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The Strategic Importance of Brand Positioning in the Place Brand Concept – Elements, Structure and Application of the Positioning Statement

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Th e concept of place brand building and managing is largely discussed in literature on the subject and more and more frequently put into practice. Th e key element which determines eff ective implementation thereof is to defi ne brand positioning. Th is is because brand positioning determines the framework of visual and communication-related execution. What is more, it also determines future brand development as brand positioning is the basis for gaining competitive advantage, especially in the context of global changes. In the article, the author identifi es the fundamental elements which constitute the structure of the positioning claim which results from the brand positioning process and indicates the opportunities and limitations of applying the concept. Keywords: place brand positioning, place brand identity JEL classifi cation: M31.
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9
Journal
of International
Studies
© Foundation
of International
Studies, 2012
© CSR, 2012
Scienti c Papers
Karolina Janiszewska
Poznan University of Economics
al. Niepodległości 10, 61-875 Poznań, Poland
tel. +48 (61) 856 94 24
fax +48 (61) 856 94 29
Andrea Insch
Department of Marketing
School of Business
University of Otago
PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
Tel 64 3 479 7697
Fax 64 3 479 8172
andrea.insch@otago.ac.nz
Abstract. e concept of place brand building and managing is largely discussed in
literature on the subject and more and more frequently put into practice.  e key
element which determines eff ective implementation thereof is to defi ne brand po-
sitioning.  is is because brand positioning determines the framework of visual and
communication-related execution . What is more, it also determines future brand
development as brand positioning is the basis for gaining competitive advantage, espe-
cially in the context of global changes.
In the article, the author identifi es the fundamental elements which constitute the
structure of the positioning claim which results from the brand positioning process
and indicates the opportunities and limitations of applying the concept.
Keywords: place brand positioning, place brand identity
JEL classifi cation: M31.
INTRODUCTION
Contemporary branding is facing challenges including hyper-competition, mass good consumption
and globalization.  ese premises aff ect consumer products and places alike. Countries, regions and cities
compete against each other in an increasingly aggressive way (Anholt 2006).  is rivalry develops in all as-
pects of places’ operations; at stake is awareness of the inhabitants, tourists as well as investors.  e growing
Received:
January, 2012
1st Revision:
March, 2012
Accepted:
May, 2012
Received:
January, 2012
1st Revision:
March, 2012
Accepted:
May, 2012
e strategic importance of brand positioning
in the place brand concept:
elements, structure and application capabilities
Karolina Janiszewska, Andresa Insch “ e strategic importance of brand positioning in the place brand concept:
elements, structure and application capabilities”, Journal of International Studies, Vol. 5, No 1, 2012, pp. 9-19.
Journal of International Studies Vol. 5, No.1, 2012
10
number of comparative ranking lists1 of places further stimulates competition between countries, regions
or cities (Florek, 2012). At the same time, it indicates the importance of identifying specifi c administrative
units which may determine a place’s competitive potential.
Mass consumption is yet another trend aff ecting administrative units which needs to be considered in
the process of place brand management. It is very distinct in tourism: consumption of tourist products has
become a common phenomenon.  ere are fewer and fewer places in the world which are not commercial-
ized by tourism. It is worth emphasizing that commercialization is detrimental to the extent to which places
diff erentiate themselves; in many areas of activity they tend to be dissimilar.  is is because mass consump-
tion tends to be a response to tourists’ mass needs. A case in point are chain hotels providing standardised
services regardless of the location. Place unifi cation may be challenged by proper and informed brand posi-
tioning accompanied by consistent implementation thereof in all areas of brand activity. Commercialisation
and mass consumption of places tend to be extremely dynamic. Conducive to this phenomenon is broadly
interpreted globalization. Commercialisation and mass consumption enforce standards of conduct not only
in tourism but also with respect to the other stakeholders.  erefore, specifi c places tend to become similar.
If a place does not enjoy distinct and diff erentiating natural resources (a situation aff ecting a large number
of places) the risk of unifi cation grows. In this context, diff erentiation may be based upon a skilfully defi ned
and consistently implemented concept of brand positioning.
In the face of these premises, it is imperative to focus on the target groups’ needs and expectations in the
process of place brand management.  is reference to needs and well concealed motivation behind the stake-
holders’ behaviour may be the foundation of diff erentiating a place from the competitors and a response to
the threat of unifi cation of administrative units. One should bear in mind, however, that this diff erentiation
should off er a value to the stakeholders and therefore create and maintain value of a place brand.
