Product positioning vs. brand positioning: What’s the difference?

Understand the differences between product positioning and brand positioning, and how you can leverage both to stand out in your market.

In busy markets like B2B SaaS, you can't build an empire on features alone. Experience has repeatedly proven that someone will replicate it—and undercut you on price.

When there's little separating competitors, influencing perception is the best way to differentiate. That's what brand and product positioning strategies do. 

In this article, you'll get the chance to know the key differences between product and brand positioning. You'll also learn how to use both together and guide you through the process of creating effective positioning strategies.

What is product positioning?

Product positioning is how businesses define and communicate the unique traits of a product or service. Its aim is to get products to occupy a distinct space in customers’ minds. 

Product positioning strategies are based on popular use cases and benefits, and they’re communicated through marketing and messaging. Well-positioned products stand out from competitors as offering a novel value proposition.

Innovative product features can also contribute to a product positioning strategy. However, although this kind of differentiation provides a short-term competitive advantage, it is an ineffective long-term moat. Instead, when new features tie into a broader market positioning strategy, they’re better protected from encroaching competition. 

The benefits of effective product positioning include:

  • Distinctiveness. Successful positioning sets products apart in crowded markets. It influences customer perceptions of the product in relation to the competition, despite practical similarities. 
  • Niche market fit. Positioning can address a single segment of a broader market. This makes it possible to target a specific customer category’s needs or preferences more effectively.
  • Marketing cohesion. Building a product positioning strategy forces a better understanding of the needs of the target audience. This makes product marketing strategy more focused, cohesive, and impactful.

Undaku is a great example of how products can stand out through positioning. Fundamentally, it’s a generic no-code app-building platform. This puts it in direct competition with similar products like Webflow and Bravo. 

Undaku’s positioning targets the niche SaaS customer base to avoid competing on the same playing field as these larger brands. 

Screenshot of Undaku Homepage
Undaku stands out by targeting a niche SaaS customer base

This limits their addressable market but means they can achieve much greater messaging resonance. As a result, they’re likely to win more attention from their narrow target audience. With highly-specific messaging, they can win over competitor products that cast a wider net. 

The Undaku platform is perfectly capable of creating apps for non-SaaS businesses. Their choice to target a niche audience demonstrates how much product positioning is about customer perceptions. 

To a SaaS customer, the choice is between a product that addresses them directly and one that doesn’t. It’s not relevant that both products have essentially identical features. Undaku’s positioning makes their product seem like the better option. 

What is brand positioning?

Brand positioning is the process of adopting a unique set of traits, values, or practices to influence how your target market perceives your brand. It’s a way of standing out from competitors based on strong brand virtues, rather than product innovation.

Brand positioning is mainly communicated through marketing and messaging but it has broader implications. The best strategies permeate operations to create a cohesive customer experience. They’re not just present in a brand’s tagline and tone of voice on social media. They also affect price point, customer service, and other tangible customer-facing processes.

The benefits of effective brand positioning include:

  • Brand recall. Effective positioning helps brands occupy a distinct space in the market segment. This makes them more memorable—standing out among the noise of generic competitors. 
  • Consistency. A brand positioning strategy informs visual identity and messaging style. With clear rules on presentation, marketing efforts can become more consistent. This is directly associated with increased revenue.
  • Emotional resonance. Brand positioning allows companies to engage with their audience on an emotional level. This helps them build emotional connections with customers, which can lower attrition and increase advocacy.

Mailchimp’s mastery of brand positioning was instrumental in their climb to the top of the marketing automation category. Their positioning strategy revolves around a customer-first approach and a personal tone. 

They amplify customer success stories through original video content:

Mailchimp Customers Success Stories through Original Video Content
Mailchimp puts customers first, even sharing their success stories

They offer a wealth of free advice in their Marketing Library:

Screenshot of Mailchimp Marketing Library
Mailchimp also focuses on educating their audience

Throughout their website messaging, they stress their mission to help small businesses “look pro and grow”:

MailChimp founders Ben Chestnut, Dan Kurzius at the Founders Award
The company’s brand revolves around helping their customers grow

Now, as a well-established brand, Mailchimp can add more facets to their brand position. Their present strategy doesn’t only focus on the personal, friendly, customer-first angle. They also broadcast their market share leadership as part of their positioning in messaging like “the #1 email marketing and automations brand.” 

Like all brand positioning strategies, this is beyond their actual offering. Even with a radically different brand positioning strategy, Mailchimp products would offer the same value. 

This is apparent when you compare Mailchimp to a competing brand like Salesforce Pardot. Instead of small businesses, they target an enterprise-level B2B audience. This influences their brand positioning strategy. As a result, their messaging is less emotional, there’s a greater focus on efficiency, and top brands are name-dropped as customers.

Screenshot of Salesforce Brand Messaging
Unlike Mailchimp, Salesforce adapts their brand identity and messaging to suit their enterprise-level audience

This demonstrates how brand positioning is a means to an end. Both brands offer a largely similar product. Their positioning only exists to distinguish them from each other and target specific market segments with greater focus. Without competition, there would be little need for brand positioning.

