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What The Incredibles Taught Us About Brand Positioning

Show and Tell on Jul 23, 2021

superhero-like figure with text

If you have children, there is a good chance you’ve seen Disney’s The Incredibles 6,392 times.

Even if you don’t have children or haven’t seen the movie, there’s a short clip in the film that teaches us, as marketers, a very important lesson about being, well, incredible.

“Dash,” the young boy in the film who has the superpower of speed, is frustrated by the government’s order for the Superheroes to hide their powers. He begs his mother (“Elastigirl”) to let him use even just a tiny amount of his power, and the exchange goes like this:

Dash: “But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special.”
Elastigirl: “Everyone’s special, Dash.”
Dash: “Which is another way of saying no one is.”

In that one simple sentence, he encapsulates one of the most complex challenges marketers must embrace: being truly special.

In our work we have seen too many businesses that describe themselves (in one way or another) as offering a great product that is competitively priced, with exceptional customer service. 

Congratulations, you’re just like everyone else.

What business that’s still in business can’t say the same thing?

And if everyone is saying the same thing, that’s just another way of saying no one is saying anything (as Dash would surely point out to you).

As a business, you need to be special in some way so that you stand out from the crowd. As a marketer, you need to share exactly what it is that makes you special to your audience in a way that clearly differentiates you. Do that well, and they’ll start listening. 

By the way, there’s another challenge with claiming that you offer a great product that is competitively-priced, with exceptional customer service: no one will believe you. 

Consumers are smart enough to know that you can’t have a great product, priced well with exceptional service. You can’t be all three at the same time. You have to pick one.  For example, if you’re Rolex and you’re trying to sell a $30 watch, people won’t believe it’s a Rolex. If you’re Walmart and you’re selling $10,000 Rolexes, people will start wondering who made the mistake of putting that product on a Walmart shelf. 

Brand positioning to the rescue

So, how do you stand out from the crowd in a way that’s unique and believable? Effective brand positioning. 

By now, you know the adage: Your brand is not your logo or your tagline or your spokesperson. Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. It is the collection of thoughts, impressions and opinions that people have about your business that have built up over time based on their experience with you (as well as the experience that other people have had with you that they choose to share with each other). 

And through the power of social media and the prevalence of texting apps, those thoughts, impressions and opinions are spreading fast. Your best hope is to craft a brand positioning statement that people will hear and believe. And the more meaningful it is to them, the greater impact it has on their thoughts, impressions and opinions.

brand positioning

What is a brand positioning statement?

A brand positioning statement answers the following four questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you sell?
  • Who buys it?
  • Why should I buy it?

It’s that fourth question that has the most impact. If you can provide a good answer to that question, it will create value in the consumer’s mind. In other words, you can’t sell anything to anyone without conveying its value. 

For example, let’s look at the positioning statements of well-known brands. Certain people buy Rolexes because they’re the finest quality timepieces on the planet. Certain people buy Honda automobiles because they’re the most reliable vehicles on the planet. And others buy SodaStream carbonated water appliances because they help reduce plastic bottle litter and waste.

The theme that you’ve recognized by now is that to be valuable to your carefully selected target audience, say something that is meaningful to them – simply – then back it up with evidence and experience. Now you have a compelling reason for your target audience to buy your product.

The final step: Evaluation

Once you have a brand positioning statement that concisely answers the four questions, the final step is to determine if the statement is any good.

Evaluate your brand positioning statement against the following traits:

  • Simple: Can you make your claim in one short sentence?
  • Compelling: Is what you’re claiming even important to your audience?
  • Unique: If you’re claiming what other competitors are claiming, you lose the special-factor, and it begins to lose meaning.
  • Remarkable: Whatever you’re claiming, do it in a way that’s memorable. Make a claim that’s remarkable enough that people would want to talk about it. If your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room, your claim must be remarkable enough for people to want to share it in the first place.

If you can give your positioning statement a high score against those criteria, especially when comparing your statement to those of your competitors, you’re well on your way to convincing your audience that you are a company that is worthy of their time and consideration.

That you are special.

That you are incredible.