference you define becomes the cornerstone for your position and the key messages your brand places in the market. 

Step 7: Craft Your Positioning Statement

A positioning statement is not a piece of marketing or website copy to tell your audience what you mean and why you’re different.

Instead, it’s a tool to influence your message to the market so they learn the key messages you’ve defined that you want them to know.  

Your positioning statement should include the following elements.

The Audience

The Challenge / Pain Point

The Key Benefit

The Competitive Alternative

The Unique Point Of DifferenceOnce crafted, your positioning statement becomes a guide for all brand messaging in order to influence where the audience positions the brand in their mind. 

Over To You

There are more businesses in more markets competing for more customers than ever before in history.

Fulfilling a want or need is only the beginning but in this noisy market landscape it most certainly isn’t enough.

Only when you define a difference that provides an alternative that the audience deems valuable, are you in with a shot at attracting the right audience that values what you have.

Otherwise, you’re just another business making up the numbers and contributing to the growing noise in the market.

Are you differentiating your brand? Comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.

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