Marketing Strategy and Branding Positioning

I'm starting on a five part series on understanding marketing. The goal is to give brief notes on the various elements used in Marketing. So people who are new to marketing won’t get lost completely. It's not my goal to create an entire course on teaching marketing.

The five part consist of Branding, Customer Centricity, Facilitate Influence, Pricing and Communication Strategies. In the first part of the series, I'm focusing on marketing strategy and branding positioning.

These are the four stages of the customer purchase process. This list was taken from the book “Global Brand Power: Leveraging Branding for Long-Term Growth, Barbara Kahn”.

  1. Living Stage -- Awareness of a need and brands that fill that need.

  2. Planning Stage -- Creation of interest about considered brands.

  3. Shopping Stage -- Desire for the right branded product.

  4. Experiencing Stage -- Purchase and repurchase.

Marketing 101: Building Strong Brands

Seller’s Market -- Production: Focus on Company.

Buyer’s Market -- Marketing: Focus on Customer and Competition.

Production Orientation 

Marketing Orientation

Experience Orientation

Trust Orientation


Persuade customers to want what the firm has.

Persuade firm to offer what the customer wants.

Manage customer’s entire experience with the firm.

Prioritize building a relationship of trust and discipline.


Generic Products

Differentiated Product/Services

Experiential Value

Genuine Value

Competitive Advantage

Lowest Cost

Quality and Service; Customer Knowledge

Transformation; Customer as co-creator of value


Profitability Drivers

Market Share

Customer Share

Customer Loyalty


Word of Mouth (W-O-M), Referrals


3 Principles of Marketing

  • Principle of Customer Value

  • Principle of Differentiation

  • Principle of Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning.

4 P’s of Marketing (Marketing Mix)

  • Product

  • Place

  • Promotion

  • Price

“Experience” within the 4 P’s

Product: build in experiential features

  • Marriott; Personal luxury, style, edge, pulse

  • Design: beauty, elegance (Apple)

Place: design, music, fragrance, type of salespeople

  • Sephora

  • Victoria’s Secret

Promotion: noteworthy, experiential “brand personality”.


Strategic Marketing

Market-Driven Principles

  • Know your Markets.

  • Customers have the final say.

  • Commit to being first in the markets you serve.

  • Deliver total quality to guarantee customer satisfaction.

Strategies for Leadership

Segmentation and Targeting

Positioning process

  1. Segmentation -- Identify variables that allow one to segment the market.

  2. Targeting -- Evaluate the attractiveness of each segment and choose a target segment.

  3. Positioning -- Identify positioning concepts for each target segment, select the best, and communicate it.

What is a Market Segment?

Market segmentation is the process of dividing a market into distinct subsets, where any subset may conceivably be selected as a marketing target to be reached with a distinct marketing mix.

Segmentation Methods

  • Characteristics of the Customer (e.g. man vs women, old vs young, Cohort Analysis)

  • Benefits Sought (e.g. comfort, technology).

  • Systematic, Product-Related Behaviors. (e.g. purchasing behavior, by channel).

Select a Target Segment

What makes a segment attractive?

  • Balancing Segment Attractiveness with our Capability.

  • Continuously monitoring whether the actual buyers match the target segment.

Segment Selection Criteria

  • Segment Size

  • Growth of Segment

  • Value of Segment ($)

  • Stability

  • Current Company position within segment

  • Ease of entry into segment

  • Ease of competitive entry into segment

  • Number and strength of competitors

Brand Positioning

What is a Brand?

Formally… A proprietary trademark for a specific product of service.

Conceptually.. A “contract” from the company to its customers; A promise of specific benefits, quality,  and value. A relationship.

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is - it is what consumers tell each other it is.” -- Scott D. Cook Founder and chairman of the Executive Committee - Intuit Board of Directors - P&G

“It’s not about telling and selling. It’s about bring a relationship mind-set to everything we do.” -- Jim Stegel, CMO - Procter & Gamble

Positioning Statement

  • Target Segment

  • Point of Difference

  • Frame of Reference ( who are the competitors that they are comparing themselves to?)


A positioning statement defines the value proposition of product to the target market.

  • Target Market (for whom).

  • Point of Difference (Reason to buy).

  • Points of parity (frame of reference).

Positioning is implemented through all elements of the marketing mix: product, price, promotion, place.

Should focus on a few key benefits (unique selling proposition).