In brand management, two important points of reference: the target group and competition should be
taken into consideration.  is approach necessitates a concept of brand positioning in the process of man-
agement (Kunde 2002). Brand positioning defi nes the brand in question by indicating the diff erentiating
elements in the context of the target group’s needs and expectations as well as the competition.  erefore, it
is a useful strategic tool which may and should be used in the process of managing an administrative unit.
THE POSITIONING CONCEPT IN BRAND MANAGEMENT
e notion of positioning was fi rst used back in 1969 (Trout, 1996); over time, its meaning in brand
management has evolved. Originally, the term was used in the context of the multitude of market informa-
tion targeted at the audience. Too much market information triggered off a trend to omit or delete informa-
tion which fails to forge instant and powerful associations. In the decoding process, this information was
deemed unimportant. In this context, the concept of positioning referred primarily to the combat for the
consumer’s mind (Ries, Trout, 1981) and assuming a unique position in the audience’s minds related to a
very specifi c and diff erentiating set of associations. Positioning is the way a company wants customers to
perceive, think and feel about its brand versus competitive entries. According to such a perspective brand
positioning is of a high level of subjectivity since it refers to the customer’s individual perceptions. Davis
(2000) perceives the notion of brand positioning in a similar way; in his opinion positioning is the place
1
Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), Human Development Index (HDI), Trust Index by AT Kearney, Travel and Tourism
Competitive Index (TTCI), Global City Index Report, Global Power City Index, PricewaterhouseCoopers Cities of Opportunity;
City Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), Global Financial Centres Index, Mercer Cost of
Living report, The Economist Quality of Living (www.infrastructure.gov.au), the Anholt GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI)
and the Future Brand Country Brand Index (CBI), The City Brand Barometer.
Karolina Janiszewska, Andrea Insch
The strategic importance of brand positioning
in the place brand concept...
11
in consumers’ minds that a brand wants to own. It has to be externally driven and relevant, it has to be dif-
ferentiated from the competition and, most importantly, it has to be valued. Kapferer (1992) pinpoints that
positioning is a process of emphasizing the brand’s distinctive and motivating attributes in the light of com-
petition. Keller (1998) emphasizes that arriving at the proper position requires establishing the correct point
of diff erence (unique to the brand) and point of parity association (connected with the category, not neces-
sarily unique to the brand). For Aaker (1996), who focuses on tactical operations aimed at building strong
brands, positioning is the basis for creating and implementing brand building programs. Finally, Temporal
(2002) notes that positioning is vital to brand management because it takes the basic tangible aspects of the
product and actually builds the intangibles in the form of an image in people’s minds.
While in the concept of positioning a brand’s communication activity is the major area of reference, it
is now emphasized that positioning has a broader market impact and refers to a brand’s broadly defi ned mar-
keting activity.  erefore, brand positioning refers to all its external activities and, at the same time, it de-
termines behaviour within an organization (Ellwood 2009, p. 73).  e recent understanding is that brand
positioning is one of key concepts conditioning a brand’s competitive market position (Guidry, 2011).
However, marketing experts agree about the essence of positioning, namely assuming a desired position
in the audience’s awareness by owning a specifi c set of associations in the context of competition (Ellwood
2009, Sutherland 2011, Temporal 2002, Kapferer 1992, Keller 1998, Woodward 1996; Nilson 1998).  is
approach indicates a strong relation between brand positioning and image (perceived as a set of associations)
and brand identity. According to Kapferer (1992), positioning needs to result from brand identity. Only
well- defi ned brand identity allows to precisely defi ne brand positioning.  is is because brand identity sets
the boundaries of positioning by adjusting its expression, supporting its individualism and abiding by coher-
ence and consistence. Brand identity consists of more detailed and useful information about a brand in the
context of implementing the positioning idea in operations.
At the same time experts emphasize that positioning should be credible, signifi cant to the audience, dif-
ferentiating from the competitors and allowing for the organization’s growth.  is growth, however, should
contribute to the brand’s increased competitiveness.
