The Case for Positioning Versus Branding – Online Marketing

How do Brand and Position co-exist? Have you ever considered the difference in the two words and their impact on the success of your company and its product offerings? These and other online business ideas support these articles.

Marketing campaigns that don’t have the expected impact can be traced to a misunderstanding of market dynamics focused on branding, when the primary focus required should be Positioning. Brand and Position can be considered different sides of the same coin or like the old cliché’; “One hand washes the other.” Without placing Positioning first, brand value is not long-term, because the position is where a brand’s fundamental difference lies. Think of positioning as the purpose or the reason for being in business.

A branded campaign without a positioning strategy is like throwing your money to the wind. Said another way; most companies wouldn’t launch products without utilizing market intelligence and data, yet it’s surprising how many manufacturers fly blind folded with their brands, not taking into account that their market value will ultimately be placed at risk.

A basic mentality to understanding the difference between Position and Brand is the example: Brand is the “sizzle”, and Position is the “steak.”

Branding done solely on its own merit creates awareness, where the objective is for the market to get to know you. The simplest approach of Branding is to trigger an emotional response from the consuming audience trying to choose amongst thousands of product comparisons. For commodity products where the price is the most obvious differentiating feature in a saturated competitive field, too many marketers choose the easy way out with heavy promotion and price reductions to win sales volume. Sadly it is not usually the most profitable strategy as price has its day, but the consumer is still left with inherent questions and these will affect long-term decisions that eventually erode the brand’s value and longevity in the market place.

The quadruple threat facing those marketing in today’s world is:

• Saturated Competition

• Hyper options in choices

• Communication overload – white noise

• Price

Countless marketers, all with their own set of propositions, are competing for the same resources, Time, Attention and Money, the typical consumer has available.

In any category, the glut of choices offered is paralyzing. Recall the last time you stood staring at the many options available at the shampoo aisle. Is it any wonder we now have evolved into a condition called Choice Anxiety?

We are bombarded daily with over 4,000 messages and over 400,000 message units (individual pieces of information) thrown at the average American consumer. With so much “white” noise, the risk of your advertising not being seen is exceedingly high.

That is the key reason Positioning has to be defined and utilized, which is the carving out of a sharp focal point around your most competitive difference and planting that Difference firmly in the minds of your prospects. Dare to be different, as it counts for so much, but truly define why you are different then everyone else in the same category.

Don’t try to create a place in the world. Do not obsess about your competitors and differentiating from them. Instead, start with the question – Why? “Why do we exist?” “Why does anybody need us?” “Why are we useful?” “Why would consumers pay their hard-earned time or money?” “Why is it valuable?” Bottom line, defining a sense of purpose is going to separate you from your competitors and give you the value needed from this simple tactic.

Look at how powerful Apple’s sense of purpose and delivery of highly anticipated product launches has been in creating their growth. Or how Facebook’s greatest inventions have come from its commitment and encouragement of experimental behavior among its employees. The high-growth businesses of the future will all be, defined by their purpose.

Positioning is becoming the single most powerful concept in marketing today! To stake a position means an organization, product, or service stands for one thing in the minds of the prospect consumers. What is it you stand for? and how will it drive your market?

If you remember the sales analogy used many times over the years about steak and its sizzle. Positioning is all about the steak. Branding is about the sizzle.

Positioning is about establishing the inherent value offered by the company or product, while creating a mindset that inferentially implies the inherent weakness of your competitors in comparison. Positioning aims to define that essential point of difference you can own, to ensure consumers really know why they want your products or services over others. As the prerequisite tactic for strategic branding, positioning becomes the foundation for all brand communication.

When your Branding automatically follows your defined Position, the result of the branding effect is so much clearer in attaching the difference of your market position to your brand name, so that the name and the idea become basically one and the same.

Examples: Wal-Mart = Cheap prices. Porsche = Performance. Kenmore = Dependability.

What makes Positioning a long-term marketing advantage, is that it focuses on the most advantageous competitive difference you offer the market. Example: Redken Labs established its difference in the shampoo market, as the company supporting beauty through science in a category where everything else was just bubbles in a bottle.

Hallmarks of Positioning

o Uses core truths and competitive landscape to set the long-term direction for your brand.

o Recognizes all the P’s of marketing: Product, Price, People, Priorities, and Place, organizing them within the context of a single pervasive strategy.

o Builds trust and loyalty among your consumer base.

o Improves cost efficiencies for optimal return on investment.

o Solidifies what to do, and what not to do.

o Builds on itself by Building brand equity and establish-ing goodwill.

o Goes to the heart of the purpose. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.

o Establishes a clear set point for the continued develop- ment and evaluation of all marketing strategies.

In closing, a marketer has to be completely vested in what their understanding of current market dynamics are and utilize information that supports the difference between their Branding and Positioning strategies to impact their bottom line long-term. To initially misjudge the strategy to use in effective marketing campaigns, can and will have long-term impact to their brand in particular. People today want to know what you stand for philosophically and what you are willing to do to meet their needs. Without a strong positioning strategy, ultimately the brand will be hurt and with today’s countless choices offered to the consuming public, can be the catalyst to the demise of the brand.