Position must be defensible.

Position requires making choices.

Point of Parity (POP)

Associations that are not unique to the brand; they are shared with other brands.

Category POPs: associations consumer views as necessary to be considered credible

  • Ex: Grocery stores must have certain products (e.g., milk, eggs) to be truly considered a ‘grocery store’.

Competitive POPs: associations designed to negate competitors’ point of difference

  • All toothpastes prevent cavities.

Point of Difference (POD)

Strong, favorable, unique brand associations. Similar to the notion of USP (unique selling proposition).

SCA; sustainable competitive advantage (achieve an advantage in the marketplace for a prolonged period of time).

May involve: performance attributes, benefits, imagery associations.

POD Criteria

Are POD desirable to the customer?

  • Is POD Relevant (ex: consumers didn’t care about clear cola, or “unbreakable chips”).

  • Is POD Distinctive? (distinctive and superior).

Can you deliver the POD to the customer?

  • Feasibility (affordable? Possible? E.g., can airlines deliver on-time arrival?)

  • Communicability (evidence to communicate?)

  • Sustainability (internal commitment, difficult to attack; must be consistent at any point in time and over time).

Brand Mantra: The Elevator Speech

Mental Map

Portrays brand association and responses for a target market. Shows how it is actually perceived.

Ask consumers “What comes to mind when you think about V8?”

Then brand associations are grouped into categories.

Core Brand Values

Set of abstract concepts or phrases that characterize the five to ten most important dimensions of the mental map of a brand.

Relate to points-of-parity and points-of-difference.

Mental Map --> Core Brand Values --> Brand Mantra

Brand Mantra

An articulation of the “heart and soul” of the brand.

Similar to “brand essence” or “core brand promise”.

Short three to five world phrases that capture the irrefutable essence or spirit of the brand positioning and brand values.


  • Communicate

  • Simplify

  • Inspire

Use internally to guide decisions - what the brand should and should not be associated with.

Brand Mantra Considerations:

  • Communicate: define the business and boundaries; clarify what is unique about the brand.

  • Simplify: Memorable, shor, vivid, and crisp.

  • Inspire: Have higher level meaning from employees and consumers.

Designing the Brand Mantra

The brand function describes the nature of the product or service or the type of experiences or benefits the brand provides.

The descriptive modifier further clarifies its nature.

The emotional modifier provides another qualifier -- how exactly does the brand provide benefits, and in what way?

Experiential Branding

What is an experience?

Experiences are processes that occur as a result of encountering, undergoing or living through situations.

Triggered stimulation to the senses, heart and mind.

They connect the company and brand to the customer’s lifestyle and place individual customer actions and purchase occasions in a broader social context.

Redefining what a brand is

Differentiation    ---------------------------->


Promise            ----------------------------->


Attributes          ----------------------------->


Static                ----------------------------->


Mass                 ----------------------------->


Awareness        ----------------------------->


Connecting Experience to the Brand

Experiential Brand Positioning

  • What does  the brand stand for.

  • Should be a multisensory strategy.

  • Should be different in some real and valuable way from all competitors.

Experiential Brand value promise

  • Describes what customers gets in experiential terms






Embrace all channels (experientially).

Experiential Components

Five Senses

Consistent experience across senses; create a sensory experience that extends across channels.


Appeal to customers’ inner feelings and emotions; connect mild to strong positive feelings with the brand.


Appeal to the intellect; engage customers creatively, problem solving experiences; use of surprise, intrigue and provocation.


Affect bodily experiences, lifestyles, enrich customer lives; show them alternative ways of doing things, alternative lifestyles, can be rational, but can be motivational, inspirational and spontaneous.


Create a feeling of community or belonging; the “future ideal” self that consumer wants to relate to; broader social system; culture.

Strong versus Weak Brands

Strong Brands

Weak Brands

  • Make clear promises that are kept over time.

  • Have rich, unique brand equity..strong thoughts and feelings.

  • Are dependable and deliver consistently.

  • Have a loyal franchise.

  • Make vague promises that change

  • Very general equity and low emotional commitment

  • Have “spotty” reputations, create doubt.

  • Little loyalty, rely on pricing and short-term promotional incentives.

Other characteristics of great brands

  • Consistency in delivering on their promise

  • Superior products and processes

  • Distinctive positioning and customer experience.

  • Alignment of internal and external commitment to the brand.

An ability to stay relevant.