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A crash course in positioning your brand

I spent a few weeks reading pretty much everything I could find about how brands differentiate themselves.

And I condensed it into this short, sweet mini guide. Hope you find it somewhat useful.


I love this line by Ted Morgan.

Positioning is like finding a seat on a crowded bus

Most brands sleepwalk onto the bus and sit on top of one another.

The smart brands look left, right, find an empty row, paint their logo on it and start singing sweetly like the Sirens.

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Positioning is an easy thing to complicate so let's keep it simple.

Your goal is to own a space in the customer’s mind. You do this by differentiating yourself.

Differentiation is not a dark art. It's something you can learn. Here’s how you can achieve it.

1/ Through contrast

Point at the status quo and pit yourself against it. Contrast burns your brand into the customer's mind.

  • Hey pit themselves against mainstream email
  • Lemonde pit themselves against insurance stereotypes
  • The “I'm a Mac” ads pit themselves against the PC

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2/ Through values

Think Patagonia and the environment, Ben and Jerry's and social justice, Black Rifle Coffee and gun rights.

Some will hate it. Others will rally behind you. And that's the point. Fence sitters don't buy.

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3/ Through category creation

Invent a new category and you haven't got any competitors.

When Drift launched in 2016 they were just another startup in the mushy bucket of live chat software. How to stand out?

Well, they reframed live chat as conversational marketing and made it their mission to own this new category.

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4/ Through personality

Turn yourself into the product and no one can compete with you.

Think Kanye’s shoes, Nigella's cookbook, Wicks’s workout.

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5/ Through limitation

Instead of trying to be everything for everyone go all-in on one niche or one feature.

Limitation makes you easy to sum up. Being easy to sum up makes you memorable.

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Writing this made me think back to how I positioned Marketing Examples.

  • Contrast - Marketing content was fluffy. My goal was no fluff
  • Personality - Well, I write them all
  • Limitation - Just examples. No agency, jobs board, etc...

One last thing

Positioning isn't something you make up on a whim.

Behind great positioning is a story. Positioning is the one line summary. The story makes it memorable.

Look at Drift. Conversational marketing isn't plucked out the sky. It's the final bullet point in their story.

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Thanks for reading

If you found it useful I'd really appreciate it if you could share with a pal who's got a startup with worse positioning than Arrizabalaga! Here's the link.

If you'd don't want to miss more marketing guides (like this one) please do join the newsletter on Indie Hackers :)

Or head to Marketing Examples to browse the previous case studies :)

Over and out

  1. 3

    Harry, great article! A lot of wisdom in one post 🙌

  2. 2

    Very good, I subscribed to your newsletter!

    1. 1

      oh nice. thank you :)

  3. 2

    Love your content @harrydry! Do you guys know if something like this exist for sales or product management?

    1. 3

      Cheers.

      Lenny's Newsletter is pretty good for Product Management. And I know @louisswiss has a free course alongside his Sales For Founders program. Which I think is opening up again soon. Worth checking out when it does :)

      1. 1

        "Get just good enough at sales" --> this is exactly the approach I was looking for, thanks a lot.

        I love Lenny's Newsletter but I feel is mostly addressed to professional product managers.

        I think that the "good enough" level of depth is exactly what most indiehackers and solopreneurs need (vs content to get super specialized at something).

    2. 1

      I’m making one for sales as I’m a sales trainer/consultant - follow for updates.

  4. 2

    I'm simple. If Harry posts, I read.

    1. 2

      hahah - well that's a compliment!

  5. 2

    Love the tone of this article, and I truly appreciate the information! You've got some great examples here, that will definitely shine a light on positioning for many young indie hackers here. My belief is that brand positioning and differentiation fall under brand strategy, and not under marketing.

    While marketing efforts are definitely 100% affected by the brand positioning, they do not help in any way define it.

    The best definition of Positioning that I've come across belongs to Aneta Bogdan, a Romanian brand consultant, and goes like this: "Positioning would emphasize the place taken by a brand in the consumer’s mind, relative to existing alternatives and sustained by the brand’s ability to deliver a competitive advantage."

    So, a brand's position in the market should be:

    1. Relevant to what the brand promises
    2. Sustainable through the brand's internal resources
    3. Closely tied to a growth strategy

    Also, you've noted that behind every great positioning there is a story. I would argue that brand storytelling comes after the positioning, USP and the brand core message have been defined. I'd tie positioning straight into target audiences & their behavior, the brand's competitive landscape, and the internal branding (purpose, mission, vision, values).

    I'd love to have a back and forth on this subject with you, and I truly hope you found some insight within my reply. Again, great job stripping this subject down into bite-sized pieces!

    P.S. One more great positioning quote that inspires me: ”Marketers should target consumers’ minds and spirits simultaneously to touch their hearts. Positioning will trigger the mind to consider a buying decision... Differentiation will confirm the decision... The heart will lead a consumer to act and make the buying decision.” - Philip Kotler & Hermawan Kartajaya

    1. 3

      Damn. this was a thoughtful reply. I did appreciate it. Thanks. You should write an article yourself I think. It's a big big topic as you say, with lots of moving parts.

      I kind of showed how my mind thinks about it. But lots of frameworks overlap, compliment each other, what comes first, etc...

      I like the distinction between positioning and differentiation in the last quote!

      1. 2

        I agree with @harrydry. @StudioDefalt You should write some articles on the importance of positioning and branding.

        One problem I notice is that many IH are makers. They make products that they are interested in or passionate about. Most won't think about positioning and branding until much later.

        You can create some articles that provide some direction/process on how IH can determine the positioning and branding that will be most beneficial to their creation.

        1. 2

          @net2tim Already cooking something up on Brand Purpose. I plan to deal with the whole Strategy spectrum of branding through down-to-earth articles that are both insightful and actionable. I'll try, of course, to launch them through IH too, if they will pass the quality tests here. Keep your fingers crossed, and THANK YOU for your early support!

      2. 1

        No worries! Glad you found it valuable.

        I'm still figuring out my blogging strategy and what topic clusters to approach, but something is definitely coming in the future.

        Meanwhile, I'd love to apply for a guest post on your platform if that's a thing! I love what you've built there!

  6. 1

    This is fantastic, @harrydry than you for posting. Love the visual examples and the way you make it so simple. Have you done this for other subjects? What do you use to edit your images? Cheers

    1. 1

      Hey. I use Sketch App to make the images. And yeah... I've been writing these type of Marketing Examples for nearly two years now. Here's all of them

  7. 1

    Thanks for this summary of your research. Amazing as always. It's hard to talk about positioning lately without mentioning book by April Dunford.

    I think there are many amazing exercises fr businesses trying to figure it out. Like breaking down your unique features -> translate them into benefits -> values, and then answer who REALLY care about this.

    1. 1

      Yeah. So true. I actually wrote this a few months back. Only put on IH'ers today.

      JUST as her book was getting big. Everyone said... you gotta read the book and I did. It's great! I like your summary!

  8. 1

    Love this! Thanks for sharing!

  9. 1

    Very concise. Appreciate it

  10. 1

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing Harry

  11. 1

    This is like the Kama Sutra of marketing, with every kind of position... Thanks very much, that what I was studying this week so it comes at the right time...

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