The folks at Sunkist, the well-established orange brand, are sharp marketers with their slogan, “An orange is an orange … unless it says Sunkist.” The real genius of Sunkist is how they positioned their brand by re-positioning all other oranges that don’t carry the Sunkist label. Those other oranges are somehow something less than a Sunkist orange: less juicy, less tasty, less consistent quality, less orange, less everything.

Simple as Sunkist makes it sound, this “being different” in ways that matter to customers and prospects is actually pretty darn hard. But it’s required if your brand is to be successful for the long run.

Defining the ways you can be genuinely and authentically different your brand from competitors — in ways that your customers and prospects need, want and appreciate — is positioning. By default, this requires you not try to be all things to all customers and prospects, instead more narrowly focusing on the specific segments which your brand — and yours alone — can own. When you successfully position your brand, you demonstrate a decisive advantage over the other options that your customers and prospects have to fill their specific need.

Classically stated, brand positioning falls into this format:  “Our (product or service offered) is the only (product category) that (benefits delivered) to (target audience).”

But when you grow oranges, how different can yours really be from those being grown down the street? How different can the kaolin clay you’re mining really be from someone else’s? Or, your bottled water? Tires? Zippers? Air conditioners? Brokerage services? Hospital? Dental practice? Lawyering? Architectural services? Etc.

Very few businesses have no competitors, and differentiation from yours is vital. Consider the following areas in which to differentiate, but keep in mind whether your being different in a particular area has any real relevance and value to your audiences:

  • Pricing strategies
  • Shipping/delivery services
  • Post-sale services
  • Product features/benefits
  • Pre-sale process
  • Promotional tie-ins, sponsorships, community goodwill
  • Product quality
  • Support services
  • Guarantees/warranties
  • Packaging
  • Others…

There’s a lot more to learn about positioning your brand in the classic book “Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

The mission is to give your customers and prospects a clear, definitive, reason to do business with you instead of a competitor. Position your brand distinctively, and actively communicate that distinction through your brand touch points and you’ll draw in customers who can easily separate you from the competitive horde.

It’s not easy, to be sure. But if you don’t actively position your brand, your competitors are likely to do it for you.  Just ask the marketers at Sunkist. And, if you need help, we at 34 North can certainly provide it.