How to Create a Brand Strategy Part 2: Developing Positioning for a Branded Product, Service or Behavior
What is a Brand and Why is Branding Used in SBCC?
Branding is a marketing technique that has been successfully used in the commercial sector for years to sell products and services. The brand is the idea or promise made to the consumer to distinguish the product or service from its competition. It is expressed in names, terms, logos, symbols or designs. Brands help to define quality, build awareness and recognition, and help the consumer form long-term relationships with products and services. Some of the most globally successful commercial companies – like Coca-Cola® and Apple® - have the most recognized and respected brands.
Branding also can be used successfully in social and behavior change communication (SBCC) programs to help intended audiences adopt and maintain desired behaviors. Behaviors, such as exclusive breastfeeding, taking public transportation or adopting a family planning (FP) method, can all be branded to make the behaviors more appealing to audiences. SBCC programs can be branded, as can public sector health services.
How is a Brand Developed?
A brand strategy is created to develop a brand. The brand strategy is comprised of 1) the brand positioning, 2) the brand personality and 3) the brand execution. This guide discusses brand positioning. Brand personality and brand execution are introduced in How to Create a Brand Strategy Part 3: Developing the Personality and Look of a Brand.
What is Positioning?
Brand positioning is the identification and promotion of the most important and unique benefit that the product/service/behavior represents in the mind of the audience. Positioning identifies three main aspects of the brand for the audience:
1) What is unique about the brand?
2) What are the most compelling attributes about the brand? and
3) How is the brand different from the competition on an emotional and functional level?
Why Develop a Brand Position?
Positioning helps the SBCC program be perceived in a positive light by the audience. Positioning, however, is ‘behind the scenes.’ While it guides the marketing strategy, it is never explicitly stated in external marketing materials.
Who Should Develop the Brand Position?
The same team developing the SBCC or branding strategy should develop the brand position. This could include the project team, marketing and/or communication advisors, key stakeholders and representatives from the intended audience.
When is the Brand Position Developed?
Develop the brand positioning and positioning statement as part of the creative brief or, if branding is done apart from the communication strategy, after developing the audience insight statement. Brand positioning can happen during the initial development or launch of a product, service or program, or as part of a repositioning effort to revive a brand.
 P. Kotler, N. Lee. Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CA, 2008.
After completing the activities in this guide, the team will be able to:
- Identify the main components of a positioning statement
- Develop a compelling positioning statement
Step 1: Identify the Competition
One of the primary roles of a brand is to define how the product, service or behavior is unique. To do this well, it is necessary to first define the competing product, service or behavior. Review the audience insight data and the answers to the ‘What?’ questions in the 6Ws of Choice (see the audience insight guide). List what the priority audience identifies as the competition for the product, service or behavior being branded. For example, the competition for exclusive breastfeeding may be supplementing with formula, or not breastfeeding at all.
Step 2: Begin to Define the Brand Category
The category is the range of options that the audience will compare against the new product/service/behavior. The category helps define what would substitute for the product/service/behavior being branded. The broader the category, the more options the audience will consider when evaluating whether or not to choose the branded behavior.
Categories can be defined broadly or narrowly. For some products and services there are a number of categories that can be explored. For others, especially for some behaviors, there may be only one logical category. For example, the table below shows broad and narrow categories for a product and service related to FP and maternal health, but only one category for a behavior. The reason for defining the category is to determine the ‘competition’ for the branded product/service/behavior and how to differentiate your brand from that competition. This will be explored in the next section.
|Family Planning Counseling||Prenatal Vitamins||Exclusive Breastfeeding|
|Broad Category||All interpersonal communication on FP (public sector, private provider, discussions with a peer educator, family and friends)||All methods of prenatal nutritional supplements (oral vitamins, diet, supplemental drinks)|
|Narrow Category||All trained medical counseling (public sector, private sector)||All medically-recommended oral vitamins||All infant feeding methods (formula feeding, complementary feeding)|
It will help to think of competing products, services or behaviors, and determine into which categories or groups they naturally fit. Are they all health-seeking behaviors? Ways to improve child health? What do priority audience members call them or how do they describe them when speaking about them generally? Once a few categories have been identified, summarize each of them in a few words.
