Brand positioning is the foundation of consumer goods strategy

Eric Gardner 3 min read
Brand positioning is the foundation of consumer goods strategy
Photo by Melanie Deziel / Unsplash
Table of Contents

Think about the last time you went grocery shopping. Imagine for a second that ketchup was on your list. When you were staring at the shelves, did you decide to buy the store brand? Did you immediately throw a bottle of Heinz into your cart? If you went with Heinz, did you grab the original or the new no-sugar option?  Plastic bottle or glass? These are all aspects of brand positioning.

At its core, the consumer goods industry is reliant on brand positioning. Otherwise, why would you decide to purchase one product over another? Brand positioning is the mental space companies want to occupy in the consumer’s mind.  It’s why CPG companies spend millions of dollars on marketing each year.

In the case of Heinz ketchup, the positioning is based on tradition, taste, and quality. To families, Heinz is classic ketchup made from fresh ingredients and a timeless recipe. Heinz ketchup has been a part of America since 1869 and has made other foods taste great since the beginning.

Why care about brand positioning?

In simplest terms, if you’re trying to build a brand, the stronger and more targeted your positioning is, the more consumers will care about your product. At the turn of the 20th century, most positioning was based on quality. Retailers often diluted products or sold outright fraudulent things to consumers. Thanks to regulation, a quality baseline is somewhat assumed when you purchase something from a physical store.

Brand positioning helps establish a relative competitive comparison between products. Compared to Heinz ketchup, private label ketchup is positioned as relatively cheaper but with slightly less quality. You can save 50 cents and get a decent taste, but you’re not guaranteed the tradition of Heinz. The positioning allows Heinz to achieve margins > 25%, while private label ketchup commands around 15%.

Taglines and brand positioning

Brand positioning is not just a tagline. Rather, taglines are built from great positioning.

Here’s an example using three different ketchup brands.

Brand Tagline Positioning
Great Value None Value
Heinz America's favorite ketchup Tradition
Hunts Natural for your table Pure Ingredients

Heinz is a premium packaged food product. Their positioning is built on tradition, allowing them to further segment the market through formulation and packaging. If consumers want the full experience, they can purchase a glass bottle. If they want convenience, they can buy plastic with a no drip cap. Health-conscious consumers can purchase no-sugar or organic formulations. With each extension, consumers are assured that the company uses the same great ingredients while updating the traditional recipe.

Hunts is different. The brand is cheaper than Heinz, but differentiates itself from private labels through its commitment to natural ingredients. The label has a clear "no preservatives" claim on it. It’s as if the company is saying, hey, we may not have the tradition of Heinz, but we’re cheaper and don’t worry, we’re natural.

Here are some examples of other great taglines and positioning within the consumer goods world:

Brand Tagline Positioning
Yeti Built for every adventure Premium but functional
Campbell's Soup Start something good Universal Use
Bayer Aspirin The wonder drug Universal Use

A simple brand positioning formula

At its core, brand positioning is answering five specific questions. The table below shows how they operate.

To: The Target Customer
Is the: Product Descriptor
That: Differentiated benefit
Because: Reasons to believe
So That: Highest Order Benefit

Here’s Heinz Ketchup’s under the brand positioning formula.

To: Families
Is the: Heinz is classic ketchup
That: Made from fresh ingredients and a timeless recipe
Because: That has been part of America since 1869
So That: Making other foods taste great

The Slotting Fee

The business, politics and technology behind the things we buy every day.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to The Slotting Fee.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.