Brand positioning vs. product positioning 

Brand and product positioning are similar concepts. Both are designed to influence a target audience’s perception, create separation from competitors, and ultimately drive revenue. 

However, they are fundamentally different practices. Product positioning explains the product’s value while brand positioning creates a brand “essence” that drives customer affinity. 

Here’s a breakdown of how that difference applies in practice:

What is positioned?

Product positioning focuses on a single product or service. Brands with more than one product can position each one separately.

Brand positioning applies to an entire brand or company. It’s a broad, overarching strategy that permeates operations.

What factors are the basis of positioning?

Product positioning strategies center around product benefits, use cases, and applications. They’re developed to target key market needs, making the product appear to offer a greater value proposition than competitor products.

Brand positioning strategies are based on a collection of characteristics, values, and traits. These are chosen to align with the target audience’s personal preferences and become integral to brand identity.

What does the positioning communicate to customers?

Product positioning communicates how a product is uniquely suited to specific customer needs. This can be rooted in highlighting particular benefits, solutions to common pain-points, or suitability for a niche market segment.

Brand positioning focuses on communicating how the brand is aligned with customer needs, values, or goals. It conveys a favorable brand “character” that appeals to the target market’s sensibilities.

How is the positioning communicated?

Product positioning is communicated through product-specific marketing and messaging. This includes product landing pages, brochures, and ad campaigns. 

Brand positioning is communicated through all branded marketing and messaging. This often includes product-specific assets. It should also be visible in operational practices like pricing, customer service, and CSR efforts.

What is the goal?

Product positioning’s goal is to create perception-based market differentiation. It aims to make a product stand apart from direct competitors in consumers’ minds.

Brand positioning’s goal is to create a distinct and recognizable brand identity. When successful, it makes the brand more memorable and attractive.

How does it influence customers?

Product positioning compels target customers to choose a product over its competitors. This is especially valuable when there’s little else that separates them. 

Brand positioning makes brands stand out from the competition on an emotional level. This increases brand recall and loyalty.

How to make product and brand positioning work together for amplified benefits

Despite their differences, product and brand positioning are complementary. To get the most from either type of positioning, you need to make both work together. When product and brand positioning strategies interact, they amplify each others’ effects.

This is especially true for brands that sell more than one product. Product positioning differentiates their individual products within their respective markets. It leverages their strengths to appeal to customer needs. This helps them stand out, directly influencing profitability. 

For example, Atlassian's products each have unique positioning strategies which highlight the key product benefits or outcomes:

Screenshot of Atlassian's Products Positioning
Atlassian's products with unique positioning strategies

At the same time, their brand positioning strategy creates a distinct overall brand identity that appeals to customers’ values. This improves brand recall and loyalty, boosting long-term revenue potential and cross-sell opportunities.

Atlassian’s brand positioning strategy is more emotional, communicating a helpful and kind brand personality:

Screenshot of Atlassian's emotional brand positioning
Atlassian’s emotional brand positioning strategy

A hypothetical example makes it easier to understand how both types of positioning work together. 

Imagine a brand with three separate SaaS products targeting three distinct audiences. Each product has its own positioning strategy, developed to suit their customer base. One might revolve around high-quality and low cost, another around ease-of-use, and the third around good-fit for a niche market segment.

These strategies are communicated through messaging on each product’s landing page on the brand website, and in their separate marketing campaigns. They’re all effective, and help the products stand out against competitors in their respective markets. 

But the brand also has an overarching brand positioning strategy rooted in transparency, honesty, and eco-friendliness. It’s communicated through their visual identity, messaging across the website, and everyday business practices. They have a clear pricing structure without hidden costs. Every year they release a report into what they felt they did well and what went wrong. They plant 100 trees for every product sold.

This brand positioning strategy is also effective. It makes people like, trust, and remember them—they’re the eco-friendly SaaS brand that’s refreshingly candid! It also reflects on their products, which are no longer only positioned according to their product positioning strategies. Each one is now also associated with eco-friendliness and transparency. More importantly, they're all connected with a favorable brand.

Even companies with just one product can benefit from product and brand positioning strategy synergy. Their product can be positioned based on its strengths and benefits to stand out from competitors. They can use brand positioning to communicate the values of the brand as a whole to potential customers.

2 stand-out examples of harmonious product and brand positioning strategies

You can see real examples of product and brand positioning strategies everywhere in the SaaS sector. The following brands execute them particularly well:

Amplitude as market leaders selling innovative, benefit-packed products

Amplitude’s brand positioning strategy revolves around market leadership. This is clearly evident on their homepage where they refer to themselves as the “#1 Product Analytics” brand. 

A selection of impressive customer logos, including Ford and Pepsico, reinforce their credentials. Various industry awards feature prominently.

Screenshot of Amplitude Brand Positioning Message
Amplitude’s market leader status is a major part of their brand identity

Each of their individual products has its own positioning strategy, too. Amplitude CDP is described as “the first insights-driven customer data platform.” It promises an innovative approach to a traditional product. Amplitude Experiment sells the benefit of making “better product decisions faster.” A compelling position that’s aligned with customer pain-points.

