Branding vs. Positioning: What’s the Difference?

entrepreneurshipPersonal Branding

Brand Positioning photo from ShutterstockOne of the biggest challenges new business owners have is understanding multitude of business and marketing concepts. Two of these concepts are branding and positioning. Both are important to reaching your market and are related, yet they’re very different.


You want to direct the brand image of your company through the quality of your products and services, responsiveness to customer needs and other tactics that support the image you want to create, but whether or not you’re successful depends on your market’s experience.

The goal of branding is to elicit a positive emotional response from the market. What thoughts and feelings do you have when you think of Apple, Disney or Your feelings won’t be based on what these companies say their brand is. Instead your feelings are based on your experience with them. The important concept to understand about branding is that it comes from your customers’ experiences with your business.


Positioning is just like it sounds. It’s about where you rank in your customers’ mind in relation to your competition. Positioning your business comes from differentiating yourself from your competition. In other words, what do you offer or do different from all the other businesses that provide the same products or services? There are many places to buy books online, but Amazon is often the first company people think of in regards to buying books (or just about anything) on the Internet. Amazon has also positioned itself above most it’s competition in e-readers and self-publishing.

How branding and positioning relate

Positioning always comes before branding. Positioning tactics lure your market to your business. The experience the market has with your business will determine if you’re successful in building a positive brand image. For example, for many years Avis Car Rental advertised a brand message that said, “We’re number 2. We try harder.” This positioning tactic was designed to lure customers from their competition with the promise that Avis would work harder to make them happy. But the marketing effort only worked in building Avis’ brand if customers felt that the company did indeed try harder.

While new businesses should define the brand image they want, they need to focus on positioning themselves in the marketplace first, by identifying what makes them different and translating that difference into a customer benefit. If new businesses deliver on the benefit promised, they will be successful in building a positive brand image.