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What is the point of brand positioning?

Lindsay Says

Brand positioning is about removing friction.

Done well, brand positioning removes friction between the status quo and the desired customer behavior. It minimizes the cognitive labor required of the audience to perceive and do what we wish them to perceive and do.

The easier you make it (the less friction you require), the more likely they are to engage with what you’re offering.

Brand positioning’s purpose is to make it easy for your customer to buy.

Street Design

Consider the physical design of roads, streets, and highways. When we wish to slow down cars — for example, near a school — we add speed bumps. This creates desirable friction, resulting in slower driving.

And when we wish to encourage faster driving — for example, on a highway — we remove the friction of curves, traffic lights, and potholes. We paint bright and vivid lane lines to enable drivers to stay in their lanes with ease. By reducing friction wherever we can, we increase the probability that the driver will behave as we hope they will.

The same mechanism operates with effective brand positioning. Make the road between your offer and your customer a fast, smooth highway illuminated with bright lane lines. Remove all the cognitive speedbumps that you can. Make it simple for customers to perceive and grok what you offer. In doing so, you improve the probability that they will engage.

Three truths to internalize:

1. Your audience is busy. Their attention is scarce and precious.

We humans have a lot vying for our attention. Out of respect for that attention scarcity, require as little of it as you can. Be clear and singular with customers. No fancy words, no jamming multiple ideas into your message. Those things are cognitively costly to customers. They present speedbumps. Clarity and singularity remove speedbumps.

2. Customers don’t care about your product.

Customers care about themselves. They care about the problem they’re trying to solve, about the pain that they are in. That’s where their mind is, so it should be where our minds are, too.

Rather than starting with your cool product, which would present them with a cognitive speedbump, start with their problem. Tap into their innate desire to conserve energy. Use their problem as your doorway in.

3. The customer is not us.

As leaders of our organizations, we care a lot about our offerings. We are proud of what we sell. We know how excellent our product is.

But that is us, not our customer. Since we live and breathe it every day, it is cognitively easy for us to understand its relevance.

Our customers do not live and breathe our product. They live and breathe their own life, their own business, their own problems and joys, their own world. It is enormously powerful for a leader to realize this. Realizing this illuminates the speedbumps, and when speedbumps are visible, we can remove them.

Rather than starting with ourselves, start with the customer.

Connect the dots for them.

Minimize customer friction by connecting the dots between their problem and your solution, rather than connecting the dots between your solution and their problem.

Channel the customer first. Start with what they care about. Live and breathe their problem more than your product. Feel what it’s like for them to experience this problem. Only then will you introduce your product as the solution. Doing this makes it easier for your customer to find you relevant and to say yes.

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