What’s the Difference Between Branding Tactics and Positioning Tactics?

Lots of people throw around these marketing buzz words, but what do they actually mean? In this three-minute emotional marketing lesson video, emotional marketing expert Graeme Newell shows how to choose the best branding tactics and the best positioning tactics for your product. Learn how to evaluate your competitive marketing threats and how to position your brand for success.

Transcription text of the 3-Minute Emotional Branding Lesson Video “What’s the Difference Between Branding Tactics and Positioning Tactics?” by Graeme Newell, emotional branding researcher, customer loyalty researcher, and emotional branding consultant at 602 Communications.

The terms branding and positioning get thrown around a lot, but what’s the difference?  And when should you use one over the other? Branding is about eliciting an emotional response from your customer.

“I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie to the hip hip hop, a you don’t stop the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat”

Evian’s not trying to convince customers that its water is better. The goal of this ad is to brand their entire company as young and energetic. But positioning is all about showing that a company’s product features are better than a competitor’s.

“High time I take a stand”

Volvic’s positioning its water as superior because it comes from volcanos, and everyone else’s doesn’t.

“Volvic brings you all the strengths of the volcano. Volvic, created by volcanos”

So which is more important, branding or positioning?

The general rule is that more mature product categories tend to do more branding, while newer categories tend to do more positioning.

“Three, two, one, go!”

Athletic shoes are a mature product category.  There’s just not that much difference between a Reebok, Adidas or Nike shoe.

“You know who it is without a doubt or hesitation, if money talks I got my masters in communications”

The days of groundbreaking body spray innovations are long past. Most of them are pretty much the same.

“Hello ladies”

That’s why Old Spice primarily uses branding, not positioning. Old Spice’s competitor, Axe Body Spray, does the same.  Comparing spray features would be kind of silly.  Axe’s job is to build a brand that makes men feel like sex Gods.

On the flip side, positioning is best used in product categories where there are still significant feature differences between competitors, like the mobile phone business.

“That phone is so old. I know, it’s so slow, I wish 4G wasn’t so expensive. I heard that, I’m the four-genie. Boost mobile has unlimited 4g for as little as $40 a month. Cracka lacka sheen! And that’s how I do”

Car features are continually improving and that’s why positioning is so important in this category.

“Check out the miles per gallon, the length of the power train warranty, and the horsepower. Only ram delivers this kind of muscle”

All products should use both branding and positioning at different times.

But the most common mistake is when a product refuses to admit its features just aren’t that special any more.  Most products are just not that different, and as a product category matures, it’s important to rely more heavily on branding. I’m Graeme Newell and that’s emotional marketing.

It seems these days everyone throws around the terms “branding” and “positioning” all the time. But what do these terms actually mean? When do branding tactics need to be implemented? And when do positioning tactics need to be implemented? What about for those of us who just want to know how to position a brand effectively? All these questions answered in this video.

Positioning Tactics

First, let’s discuss the differences between positioning tactics and branding tactics. Positioning tactics are techniques that attempt to set a product apart from others in its category. This is accomplished by comparing the product features of a product against those of the competition. Positioning tactics work in some situations, but those situations are few and far between. In order for positioning tactics to truly be effective, you have to have an undeniably unique product. Many companies will think they have a unique product and spend their time worrying about how to position it as such, but in reality most of the time products are just incrementally improved over the last version. Things like cell phones, which live and die by their new, fancy features, are the products that should rely on positioning tactics. The way to go about this is simple: simply put the product up on screen, let the dazzling features sell themselves, and call it a day. If your features won’t sell themselves, then chances are that your product isn’t unique enough to use positioning tactics.

Branding Tactics

So now that we’ve covered how to position a product, let’s talk about the much more common practice of branding. Branding tactics are the techniques used to infuse a brand with a soul and personality of its own. This is the best approach to take for a majority of the brands out there. When considering how to position a product, you have to take into account the very real possibility that your product just isn’t special. Don’t panic, this isn’t a bad thing, and countless companies have made fantastic marketing for products that are essentially the same as that of their competitors. They do this by employing branding tactics. The main focus for branding is to find a feeling or emotion that appeals to your customers and attaching that feeling or emotion to your product. Whether your product actually exhibits these attributes is irrelevant, and many of the most successful branding campaigns are done by attaching feelings to a brand. When it comes down to it, a pair of running shoes is neither tough nor determined. Nothing about the shoes inherently convey any sort of real emotions, but Nike has done a fantastic job of branding itself to reflect those feelings.


  • Branding and positioning are two distinct ways of marketing a product.
  • Positioning tactics are techniques that attempt to set a product apart from others in its category.  This is accomplished by comparing the product features of a product against those of the competition.
  • Branding tactics are the techniques used to infuse a brand with a soul and personality of its own. This is done by choosing a feeling or emotion and attaching it to your brand in all of your advertising.

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