These products exist within the context of the Amplitude brand. Amplitude Experiment isn’t just a way to increase product decision-making velocity. It’s also a product from a market-leading brand which has prestigious, household-name customers. 

HubSpot as the master-of-all-trades with diverse but interconnected products

HubSpot also has brand positioning that ties directly into the positioning of each of their products. Each product is perfectly functional as a stand-alone platform. Regardless, HubSpot makes it clear that using them together is the real value-add. Unlike other brands that use a similar approach, HubSpot has a product suite broad enough to back it up.

In fact, HubSpot’s brand positioning strategy is dependent on their product diversity. They focus on the inter-connectivity of their products in brand messaging. This positions them as a brand that can be integral to the businesses they’re targeting. 

Hubspot Brand Positioning Message
Hubspot’s brand positioning relies on their product diversity

This strategy is reinforced by website and marketing messaging that creates a feeling of trust. They stress the level of customer support available. Phrases like “you don’t have to go it alone” and “start growing with HubSpot today” make them seem like a genuine, helpful partner.

Each of their individual products is positioned to suit its specific audience. Many of their products target beginners looking for a solution that takes the weight off their back. The messaging around their website builder product, for example, says “you don’t need to be a developer to build a beautiful, branded website.” 

Hubspot Brand Positioning Message as helpful and beginner-friendly
Hubspot positions its brand as helpful and beginner-friendly

Their brand positioning strategy is present throughout. There’s a focus on comprehensiveness in messaging like “all your marketing tools… under one roof” and “your sales process in one place.” Each product-specific landing page explains how you can “get better value by connecting” with the other products. 

The product and brand positioning process that helps your business build a moat

Product and brand positioning strategies are developed through a similar approach, with subtle differences. That approach involves the following steps:

Build your foundation: Research

Before you can decide on a product or brand positioning strategy, you need to understand your foundation. 

Even if you’ve never developed positioning strategies, both your product and brand occupy a certain position in the market. Use primary research methods like surveys or focus groups to determine what the prevailing consumer perceptions are.

For product positioning, that might involve asking questions like:

  • What key benefits do you associate with our product?
  • How does the value of our product compare with competitors?
  • Does our product seem particularly well-suited to a certain use case?

For brand positioning, the following questions can be helpful:

  • What emotion do you most associate with our brand?
  • How trustworthy do you think our brand is?
  • Do you think our brand values are clearly represented in how we operate?

You’ll have a much better understanding of how your products and brand are currently perceived. 

Put your competition under the microscope: Analysis

Product and brand positioning both primarily serve to create differentiation from competitors. Understanding the positioning strategies used by market competition is essential to find the right strategies for your own brand. 

You can use the same market research methods as above to analyze how specific competitors are perceived. Just switch the focus of questions from your own brand to the competition.

Back this data up with your own investigation. Look at competitors’ websites and marketing assets to find clues about their positioning strategies. Unpack their messaging and figure out who it targets and how it affects how they’re perceived. 

Your aim is to understand your competitors’ positioning strategies in as much detail as possible. Positioning maps can help you to make sense of this. Using two axes that reflect important values or traits, you can create a visual representation of the market landscape.

Wynter Brand Positioning Map
A positioning map can help you understand your competitors’ positioning strategies

With an overview of the various positioning strategies at work in the market, you’ll be in a better position to create effective strategies of your own. 

Bring it to life: Creation

After research and analysis, you should have an idea of your product and brand positioning strategies. The creation stage is where you bring them to life. 

Start by creating positioning statements for both your brand and individual products. These statements should summarize your chosen position as concisely as possible. Done right, they’ll define your strategies in a sentence or two.

Working with those statements as your anchor, start to roll your strategies out across operations. You’ll need to:

  • Develop the messaging that communicates your positioning strategies in full; 
  • Consider how your positioning strategy should be reflected in facets of your operations;
  • Think about how visual identity can be leveraged to reinforce your position. 

You won’t get things perfect on your first go, so implement a testing stage into the creation process. Message testing and preference testing tools can provide valuable feedback that steers improvements. 

Wynter is built for B2B businesses, with a broad panel spanning key demographic groups. You can customize your test respondent group to match your specific target market. Using Wynter, you can get highly-relevant feedback on the messaging that communicates your positioning strategies in 12–48 hours.

Wynter Messaging Platform
Use Wynter to get clear on brand and product positioning

Taking an iterative approach of creating, testing, editing, and testing can help you make reliable steps forward. Afterwards, you’ll be ready to implement your new positioning strategies and assess their actual impact. 

Leverage positioning to stand out on a product and brand level

When high market competition inhibits your product’s success or brand’s growth, positioning can have a significant impact. The individual benefits of effective product and brand positioning are clear, but they really shine when combined. 

Done right, positioning can help you stand out, attract more attention, and be more memorable—growing revenue in the process.

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