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Brad VanAuken Brand Positioning

Defining Your Competitive Frame Of Reference

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Choosing the most advantageous competitive frame of reference is a very important part of brand positioning. Earlier on Branding Strategy Insider I shared how Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute redefined itself from an engineering school to a place where technological innovation thrives (why not change the world?®). I shared how The Strong Museum redefined itself from a children’s museum to THE place that studies and explores play and American University redefined itself as a place for WONKs, focusing on its location in Washington, DC and even its association with public policy. In all three of these instances, the brands intended to move from more crowded categories to a category of their own creation in which they became the only (category-of-one) brand.

I have also explored how to define the category that a cola brand might be in. Is the category colas, or carbonated beverages or soft drinks or non-alcoholic beverages or all beverages or rehydration or human liquid consumption or refreshment or something else?

What category is Dasani Drops in? Perhaps the tagline defines it – “flavor enhancer.” Does this mean that the category is not flavored water? How does that help Dasani Drops competitively?

There are hundreds of professional associations and societies in health care, reflecting the degree of complexity and specialization in that field. We are working with a professional society in health care that develops physician leaders. Is their competitive frame of reference professional societies for physicians, professional societies for physician leaders, professional societies for health care executives, professional development for health care administrators, leadership development for physicians or something else? While these may all seem similar, depending on what they have chosen, their competitive set and unique value proposition changes, especially in this crowded field.

Just as choosing the most advantageous target customer definition is not a trivial exercise, so too is choosing the competitive frame of reference. Choosing a competitive frame of reference based on the most powerful motivators for the target customers can lead to a previously undefined category in which your brand has few, if any competitors. That category definition helps your brand own the benefit more quickly before any other brand is able to claim it. Being able to redefine the category requires out-of-the box thinking.

If interested, we have tools to help you explore category description alternatives, including those that can transform your band into a category-of-one.

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

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