When you are shown an ad for a product, you expect it to feel like it was made specifically for you. If you don’t see yourself in the ad, it seems like there was some sort of mistake. Our digital world is curated by our own behaviors and history, and we expect the brands reaching us to align with our preferences. Because of the incredible specificity of digital marketing, it is no longer a real challenge to reach your core segment, but because of the complexity of choice and volume of content we consume, it is more important than ever to know your customer’s story so that we can better fit into their lives.
We have lots of options presented to us, all of which solve similar consumer problems on a functional level. The difference between Reebok and Nike isn’t quality or performance. It is cultural currency. Before developing a brand, product, or ad, it is hugely important to align your brand’s identity with the identity of the consumer most likely to engage and convert. Let’s look at how to accurately position a product to be a market stand-out.
There are two things you should consider here. Analyze difference in relation to your competition across two main vectors: value and cultural symbolism. These are the two components of all brands. To understand where your product should fall, consider what is being done in the industry, and what isn’t. Fill any blank space where you see an opportunity. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in both categories and look at how you can improve the cost/value relationship of your brand or product according to your audience’s needs.
Hire Someone in the Fray
If you are starting a company or working within an organization where you are not part of, or deeply in tune with the “in crowd”, consider hiring people who are. Especially in the case of startups and small digital businesses, it isn’t always enough to have data – you need nuanced insights and feet on the ground where the future of your industry is being created. If you are starting a company because you saw an opportunity, but you don’t reflect your audience, it will be obvious in every piece of messaging that you are just a little bit off. So, if your core segment is moms ages 24-30, it would be a great idea to hire a few young mothers.
You make jeans. No.
You make jeans for men. You make jeans for thin men. You make jeans for thin men who like outdoor sports. You make jeans for thin men who like outdoor sports, make $50-60k annually, but have a high willingness to spend on their appearance and mostly prefer thick, dark material and only go clothes shopping twice per year.
The more of their story you uncover, the more accurately you will be able to position your product, so ask. Social media is a really easy place to do online listening and ask questions in a casual way. Surveys are great too, but they are formal and sometimes product confounding results that won’t help you.
You might have to pivot. You may think you’ve finally nailed your position in the market between your pricing strategy, unique value proposition, and brand identity, but don’t become too married to an idea before testing it. Be prepared to make subtle shifts to your business by using assumptions you make from your data, or if you really need to, do a brand refresh and start over with a new strategy without losing momentum.
Remember that your brand is fluid and so are you customers. There is a lot of influence in the world and media consumption levels are really high, so stay agile, fresh, and understand that we all grow and change, even your brand. Don’t be afraid to fail, learn, and adapt fluidly, and you will see great success.