Ever wondered how two of the same products or services with the same features and the same price could both make money?
It’s mind-boggling to see how many businesses are opening their doors every single day, whilst it appears that most of them are operating in a profitable capacity.
Choice is infinite and it’s easier than ever to discover an offering that appeals perfectly to your needs with online searches, testimonials, rating sites etc. I am going to use an example of the education industry, specifically nurseries and pre-schools in Dubai, to explain how brand positioning can win market share and profit.
As an Expat mom in Dubai, I started the search for a nursery within 4 months of being pregnant, as an oversupply of choice can be intimidating in this city. After ruling out nurseries that weren’t in close proximity to the office, within our budget and the curriculum we wanted, I still had a shortlist that wasn’t, well… so short.
Being a Brand Strategist, I have learned how to read between the lines to see what a business is all about - what is its essence, purpose, set of core values etc. And as a consumer, you buy the product that is closest to what you believe in.
A business’ or brand’s positioning is the unique space a brand claims in the mind of their consumers and specifically in this case, in the mind of parents.
In its primary state, a nursery has two basic reasons for existing:
1. It has facilities with a safe environment to eat, sleep and play
2. It provides opportunities to learn and discover new things in order to grow
These are certainly nothing an Early Child Development Center should talk about, be proud of, or establish a reputation on. We call them passports, the ‘must-haves’ for a business to exist and in a developed country like the UAE, and Dubai specifically, a safe environment and educational growth are to be expected and we almost ‘assume’ they are present.
However, the different perceptions and methods in which to conduct these basic services is where the magic lies. That is where parents will choose one nursery over another or drive 30 minutes in traffic when there’s another offering the same basics just around the corner. This is what makes your brand different and when it’s done right, this is what will drive customers to your business.
It is impossible for a nursery to be all things to all children, it cannot be all about ‘let children play the old school way’ as well as all about technology and getting your child ready for the digital world.
Here are five nurseries each with a unique approach to care and education:
1. School A: Play is at the foundation of early childhood development
2. School B: We believe in a tailored learning experience
3. School C: We follow a sensory approach to learning
4. School D: The first 'Green Thinking' children's nursery, inspired by motherly instincts and the harmony of nature
5. School E: We work with parents in order to grow children with confidence and personality
As a branding agency, we look for a business’ uniqueness and combine it with your philosophy and skills to formulate a recipe that will allow you to talk to a market that believes in what you do. A clear positioning makes staff recruitment and training, marketing efforts, communication plans and business management a whole lot easier when you are focused on ONE specific territory within an industry.
Most clients are terrified at the thought of their product or service not being general enough to cater to everyone who is in the market to buy, so instead of focusing their efforts in a specific direction, they scramble around with inconsistent and meaningless communication and behavior that doesn’t really appeal to any market because it is simply just too general and lacks differentiation.
The hardest but essential phases in brand positioning is to list your buyer or user personas. Yes, anyone can buy the product, but who would be the top 3 customers or users? Try to move away from demographics and list psychographics. These would include mindset, lifestyle, philosophy, personality type, etc. instead of age-group, nationality, income-bracket or gender and so on. In the case of School A, who uses play at its foundation, you will talk to parents that:
• Are likely to take their children on outdoor excursions over the weekend
• Encourages their children to play outside with minimal use of technology
• Are looking for large open spaces and natural sunlight within the school facilities
• Raise their children to be independent and use the school’s bus service
This is just an example, but it would look completely different to the parents who would associate with the ‘Green thinking’ positioning and offering.
You might argue that being environmentally friendly, a combined parent and teacher approach and play are all essential to the existence of a nursery, and you're right. However, to deliver on ALL of them consistently in an outstanding manner and for staff to direct their efforts and become experts in one subject as well as be innovative with new methods is tough.
A single focused brand positioning can differentiate you from your competition, provided it’s not just a set of words, but something stakeholders live and buy into.
See the figure below for elements that contribute to your positioning:
Take 10 minutes and ask yourself these 3 questions to analyse whether you claim a space in the consumer’s mind that is idiosyncratic:
1. Do you truly know your customers? (What is the one thing all of them have in common and which things make them unique to each other?)
2. What is the ONE benefit or Unique Selling Proposition of a customer using your product or service over the competitors?
3. What’s the evidence that your brand delivers on your USP?
Please remember that the value of brand positioning lies not in the written statement but rather in what you do (action! action! action!) as a brand in order to create a desirable perception of your business in the mind of your consumer.