What's Your Positioning Message?

There are many ways for a business to be unique, from small pricing, packaging, and service differences to significant feature and benefit contrasts with the competition.

In all cases, your business's uniqueness has to be examined in relation to other products and services that your target buyer is currently using (i.e., things that your business hopes to replace with its own offerings). Differences really don't matter unless they are important enough to the customer to influence his or her purchasing decision.

In some cases, there may actually be little or no difference between your product or service and that of your competitors. Or, the differences may be very difficult to communicate (think of the difference between Coke and Pepsi.) In that case, it's up to you to create some differences.


For example, granulated white sugar is essentially indistinguishable from one brand to another. Physical product features are the same for each brand. Product benefits and usage are identical. However, even plain white sugar can be differentiated with pricing, packaging, and quality image supported by advertising.

Consumers consistently rank price as one of the most important features of branded granulated sugars in making a purchase decision. Another important feature is the brand image of quality, which reinforces this image with a higher price versus generic brands.

You've already begun the process of thinking about your positioning if you've constructed a unique selling proposition (USP) for your product or business.

"Differentiation" is the collection of differences in features and benefits versus competitive products. The key is to determine how important these collective differences are to the buyer. Communication of important differences is the basis for a successful positioning strategy.

"Positioning" is adding brand value to this collection of differences in the mind of the buyer. In other words, you must solve the problem of how to communicate a meaningful difference about your business idea to the people who are most interested in buying it.

Meaningful differences in your product or service, compared to that of your competitors, should be created and communicated to your target buyer via packaging, pricing, features and benefits, product design, colors, advertising and promotion mediums, public relations events, and even spokespersons. Everything should work together to promote a consistent image for your product or service.

Correct positioning can be thought of as solving the marketing mix problems of the "Four Ps of Marketing":

as well as the "Four Cs":

More simply, Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of Marketing Warfare, say that "positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect."