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Branding and Positioning


It’s weird right now. Super weird. Put aside the ramifications from a health standpoint and the fact that we’re all stuck in our homes, and look at the situation from a business perspective and “weird” is still the only word I can find that’s suitable. It’s nothing we’ve ever had to navigate as business owners. There was absolutely no way to prepare for the current state of things and that lack of control scares those of us who are used to planning for the future of our businesses. 

I’ve watched a lot of business owners search for the best way to deal with the situation and I can tell you everyone has a different approach. So all I can speak to is what makes sense to me. My approach is to develop a plan I call my “End of the Tunnel” plan.

We are on the list for the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program. And assuming that all comes through we, like many business owners, will have the unique opportunity of having a full-time team without full-time work to fill their days. While we would never wish to be in that situation, we are definitely going to do our best to set ourselves up for when we come out the other side. I believe that’s the whole motivation behind the CARES Act and there’s no reason not to make the best of a bad situation.

Branding Plus Positioning

We do branding. So we’re definitely in a different position when it comes to assessing and adjusting your branding. But there are some things you can do to look at your brand and how it’s positioned and decide if you need to hire an agency to help, or if there are things you and your team, while they have some time on their hands, can do on your own.

First off, let’s make sure we’re clear on the difference between branding and positioning. The two work hand-in-hand but are very different things. Branding is the promotion of a particular company, organization or product through the use of unique design, messaging, and marketing initiatives. Positioning is how the products or services provided by that brand fill a particular need for the target market. Branding is usually more outward-facing whereas positioning is often used as more of an internal tool to align marketing efforts with what the brand stands for. 

Here’s a tangible example: TIV Branding. Our own branding is focused on a consistent logo, color palette, and fontset. We have a particular brand voice that we make sure we use whenever we write content and we’re hoping that when we talk with a prospective client they experience the same blend of humor and expertise that is present in the content that inspired them to connect with us.

Our positioning is what makes us unique in a sea of creative agencies. It defines the fish we’re fishing for so we can be focused enough to fish in a pond rather than in the ocean and in direct competition with, well, our competition. We are fantastic at creating and implementing remarkable campaigns. Yes, we do branding, packaging, websites and much more. But every creative agency does. Our positioning makes us irreplaceable when someone is looking for a campaign to build their brand.

Reviewing Your Branding and Positioning 

A full-blown rebrand is likely something you would want to undertake with an agency. However, you can definitely do some of the pre-work to decide whether or not a rebrand should be in your near future. We start every project with a DISCOVER phase in which we review our clients’ competition, target audience, and current branding. You probably know your competition well. Now go research them. Dig deep into their website, their social media and anything else you can find from the safety of your home. Google them and see what images come up. Guess at what words they would hope people would use to find a company like them and search those words. Screenshot images, copy and paste text, and compile a competitive deck with everything you’ve found. Get your team to do the same so you can compare. 

Our clients almost always know their competition, but it’s surprising how few of our clients know their audience nearly as well. I’m not sure why, but people can speak at length about who they want to beat out and are often at a loss when talking about their target audience. In comes positioning. Ask you and your team some key questions: What makes you irreplaceable? What are the products or services you provide that a certain group of people can’t do without? Now, who is that group? And is there a single audience in that group, or multiple audiences? We often define a primary, secondary and tertiary audience for our clients, so it’s not unusual to have a number of groups you’re appealing to. It is important to prioritize them, however.

Do Your Branding and Positioning Line Up?

Now comes the fun part. Attempt to walk a mile in your audience’s shoes. Sometimes it helps to put a persona into place to help see the world through their eyes: Samantha is a 40-something working mother who loves jogging and wants to improve her yodeling skills. Who doesn’t?

So, what does Samantha think of your brand? Too serious? Too fun? Is the design of the logo too whimsical? Do you write in a way that would appeal to her or are you using too many technical terms? Or do you need to use technical terms to show Samantha you are truly experts at whatever it is you do and how that’s going to take her yodeling game to the next level? Ask as many questions as you can to assess whether Samantha, who you’ve defined as perfectly-aligned with your positioning, would fall in love with your brand.

Where Are the Opportunities?

Once you have your competitive deck as a resource, your audiences defined, and you have assessed your branding, it’s all about looking for the opportunities. If you’re too close to your competitors there’s no way to beat them out except with pricing. However, if you’re too far away there’s the potential that you’re positioning yourself too specifically and there’s not a viable customer base. Talk through it with the team and come up with your plan of attack. 

There’s no way to know how and when this whole thing will blow over. But that doesn’t mean you should just sit around and hope for the best, especially if you have a business to keep safe. If you’re like me you need your “End of the Tunnel” plan because trust me, there is a light there and I want to be ready.

Brandt Hoekenga is the Founder and Creative Director for TIV Branding


TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.