Branding Vs Advertising Vs Promotions Vs Marketing Vs Public Relations

Many people are confused as to the differences between branding, advertising, promotions, and public relations. For that matter, the actual process of “marketing’ is misunderstood just the same. To give you a basic understanding, marketing is not a one time event or activity, it is a process, a combination of things which blend together. By definition, marketing is the act of mixing product, price, place, and promotion. But first, on to…


A great example of branding is Apple. iMac, iPod, iTouch, iPhone, iTunes. Get the point? Apple has created a massive brand strategy using the “i” element. Think of the Ritz-Carlton, LifeTime Family Fitness, Hilton Hotels, and what do you see? First class service, luxurious amenities, excellent service? Now, how about Best Western, 24-Hour Fitness, Motel 6? What kind of “Brand” is each of those? Can you see the contrast? What is your company brand? Are you sure? If you think you’re a high-end facility, do you show it? Would you see the front desk clerk at the Ritz-Carlton wearing a button promoting the frequent guest club? Would you see a front desk clerk at a Motel 6 wearing a $1000 suit? Does everything you do, say, print, write, and provide consistent with your brand message? If not, you may want to consider who your true target audience is, and work at ensuring you continue to provide services that directly relate to them.


Advertising is the actual process of displaying your message. Advertising on the radio… Advertising on tv… The one act of making something happen. Tie your Advertising and your Branding together, you have the Marketing Process. If you are just “advertising” without any direction, any goal, any unity, then you’re just a lost puppy wandering aimlessly hoping someone will give you a good home.


A promotion is typically a one-time event for a specific purpose or goal. Whereas marketing is ongoing, a promotion can be a one-day, one week, one-month, or even one-hour event. In retail, a “SALE” is typically a promotion. Car dealerships offering Zero percent interest is a limited time promotion. They typically have a specific start and end date, and have a very clear understanding of the R.O.I. (Return on Investment) any particular promotion should achieve to make it a success.

Public Relations

P.R., or Public Relations, typically revolves around un-paid news sources and focuses on your business as it relates to the community. If you see a positive, or hopefully positive, story on the news or an article in the newspaper, this is the type of press a Public Relations firm may help you get. They have strong relationships with the news media and often feed them stories about their clients, in hopes of some free press. You, too, can harness the power of free press and public relations, although it can be difficult at times to get noticed, which is the PR firm’s strongpoint.


Marketing is the process that drives all the above elements. It directs the feel, image, and tone of the advertising, promotions and public relations. To each of these elements, there are experts in each of these fields. You can hire a company just to handle your branding, and another to handle your advertising, marketing, and yet another for your public relations. Of course, as a small business owner, you may not always have the budget for such companies. You can learn how to achieve the same results at and get the latest in marketing news, education and resources to help build and grow your business.

The Tasting Room: Branding or Marketing

In selling wine, especially in the tasting room, there is a difference between marketing and branding. Yes, the two are often co-mingled, but they must be interpreted and managed differently. Without a brand identity it is hard to market wine. We do not want to take this discussion into an esoteric direction, however, tasting rooms are an opportunity to go far beyond just selling wine, the real bonus lies in creating a tasting room to sell wine and reinforce a brand identity, i.e. branding.

Maybe it would help to look at branding this way: “Branding is to a company (winery) as personality is to a person. Branding is as much inward as outward-facing. If you have a strong, trustworthy brand, your employees are happier, more motivated, and more loyal,” says Mr. Russel Cooke, A Customer Relationship Manager professional. “Branding is the allocation of resources to promote awareness of your brand, products and services. The purpose of marketing, in a nutshell, is to communicate your brand’s value to potential customers.”

Branding is a process that happens over time; like how our personalities evolve over time, but at some point, the personality becomes defined for people to recognize. Marketing will use advertising (print, radio, TV), designs, collateral materials to build awareness for a brand and hopefully call the consumer to action.

Is a tasting room only for sales? I would submit the answer to be, “a tasting room is a terrible asset to waste solely on sales”. A brand is a legacy asset in perpetuity and sales is fleeting. Wine sales is an effort that must be created anew each season; a brand lives on to be destroyed or strengthened, so chose you brand identity wisely!

In any marketing or branding experience the complexities of successfully executing these tasks are mindboggling; truly. In the wine industry the task can be exponentially more complex because of ancillary issues such as: Federal regulations, outside issues that influence product (weather), and local government constraints, et al. Selling coffee mugs should be a bit less complex. In the direct-to-consumer marketing arena, the tasting room is the only place where the winery can control and execute their plans in branding and selling/marketing their product in real time. Here, a visitor comes to you and says, tell me about your product and by-the-way, I want to buy. Wow, what an advantage in marketing!

The tasting room is truly the only face-to-face time a winery has to impact all the human senses that will influence a sale and hopefully a repeat sale. I submit therefore, the visitors interface experience with employees is the most important; why else do companies send representatives to visit the customer? Airlines at one time felt that e-mail and video conference calls would negatively impact their business; facts proved that wrong. Nothing can replace the impact of people looking directly at, communicating with, and feeling the persona of face-to-face interactions.