Next, consider what advantages the new brand has in each category. What does the new brand have or do that the other brands in that category do not? This is called a competitive advantage. The tables below illustrate categories for FP counseling, prenatal vitamins and breastfeeding, and the competitive advantages for each. For each potential category, summarize the competitive advantages of placing the brand in that category. Fill out the Potential Categories table with the potential categories and the competitive advantages for the brand (see Template 1: Potential Categories).
In the context of SBCC, the same idea applies, and the competition may also include behaviors that are not branded. For example, the competition for use of an insecticide treated net also may include not sleeping under a net.
|Potential Categories for Family Planning Counseling|
|All interpersonal communication on FP (public sector, private provider, discussions with a peer educator, family and friends)||To present FP counseling by a medical provider as the method of counseling that offers something the other methods do not, such as medically accurate advice, unbiased opinions, coverage of benefits and risks of all appropriate contraceptive methods|
|All trained medical counseling (public sector, private sector)||To present your brand of FP counseling as one that delivers something the other brands do not, such as unrushed and confidential, interactive discussion with client|
|Potential Categories for Prenantal Vitamins|
All methods of prenatal nutritional supplements (oral vitamins, diet, supplemental drinks)
To present oral vitamins as the method of supplementation that provides something the others do not, such as once-a-day, easy to use and can be taken anywhere
All medically-recommended oral vitamins
To present your brand of oral vitamins as one that delivers something the other brands do not, such as it covers all recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals in one pill, no aftertaste, easy to swallow
|Potential Categories for Exclusive Breastfeeding|
All infant feeding methods (formula feeding, complementary feeding)
To present exclusive breastfeeding as the infant feeding method that offers something the other methods do not, such as it offers natural antibodies to infants to help fight infection, is free, can be done anywhere at any time with no supplies
Step 3: Select a Category
Make a decision about what category the new brand best fits in by selecting one of the potential categories listed. The decision to choose one category is up to the team developing the brand strategy. Consider the following questions in selecting the brand category and choose the category that gives the brand the best chance of being successful:
- What makes the most sense for the audience?
Summarize what the audience said about the variety of options they have and resist the temptation to simply decide for them. For example, while health programs might categorize contraceptive methods that give women more control of their reproductive choices as “women-initiated methods,” research might show that “women-initiated” does not mean anything to the audience. Rather, a woman choosing a method evaluates her options not just among “women-initiated” methods, but also among a full range of contraceptive options. Therefore, a more meaningful category for this audience would be more likely, “all FP methods.”
- What is missing from the existing competition?
Sometimes there is opportunity in what is missing from the competition – a need that is not being met. For example, a brand promoting exclusive breastfeeding might include a hotline number for support or help. This key piece might not be available from formula brands. The hotline could provide needed support for new mothers and allow them to ask other questions about the health of their babies.
- Are there plans to extend the product/service/behavior line in the future?
If the program plans to add more products, services or behaviors to the brand over time, it might choose a category broad enough to include those future items (rather than a category into which the current product, service or behavior fits, but later, items in the brand will not). For example, the category chosen for FP counseling could be, ‘interpersonal communication on family planning.’ This category, rather than the narrower, ‘medically-provided counseling,’ allows the brand to expand to include other offerings, such as an FP hotline or community peer education.
Sarah, a new mother who lives in a peri-urban area with her husband’s family, represents the priority audience. Sarah is motivated by the desire to ensure that her new baby has everything he needs to stay healthy and happy. Sarah has limited time and money, but aspires to improve her life and that of her family. She also wants to be seen by her in-laws as a good mother.
The audience insight revealed that Sarah considers a number of options for feeding her infant. As a result, the category was defined as “all methods of infant feeding.” The options in the category are: exclusively breastfeeding, complementary breastfeeding (supplementation with water, formula or other traditional foods) or feeding exclusively with breastmilk substitutes (like formula). The program team summarized Sarah’s options in the top row of a Category Analysis Worksheet (see Template 2: Category Analysis Worksheet) for exclusive breastfeeding. In the next step, the team will fill out the benefits and barriers for each of these category options.
