Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brand Positioning: Putting Your Brand Image at the Right Market

In the last article we covered Brand Identity, the first strategy in branding strategy. The next step is Brand Positioning.

"Positioning is not what you do to a product; positioning is 
what you do to the mind of the prospect."
- Al Ries and Jack Trout
founders of “positioning”

Positioning is the process of putting the image of a company or a brand into the mind of the target customer. Positioning mirrors the “place” where the brand stands in a marketplace. In the simplest term, brand positioning is the act of making the target customer to think how you want them to think of your product. For example, Starbucks drinkers’ are hip and urban. BMW reflects luxury while Apple is positioned as the go-to brand for the computer-savvy.

Brand positioning is not only limited to advertisements only. It encompasses the whole brand image and brand culture that are built from within a company. Having a strong brand position is important and your company must consistently reflect the image you intend to portray in the market. Your positioning won’t be successful if you’re trying to aim for the high-end market but selling less than high-end products.

To have a successful brand positioning, get the right brand culture that really defines your company. If your company is fun and exciting, your brand must be equally fun and exciting. If the company is a serious one, then the brand you create must accurately reflect the serious culture. Consumers can be made to believe. Therefore, having a strong, consistent brand positioning will make your target consumers believe you because your company portrays what have been promised in the market. 

A successful brand positioning is also both differentiated and important to consumers. A successful brand must be able to solve the target market’s problem while portrays itself as a “wanted” brand. So for the examples above, Starbucks quenches the thirst while making its drinkers look cool and trendy. BMW is an automobile made for the rich and Apple is a computer brand but its consumers are seen as up to date and computer-savvy.

One easy way to position your brand is getting into the target's costumer’s mind first. The successful brands are always the first in a particular category. For example, Xerox is the first copier, Kodak invents the first film rolls while Disney produced the first sound and colour animated films. In brand positioning, it is always better to be the first than to be the best. By being the first in the category, your brand will be differentiated and unique to capture the mind of the consumer, therefore enabling you to cut through the noise level of other brands.

However, not all brands can be the first in its category. So if a brand is not number one, the brand must relate itself to the number one brand. For example, when German beer company Beck’s Beer wanted to sell in America, its rival Lowenbrau was already the most popular German beer there. So Beck’s Beer creatively positioned its brand with the following advertisement,

“You’ve tasted the German beer that’s most popular in America.
Now taste the German beer that’s the most popular in Germany.”

The basic idea in brand positioning is not creating something new or unique, but to manipulate what’s already in the prospect’s mind. By associating itself with the most popular German beer in America, prospects of Beck’s Beer would think that Beck’s Beer is as popular or probably even better than Lowenbrau since the German beer is the most popular in Germany.

"You concentrate on the perceptions of the prospect, not the reality of the product."
- Ries & Trout


As an example we’ll be discussing how AirAsia positions its brand as the leading low-cost carrier in the Asian region and review their positioning strategy as the No. 1 airline choice for the masses.

As mentioned earlier, brand positioning is based on being the first in a particular category. If another brand already fills the slot as the first in that category, then the company must redefine themselves in another new category to be differentiated. In the airline industry, this new category usually tends to passenger comfort, quality service, or in AirAsia's case, cheap flight fares. The success of the brand positioning depends on the effectiveness of advertising in nailing the perceptions into the minds of prospects.

AirAsia was established in 1993 and began its operations in 1996. In December 2001, the heavily-indebted airline was bought by former Time Warner executive Tony Fernandes' company Tune Air Sdn Bhd for a sum of RM1 with RM40 million worth of debts. During that time, the main rival was the prestigious Malaysian Airlines. 

CEO Tony Fernandes turned the company around and quickly positioned AirAsia as the first low-cost carrier in Asia. The company introduced cheap flight fares and economy class for the whole flights. AirAsia began to advertise  their promotional rates as low as RM1 and consequently introduced their popular AirAsia Zero Fare Promotion. Through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, news of free flights spread like fire and AirAsia began to receive attention. Since Malaysian Airlines was already the first in the airline category, AirAsia cheekily associated themselves with its rival with this catchy advertisement in 2006, 

"Why pay for frills when you can fly with amazing low fares?

At AirAsia, no one gets treated like a second-class citizen. For a few Ringgit, you'll get a comfy leather seat and a fun and friendly crew who treats you the way you like to be treated. It's so easy to book and you can even choose to sit anywhere you like!

It's no wonder more than 20 million guests have embraced the AirAsia experience." 

This advertisement alone silmutaneously touched on AirAsia's fun and friendly brand image, positioned itself as a no frills, low-cost airline and with 20 million guests, it is THE wanted airline of choice. It also poked fun at Malaysia Airlines' first class seating and relatively pricier fares. 

The key to AirAsia's successful brand positioning is that AirAsia understands it no longer sells a product, but consumers are the ones who want to buy them. AirAsia's low-cost strategy successfully appeals to the masses. Within one year since the buy-out from Fernandes, AirAsia produced profits in 2002 and has since launched subsidiary companies such as Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, AirAsia India, AirAsia Japan, AirAsia Philippines and AirAsia X, which operates AirAsia's international flights. 



  1. The information you have shared about the brand consulting is precious that share a very valuable information. I am very happy to read this posting. Branding Agency in Singapore

  2. Its really good point you share with us . if your not put your brand in market.
    your brand can never get success .
    For more interesting thing you can contact to Rich Media expert thanks .

    Effective Branding Marketing Agency
    Brand Consultant Agency Singapore

  3. The belief that firms in Asia can use positioning to build brands is outdated in social economy. What is the point of wasting valuable resources developing a position when consumers determine brands based on their experiences with the brand and the experiences of those they respect?