Maybe you are still doubtful of this line of thought, well consider the successes of reality TV. Shows like American Pickers and Fixer Uppers are shows about people, experiences and their lives. American Pickers or Dirty Jobs are shows that now spend most of time focused on real people and their stories. A tasting room experience is communicating with people who love wine and want to be sold and want to learn about the brand story. Yes, taste the wine, but tell the visitor the story of the brand.

Let’s assume for this discussion that a significant number of people do decide to visit a specific winery for any of numerous reasons. To illustrate the point. A few years ago, I saw a study that listed various reasons why individuals visited a winery:

  • Wanting to see the winery that made their favorite wine.
  • Referred by friends.
  • Wanted to experience a winery or location.
  • Wanted to buy wine to commemorate a visit to the region.

The premise is, branding through interpersonal contacts, within tasting rooms, is important and maybe even critical, to all wineries; large and small. This type of branding tool will give instant product feedback about marketing and branding because the visitor is engaged with a winery representative. Finally, public contact winery employees can immediately address visitor product queries. We inherently buy products (wine) and services based on relationships and a feeling (trust and enthusiasm) about the relationship with the company/winery.

Many years ago, I visited a winery selling expensive wine; expensive by the standards of 3 decades ago; and I ask a simple question: What makes your varietal more expensive than another winery’s? When I ask the question, I did so with an obstinate tone, to the credit of the tasting room employee, she artfully engaged me and others within earshot in discussing what makes their wines more expensive/quality. She was responsive, unoffended, engaged and converted me to be a marketing missionary for her winery’s quality wines. My first real experience with real world branding.

I believe in the power of branding and how it impacts sales, production, finance and longevity.

Tasting rooms that draw upon a winery brand and reinforce the brand ultimately will sell wines. Without a good brand, marketing is a very tough exercise for a winery. My fantasy for tasting room effectiveness #101 is:

  • Be met at the door and be given a brochure about the winery, its management, explanation of the winemaker’s philosophy/approach to the product, and information presented with a sense of pride. Whether the tasting is free, charged, or one by appointment only; whatever the business model, the brand experience is most important. For example, have you ever been to a winery of humble facilities, yet you connected with the brand because of the people? Conversely, have you been to a very well-appointed tasting room and left feeling underwhelmed?
  • Realize visitors are buying an experience and hopefully a relationship. Just read a list of old wine quotes and one soon realizes, wine has long been elevated simply based upon the experience of wine.
  • Nice people that know the wines their winery produces.
  • Employees who engages me in understanding what makes their wines great that is part of their brand image.
  • Visitors want a story about the brand and then the wine.
  • If staff in the tasting room have a “belly-up-to-the-bar” presentation to the visitor, the winery has diminished the value of a tasting room by more than 50%, even if the visitor buys a bottle of wine.
  • If the branding and marketing effort work together, the sale happens. Then comes the wine club sale, new vintage follow-on sales and direct mail with collateral materials. As a channel of distribution, the tasting room is a winner.
  • Know the vineyards from which their grapes come and why that is important.
  • Staff that are proud of the product.
  • Want to understand what I like and why.
  • Treat me respectfully and at my level of experience. The tasting room is not about a place where the staff can show their knowledge of buzzwords and technical points-bad branding.
  • And a tasting room that sends me on my way with a farewell that makes me feel good about my visit and purchase. “Please enjoy my wine and drop me a note to tell me when you drank it.”

A winery tasting room that does these things will encourage me to buy more, share my experience with others, and give me a super long-term view of what the values are of this winery-hopefully one of excellence.

As a “back of the napkin” exercise, if you are a winery owner or tasting room manager, write down precisely how you think your winery’s brand is defined by the visitor, then the distributor, restaurant/on-premise buyer and retailers. Then ask yourself, is that the brand I want, need and can live with for the future. People buy the brand first and the marketing story second; the brand lives on but the marketing story will change because of many dictates.

Attitude and product knowledge of the tasting room staff, interpersonal skills, level of interest by management and staff throughout the organization; all these factors ooze the brand definition throughout the organization. Winery’s do not need to spend a lot of money to create a brand, but the tasting room is coming from the inside out.

We never forget that branding and marketing are complex and rarely turn out great without in-depth planning, initiating experience, constant training and reinforcement of strategies, buy-in at all levels, and updating of the plans.

A tasting room should present the brand to the public as desired by the owners. “Branding is the truth, reputation, and value of a small business’s image, ethics, and craftsmanship. It is the stamp or logo on a product that becomes a household name and trusted brand. Marketing is the sales driven tactic which stands behind branding,” says Monique Ouellette. Notice that marketing is behind the brand and drives the “call to action” to drive the sale.

Apple is a great brand and marketing organization. Look at the branding of their retail locations (tasting rooms). Disney is another great brand that is on display in their tasting rooms. Don’t confuse branding and marketing.