Category Analysis Worksheet for Sarah
|Exclusive Formula||Complementary breastFeeding||Exclusive Breastfeeding for Six Months|
Step 4: Summarize the Benefits and Barriers
The next step is to understand the reasons why audience members do or do not use the other products/services/behaviors in the category. For example, new mothers use formula instead of exclusive breastfeeding before six months because they believe it is modern.
Looking at the answers to Why? and Why not? from the 6 Ws of Choice (see audience insight guide), note all of the reasons the audience said they do or do not use the competing products/services/behaviors. Reasons why are “Benefits” and reasons why not are “Barriers.” Summarize each benefit and barrier in a few words and record them, for each of the competing products, in the appropriate row of the Category Analysis Worksheet. Note in the exclusive breastfeeding example below both the benefits and barriers include functional and emotional needs.
|Exclusive Formula||Complementary Breastfeeding|
Step 5: Determine Potential PODs for the Brand
The Point(s) of Differentiation (PoD) is the core, unique emotional and/or functional benefit that your brand offers that is not available from other products, services or behaviors in the category. To determine the PoD, it is necessary to understand the reasons why audience members do and do not use the other products, services or behaviors in the category (as identified in the Category Analysis Worksheet).
List all of the functional and emotional benefits that are ONLY available from the program’s brand. Ensure that these benefits are unique to that brand. Then, analyze these PoDs against the rest of the brands in the category. The table below defines and gives examples of each type of PoD for exclusive breastfeeding.
Type of POD
Functional PoDs are benefits derived from product or service features. A feature is something the product or service has or does.
Exclusive breastfeeding can be done anywhere without need for bottles or nipples, and is FREE.
Personal Feeling PoD: Helps an audience member achieve a desired feeling.
Exclusive breastfeeding allows a mother to feel she is doing what is best for her child’s nutrition and immune system. It also allows her to bond with her baby.
Self Expressive PoD: Allows the audience member to be viewed by others the way he or she would like to be viewed.
Exclusive breastfeeding shows her family and community that she is committed to her newborn’s health.
Social PoD: Allows the audience member to fulfill someone else’s functional need.
Exclusive breastfeeding for six months allows her to provide the best nutrition for her baby.
When identifying potential PoDs, be sure to include at least one emotional PoD identified in the audience analysis. While functional PoDs are important, people decide which brands to choose based largely on how they feel about a brand and whether the brand meets their most important emotional needs. Emotional PoDs help the audience create an emotional connection with brands.
In the example continued below, exclusive breastfeeding is distinct from its competition on a functional level because it is affordable, and is shown to be the most effective form of nutrition for a newborn’s health. On an emotional level, Sarah sees exclusive breastfeeding as a commitment to her child and to being a good mother. She also sees it as a way to bond with her child, meeting a distinct emotional need she indicated as important.
|Exclusive Formula||Complementary Breastfeeding||Exclusive Breastfeeding for Six Months|
 Gobe, Marc. Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People. New York, NY Allworth Press. 2001
Step 6: Select One to Three PODs
Identify the PoD for the brand by selecting no more than three PoDs from the list. Having too many PoDs will make it difficult to develop a focused strategy and messages. In the exclusive breastfeeding example, the final PoDs were: free, can be done anywhere, provides best nutrition for baby’s health and immune system, and allows her to bond with her baby.
Use the following guidelines to determine which are the best PoDs to choose:
- Make sure at least one PoD directly addresses the key problem identified in the audience insight.
- Insight into Sarah revealed that she views breastfeeding as a commitment to her child’s health and as a key way to bond with her baby. She also wanted others, particularly her mother-in-law, to view her as a good mom. Here, the team could choose the PoDs: provides best nutrition for baby’s health and allows her to bond with her baby. Each of these are linked directly to Sarah’s emotional needs identified in the audience analysis. If Sarah believes breastfeeding is the best choice for her baby’s health, it will show others in her family and community that she is a good mother.
- Include at least one emotional PoD.
