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November 2, 2018

Three Questions You Need to Ask About Your Brand | Part One

Traditionally, the people responsible for positioning brands have concentrated on points of difference—the benefits that set each brand apart from the competition. Maytag is distinguished by dependability, Tide by whitening power, BMW by superior handling. Such points of differentiation are, in many cases, what consumers remember about a brand. But points of differentiation alone are not enough to sustain a brand against competitors. Managers often pay too little attention to two other aspects of competitive positioning: understanding the frame of reference within which their brands work and addressing the features that brands have in common with competitors. There are always circumstances in which it’s necessary to “break even” with competing brands. Effective brand positioning requires not only careful consideration of a brand’s points of difference, but also of what we call its points of parity with other products.

Subway faced a brand-positioning dilemma in 2000 when its ad agency recommended that the sandwich shop chain present itself as the healthy fast-food brand, using as its spokesperson a 22-year-old man who had lost 245 pounds by following a diet that consisted largely of Subway sandwiches. The agency was so confident of the appeal of the weight loss story that it financed the production of a television spot, which ran regionally and produced an average sales increase of more than 15%.