Chapter 2 - Brand Identity I: Defining Your Business

2.3 Positioning

You know why your business exists and who your target audience is. You know why your audience care about your purpose. But how should you best convince them?
People’s attention spans are short. Without a differentiated value proposition to set you apart from competitors, most customers have no reason to pay more attention to your business (and be more likely to buy from you) versus another similar business. The value proposition or benefit you offer your audience, is the first step to a positioning statement. The next step is determining the space you occupy in the market relative to other businesses. This is influenced by external forces like your competitors and the market landscape. Your positioning reflects your niche in the marketplace.
A classic positioning prompt introduced by branding expert Marty Neumeier is this sentence:
✍🏼 “ [Your business]'s [offering] is the only [category] that [benefit to audience].”
Try filling it out yourself. Your positioning statement must be clear, competitive, and credible.
💡 Clear
You’re only as well-positioned as your audience can recall. It won’t matter if you spend days evaluating your positioning if consumers can’t remember your value proposition. Communicate benefits to your audience concisely.
💪🏼 Competitive
Try substituting competitors’ names for your business. If the statement works for them, then you’ll need to refine your competitive advantage. What do you do that your competitors don’t or can’t? Remember, the purpose of positioning is to capture how your businesses is differentiated.
👩🏻‍⚕️ Credible
You should be able to deliver on your positioning promise. If you cannot do so consistently, it’s time to re-evaluate what key benefits you can realistically offer your target audience. You want to avoid losing your audience’s trust.
Your final positioning statement doesn’t have to follow the previous format word-for-word. Positioning strategies for food business usually fall into five categories: what, where, how, who, and why. Some statements fall into multiple categories.
1. What: Highlighting your central products or services
This is common in specialty coffee, where desirability is strongly tied to the sourcing, roasting and brewing process. is an "independently owned speciality coffee roaster that is bound by one central ethos; to source exceptional coffee through a sustainable, triple bottom line approach." Another example is
("the original BAO destination in London. Known for our steamed buns and range of contemporary Taiwanese dishes").
2. Where: Emphasizing how your location offers a unique competitive advantage
For other industries, there "where" might not matter as much, but for food businesses, bringing flavors and concepts from one part of the globe to another can be a compelling position. Take
("the UK's first independent Japanese sake bar"). Bao's positioning also takes advantage of the "where" approach.
3. How: Focusing on how you deliver your offerings
This approach is appropriate when you're providing an unusual or unexpected experience. , a dine-in-the-dark concept, allows diners to "re-evaluate [their] perception of taste while reclaiming [their] senses, to reinvigorate [their] relationship with the world and others and to experience a surprising encounter with something different.
4. Who: Concentrating on the people and values driving your business
This approach is common for neighborhood establishments or independently-owned businesses that have distinct values. 's founders emphasize their "delicious Middle Eastern food using the best ingredients we can get our hands on, with the warmest welcome from the friendliest team in town." is another great example of a chef-driven business.
5. Why: Sharing the inspiration or cause behind your business
seeks to capture and share the food and atmosphere of old Irani cafes, an institution that has almost disappeared. "Dishoom pays homage to the Irani cafés and the food of all Bombay." Social enterprises also like the "why" approach or combine it with the “how;” is "tackling homelessness one espresso at a time."
Take a shot at brainstorming positioning statements in each. Do statements from one category one resonate with you more? Does it make sense for your business to take positioning inspiration from two categories? Refine the snippets that resonate most with you into a clear, competitive and credible statement.
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With your target audience in mind, let’s figure out

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