Strategic Positioning in the Era of Digital Transformation

Strategic positioning is the DNA of a brand. To get to know it, it’s necessary to study it so that it does not become the only result of a communication exercise. Strategic positioning is the foundation for the success of brands (companies and products) and, should precede the reflection and creation of “branding”.

Marketing evolves and transforms, and we see the changes accelerate at high speed, sometimes in a somewhat incoherent way. Fortunately, some foundations still exist and allow to generate a profit quickly or even costly losses if ignored.

The strategic positioning of the company or its products and services is for me, the most important.

Digital transformation is not a new buzzword

I have been in marketing since 1987, made the leap in to Web as early as 1995 and did the planning and strategy of the first e-commerce site for Birks in 1999.

Later with ExoB2B, I had the chance to create complete digital ecosystems marketing/sales and integrated them into traditional ecosystems to meet a B2B and B2B2C demand.

Since then, I have seen and lived through the transformations of both marketing and digital.

Transformations that have provoked profound innovations and changes among buyers and sellers of products and services by changing their ways of shopping and procuring them through the Web and mobile (m-commerce) but, also changes in our relationships with them and the companies that market them.

Today, artificial intelligence is applied to marketing and sales from the data it collects and exploits.  We are at the beginning but the cycles of marketing innovation have become so short that soon it will take its place. 

With everything jostling, keeping pace requires daily dedication.

What does this have to do with strategic positioning?

This new world which has evolved since the penetration of digital in the sales and marketing functions, allows to further push the knowledge of companies in markets with data and some form of marketing automation that is not perfect, but promising.

The trap that several managers fall into is this mirage of ease or shortcuts to operate marketing when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Marketing is complex with:

  • The opening of geographic markets;
  • Competition that is no longer just direct;
  • Innovative business models in distribution and, sales and purchasing processes;
  • The addition of web-based channels that increase contact points between sellers and buyers;
  • The multiplication and sophistication of digital tools that support sales and marketing functions.

Choose, Occupy and Defend

Companies that manage to move to their next level of growth or stand out by taking advantage of threats often have one thing in common. They took the time (yes time!) to choose a strategic position, to occupy it and to defend it.

Choose, Occupy and Defend, three words that are easy to remember and that make sense in creating and maintaining a unique and sustainable strategic positioning in the long run.

All the means and functions carried out by the company, be it R & D, marketing, finance, communications and sales, will have to work to build this positioning in the spirit of internal and external target customers to make their DNA live.

The company will be able to defend the positioning it has chosen to occupy.

But a company must first know themselves from the inside out before expressing its identity, a mistake that many companies make! There are no savings or gain acquired by not carefully choosing the positioning.

When a company is aligned with its DNA, it is authentic. It establishes a role and relevance in its market. It can create its brand and its marketing strategies and then, create a momentum towards the domination of its market.

The principles of strategic positioning

Who are we as a business? What are our concerns? Two of the most important questions that any leader should be able to answer. To answer it thought, you must understand what our company does (its “core”) of course!

But equally important, what it generates as a benefit to its most important customer segments through its value proposition. In addition, how does it position itself in front of its competitors?

To answer these questions and to be firmly anchored in the market, it is strongly advisable to question it and not to assume any perceived or desired profits in its place.

Still recently, a company I worked with did not want to research its target clientele to understand the axes on which it had to position itself. We went around in circles for a few months and changed axes several times only to not be “reassured” about the choices. What for?

Strategic marketing is not a crystal ball. The choice of a position should not be an exercise based on our perception of what it should be but rather, of the methodological rigor established for this purpose to fully understand who we are.

Two definitions of positioning:

Ries and Trout, the creators of the 1969 positioning concept defined it as follows (my translation):

“Positioning is not what you do to your product, positioning is what you do in your prospect’s mind. This is the position, the place the product occupies in the head of the prospects”.

As everything evolves, here’s a newer one from Andy Cunningham,

“The concept of strategic positioning is the rational expression of the unique role and relevance of a company, product or brand in the market: The final Statement of what you are and why you make a difference”.

Two things to consider when you do the exercise:

  1. Your competitors
  2. Your target clientele

Two tools that will help you choose your positioning:

  1. Marketing research and its methodological choices
  2. The positioning maps and its choice of axes (from the benefits and benefits seen by the target clientele)

In conclusion, positioning (rational expression) works in concert with its complement of branding, whose role is the emotional expression that is transmitted in the logo, the color palette, the voice, the language and the customer experience that it wants to live.

Several specialists treat the positioning and branding in an equal way. Let’s keep in mind that positioning precedes branding. We must know each other (our corporate DNA) before expressing who we are.

Once these strategic elements are defined, the tactical choices and tools to be put in place will be aligned with the performance at hand.

If you want to continue the conversation, I invite you to contact us.

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