Brand positioning should be identifi ed in such a way that on the functional and emotional level alike,
it refers to arguments and benefi ts of importance to the target group. Signifi cance on the emotional level is
more diffi cult to defi ne yet key in building up a robust brand position in the target group’s awareness. At the
same time, it indicates this element’s importance in stimulating involvement, level of energy and enthusi-
asm among a brand’s target groups. Neuro-marketing research shows that more and more frequently, people
make decisions with reference to emotional arguments. Subsequently, they try to explain their decisions and
behaviour on the rational and logical levels. Robust brands skilfully and precisely refer to the target group’s
emotions. Reference to the audience’s aspirations and hopes is a frequently employed technique. Brands
propagating an optimistic outlook create stronger positive emotional bonds with their audiences.  erefore
the created set of brand-related associations has a lasting and unique nature. However, there is danger in
making promises which a brand cannot keep, leading to the brand’s lost credibility.
e condition of signifi cance in brand positioning necessitates detailed analyses and research into the
target groups’ behaviour and motifs.  is is specifi cally complicated in the case of a place brand. It requires
knowledge and experience as diff erent groups of stakeholders represent diff erent attitudes and expectations
of a brand.  erefore, specifi c elements of positioning may be perceived by the target groups at various levels
of importance.
Brand credibility is another key feature of positioning. Brand credibility is based on the brand’s consist-
ency in keeping the promises it makes.  is consistency should refer to the brand’s personality and values
which are constant elements; they do not change even in the face of dramatic changes in the environment.
Journal of International Studies Vol. 5, No.1, 2012
12
When a brand’s actual potential and capabilities are not supported, the audience is inevitably disappointed
and the brand loses its credibility. Lack of credibility is also refl ected in the audience’s involvement in the
brand which may be of key importance to place brands. It is extremely diffi cult to regain lost credibility;
the process is very time-consuming and expensive. One should also bear in mind that brand credibility does
not exclude its aspiration-related nature. To a target group, a brand’s aspiration nature is an important fac-
tor determining the brand’s perception and aff ecting its image. Fulfi lment of this condition of positioning
calls for an in-depth audit of the brand’s assets and indicating ways of using these assets, changing them and
developing. An unbiased analysis of brand assets should be supplemented and verifi ed with research into
how the target group perceives these assets.  is should be accompanied by a hierarchy of assets with respect
to signifi cance and credibility which will allow an organization to focus on areas of biggest potential of key
importance to the target group. In the context of a place brand, this analysis becomes a matrix incorporating
all groups of a brand’s stakeholders.
However, diff erentiation is a feature of positioning most frequently referred to by practitioners and
theoreticians. Positioning should diff erentiate the brand from other alternative brands in the market. In
this context, brand positioning may be perceived as a process aimed at creating diff erences between brands.
At the same time, the condition of signifi cance and credibility is key to defi ning the diff erentiation area. A
brand cannot diff erentiate itself unless both these conditions are fulfi lled; the brand may then be perceived
as diff erent from the competition and as such superior. Brand diff erentiation may refer to the competition
or the product category. It is worth remembering that diff erentiation in a strategy when a brand leaves a
category or a brand new category is created is accompanied by a high risk of failure.  is is why competition
is more frequently used as a point of reference in identifying positioning. Polarization of the target groups
is a useful technique of brand diff erentiation; as a result, the audience is divided into a brand’s avid fans
and those who dislike it. One of the gravest mistakes made in brand management is attempting to cajole all
potential brand users. Such a brand is devoid of the target group’s passion and involvement while its image
is blurred and does not diff erentiate the brand. Owing to polarization, a brand builds up strong emotional
relations with the target group.  is element of positioning necessitates regular monitoring of competitive
activity on the one hand and in-depth analyses of market trends on the other.
Well-defi ned, standing out positioning which fulfi ls the conditions of signifi cance and credibility are
sources of inspiration and stimulation in an organization. It is a prerequisite of growth indicating the direc-
tions of future operations. It is worth noting, however, that brand development is in compliance with its
positioning which in turn will let the brand maintain its credibility. Excess brand extension resulting from
chaotic growth may lead to loss of brand coherence and playing down the brand’s value in the audience’s
eyes.  is approach necessitates regular analyses of the audience’s needs and expectations and, on the other
hand, monitoring and controlling brand activity in the context of compliance with its positioning. Un-
doubtedly, a brand should develop as well as foresee and take into consideration changes to the environment.
Desisting from such activity may lead to changing a brand’s position in the context of competition and, as a
result, to eroding the entire brand positioning. As a determinant of growth, positioning should be the focus
of interest of people managing an administrative unit. A majority of such units in well developed countries
have had and implemented growth strategies in various areas of activity. In this context, positioning could
be a useful tool indicating cohesive directions of place development revolving around a single idea. Such an
activity would allow for more transparent and unambiguous perception of a place.