- Both of the PoDs discussed above fulfill emotional needs for Sarah. Bonding with her baby represents a personal feeling PoD, allowing Sarah to achieve a desired feeling, namely feeling close and committed to her baby. Since exclusive breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for her baby’s health, this fulfills the self-expressive PoD, helping Sarah be viewed by her family and community as a good mom who does what’s best for her baby.
- Choose PoD(s) that future brands will not be able to claim, like low price, as another brand can always bring an even cheaper product to market.
- Despite continual improvements in infant formula, breastfeeding is still the best option for an infant’s immune system and overall health. No other product will be able to make this claim. However, it could be argued that formula feeding or complementary feeding do provide some level of bonding with your baby. To fulfill this guideline, the team could choose the PoD of providing best nutrition for baby’s health. In addition, no other method of feeding will ever be totally free of cost. Even complementary feeding with water will require bottles and nipples. So the POD of free, is something the other methods will not be able to claim.
- Check that the PoDs are specific enough so that the brand strategy remains focused and creates a distinct impression in the minds of the primary audience.
- The PoDs chosen above: free, provides best nutrition for baby’s health, and allows mom to bond with baby, are all specific to the desired behavior and focused on key audience insights and needs identified for Sarah.
Step 7: Develop a Positioning Statement
Now, it is time to summarize the category and PoD into a simple statement that will direct the rest of the brand strategy. This statement is called a positioning statement.
Referring to the audience analysis, category analysis and PoD, construct a positioning statement for the brand. Write a short sentence that includes the primary audience, brand name, category and the point of differentiation for the brand. (If the brand does not yet have a name, use ‘Brand X’ until the brand name is decided.)
Write the final statement on the Brand Strategy Worksheet (see Template 3: Brand Strategy Worksheet). Make sure the positioning statement:
For example, “For Sarah, exclusively breastfeeding her baby for six months is the only free infant feeding option that provides the best nutrition for her baby’s health and allows her to bond with her baby every time she feeds him.” See the Samples section for an in-depth example of how one condom brand used its understanding of the audience insight to select a category and develop a positioning statement.
Tips & Recommendations
- Include at least one emotional PoD in the positioning statement.
- Help the project team internalize the positioning statement. One way to do this is to post the positioning statement where the team can see it while working on the strategy or developing communication materials and activities.
- Reflect the brand position in every communication with the priority audience – even in the people delivering the messages.
- A brand position is a long-term proposition. Since it cannot be changed easily or quickly, getting it right the first time is crucial.
- The fewer PoDs included in the positioning statement, the better. Having many PoDs makes it less likely that the audience will remember any of them.
Glossary & Concepts
Audience insight is the identification and refinement of audience perceptions, motivations and needs relevant to a behavior, product or service. Often, the audience is not even aware of these perceptions, motivations and needs.
A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design (or a combination of these) that identifies the maker or seller of a product or service, the line of products or services, or the SBCC campaign. The brand tells the audience what they can expect from the product, service, or behavior. It also distinguishes the product, service or behavior from its competition.
Brand positioning is a way to make an issue, such as breastfeeding, occupy a particular space in the audience’s mind. It is a way to make the issue stand out. It is the way the program wants people to see and feel about the issue. Positioning answers three main questions:
1) What is unique about the brand?
2) What are the most compelling attributes about the brand?
3) How is the brand different from the competition on both an emotional and functional level?
A brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom brand messages are communicated and delivered.
Sources & Citations
- Evans, D.W., Hastings, G. Eds. Public Health Branding: Applying Marketing for Social Change. London. Oxford University Press, 2008
- Evans, D.W., Ed. Psychology of Branding. New York, NY. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2013.
- Gobe, M. Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People. New York, NY, Allworth Press, 2001
- Kotler, P., Lee, N. Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors For Good. Third Edition. California, Sage Publications, 2008.
- Population Services International. The Delta Companion.
- Weinreich, N.K. Hands-on Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide. California. Sage Publications, 1999
- Williams, John. The Basics of Branding. Entrepreneur Magazine, http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/77408. Accessed 21 January 2015
Banner Photo: © 2015 Uppili Venkat Ragavan, Courtesy of Photoshare