When Warren Buffett talks about evaluating the quality of a company, he looks for an “economic moat.” The moat represents the competitive advantage a company has. This moat protects the company from the competition and ultimately makes it sustainable over time. The wider the moat, the better positioned the company is.
Brand positioning is a key consideration in building a moat in today’s marketplace. Consider three iconic brands, Nike, McDonalds and Amazon. Each of these brand images say something about the business that transcends its products or services. Achieving such transcendence requires careful consideration of the tools a company can use to build its moat.
Consider one of the most iconic objects of all time, the Coca-Cola bottle. To differentiate itself from the competition, Coca-Cola decided to patent the shape of its bottles in 1915. The distinct shape of the bottle was a way of verifying its authenticity. Even as packaging materials changed from glass to aluminum and plastic, the company made certain the original bottle was represented either through the design or through an illustration. Their bottle represents their moat.
Asking the Right Questions
Brand positioning starts with a statement. To craft that statement, you have to ask the right questions. Your brand positioning statement is more than just a tagline or a slogan. It is an internal statement that everyone in the company shares. It goes beyond what a company is doing or how it operates. The positioning statement explains why a company does what it does. What is its reason for existing?
Before you come up with a positioning statement, it is valuable to answer a few questions.
Who are your customers?
What problems do you solve for them?
What makes your solutions unique?
The answer to these questions gets to the heart of your competitive advantage. While making the best products possible is a good goal, it is not a reason to exist. Working only to make a profit is little better. The brand positioning statement goes beyond physical ideas and gets to the heart of what you are trying to accomplish.
Making a Statement
Your brand positioning statement should influence everything you do, including your taglines, slogans and even logos. It should be simple and it should permeate your organization. A brand positioning statement is more than a mission or vision. It is how you will make your company stand out from your competitors. It is the foundation of your positioning strategy.
Target is a great example of this. Their positioning statement is “Style on a Budget.” It is not even a complete sentence, but it captures the essence of what Target is aiming for. You can see it in their slogan, “Expect more. Pay less.” In both of those statements, their focus is on the customer. They are building their moat by providing quality products at a low price.
Brand positioning starts by defining the customers you hope to reach and the unique way you solve their problems. Your statement may be longer than a simple 4-word phrase, but it is the fundamental first step you have to take in defining your brand strategy.
You can find plenty of worksheets and “how to” articles that will walk you through the paces of constructing a brand positioning statement. The exercise itself can be valuable in helping you focus your efforts, but it can be much more than that. It can be the foundation of the competitive advantage that sets your organization apart from your competitors. Digging to discover why your company does what is does is the first step in building your moat.