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How Branding Avoids the Product Positioning Trap

3 min read
Product Positioning Trap 2

You’ve got a great product, and you know it. It solves real problems better than anyone else and your customers can’t get enough of it. You’ve even got the testimonials to prove it.

But here’s a cold, hard fact: Without a solid brand to back your product up, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with your audience on a deep, emotional level, potentially turning customers away and even hurting the product itself. You’re getting caught in the product positioning trap.

To understand that trap, you first have to understand the difference between product positioning and branding — both very similar and related subjects, but different in their approaches.

Product Positioning and Branding: What’s the Difference?

Product positioning is just what it sounds like. It’s the category your product operates in. It’s who your product’s for, what it competes against, and why it’s different from competitors.

When applied to marketing, product positioning often takes the shape of a comparison game, with claims of “more”: more quickly, more efficiently, more accurately. Sometimes, it may get technical, especially when waxing specific on the ways your product is better than others.

Product positioning places the focus on the ins and outs of your offering. Branding, on the other hand, occupies an emotional space in your customers’ minds. It’s why some people will choose a certain product over another, even though it's functionally similar (or nearly identical) to others.

Where product positioning is the brains of your marketing strategy, branding is the heart.

Product Positioning Alone Isn’t Enough

There’s nothing wrong with product positioning, per se. Customers want to know about your product and the ways it can help them. And a subset of your audience likely does want to learn all the technical details of your product.

But your product positioning shouldn’t be the entire story. That’s because product positioning isn’t a story — taken alone, it’s a glorified spec sheet. Where’s the emotion? Why should anyone care?

That’s where branding comes in. With a keen awareness of your audiences’ wants and needs, their pain points and aspirations, your brand imbues your product with an emotional framework for you to tell the right story with the right emotions, consistently. It cushions your business when competitors copy your product’s features and beat you on price. It’s your most valuable intangible asset.

Keep in mind, however, that branding isn’t a silver bullet. Just as a poorly defined brand can hinder a great product, a great brand can only do so much to help a poorly positioned product.

Get Out of the Product Positioning Trap

So, you’ve found yourself stuck in the throes of features and benefits — the product positioning trap. How do you get out? Take the following small steps to get started.

  • Consider your audience. What emotional benefits does your product unlock for them? How can you tailor your words and visuals to align with those promises? Answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to thinking in the brand mindset.

  • Establish a point of view. Plant your proverbial flag in the ground. What are you for? What are you against? Getting clear on your perspective can uncover tensions that form the basis for compelling, resonant messages.

  • Find your voice and stay consistent. Be bold. Clever. Empathetic. Humorous. Through the things you say and show, demonstrate a personality that connects with what your customers yearn for, and stick to it through every brand touchpoint, big or small.

When taken in tandem, product positioning and branding can be a powerful thing, the key to catching and keeping the attention of your customers — and creating something greater than the thing you’re selling.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

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