However, for a brand to be successful it does not suffi ce to properly identify its positioning. Well defi ned
albeit unskilfully communicated positioning on diff erent levels of brand activity will not bring about the
desired eff ect. As long as the target group does not perceive or identify in brand activities its major assump-
tions or ideas (which are the basis of brand-diff erentiating associations) the brand is not really positioned in
Karolina Janiszewska, Andrea Insch
The strategic importance of brand positioning
in the place brand concept...
13
the audience’s minds. Robust brands enjoy diff erentiating positioning which is consistently implemented in
brand strategies aimed at target groups.  ese brand strategies include the right selection of activities aligned
with elements of positioning.  erefore, two factors combined determine a brand’s robustness: diff erentiat-
ing positioning and skilful implementation of positioning through a well-tailored strategy (Ellwood 2009).
e strategic importance of positioning can be discussed only in the context of implementation thereof.
Positioning implementation results in a specifi c brand image, compliant with brand identity and diff erenti-
ating the brand from its competitors.
ere are three basic types of brand positioning which form the foundation of the positioning strategy:
functional positioning, symbolic positioning and positioning through experience.
Functional positioning refers primarily to functional, diff erentiating brand features of rational nature.
is type of positioning allows to develop the brand idea which can solve a specifi c problem of the target
group. Most frequently, functional positioning in the context of a place brand is eff ective with reference to
the target group: investors or entrepreneurs. However, if an administrative unit has at its disposal unique
assets resulting from e.g. the geographic location, infrastructure or natural resources, functional positioning
may also be successfully implemented with reference to the remaining groups of stakeholders: locals and
tourists.
On the other hand, symbolic positioning refers primarily to the target group’s emotions. A brand based
on this type of positioning focuses on enhancing its image, identity, affi nity, social acceptance and life fulfi l-
ment of the target group.  erefore, the brand provides the audience with emotional support.  is type of
positioning may also be employed in the concept of a place brand.
e third type of positioning is based on the target group’s experience accumulated in contacts with a
brand.  is contact may be sensuous (referring to the senses) or cognitive (referring to the need of knowl-
edge and development). Brand experience seems of special importance in the context of territorial brands.
With relation to place brand, we cannot refer to brand consumption or use; the notion of brand experi-
ence is more adequate here. Feelings and the satisfaction level related to contacts with a place brand largely
determines the brand’s image. Experiencing a brand is a valuable source of shaping target’s group attitudes
(Florin, Callen, Pratzel, Kropp 2007). Brand experience may refer to the rational and the emotional alike.
Especially reaching and discovering the emotional necessitates special research methods and tools.
When there is a strong relation between positioning and the process of its implementation, the proac-
tive aspect of managing a brand’s market position in the target group’s minds gains in importance (Suther-
land 2011). If we do not manage brand positioning our competitors may take over control of it.  erefore
positioning is dynamic and changeable. Once established, it requires regular review and updates mirroring
the changes in the environment. Change determinants may result from the activity of competitors’ brands
or social processes aff ecting target groups. Hence positioning necessitates regular proactive eff orts aimed at
creating and maintaining the desired brand image. In this context, the prerequisite for proactivity are an or-
ganization’s skills in predicting future changes in the environment accompanied by an ability to initiate the
right activities.  is calls for caution and in-depth research in order to identify important change trends.
THE PREMISES OF THE STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF POSITIONING
IN THE PLACE BRAND CONCEPT
e strategic signifi cance of brand positioning has been presented by Kotler (1994) who places posi-
tioning in his STP concept (Segmenting, Targeting, Positioning). Hence, positioning just like segmentation
or the choice of the target group becomes the key foundation for defi ning a strategy for a brand. Also Davis
Journal of International Studies Vol. 5, No.1, 2012
14
(2000) takes notice of the strategic signifi cance of brand positioning as the basis for further decisions on
brand management.
Temporal (2002) treats positioning as one of a brand’s key strategic pillars determining the entire man-
agement process. Any strategic decisions related to building up and developing a brand refer to the assump-
tions behind the positioning.  e strategic importance of positioning may be viewed in two fundamental
dimensions: internal and external.
With the external dimension of positioning in mind, the focus is on its importance as a guide and veri-
er of any activities planned and sustained by a brand.  is function is of special importance in the context
of place brand management because of the multitude and dispersion of brand activities. Diff erentiation and
intensity of brand activity in many areas calls for defi ning transparent and simple principles to ensure con-
sistency of a place brand.  is condition is fulfi lled when brand positioning is well defi ned and serves as an
indicator of a brand’s areas of activity.  e major issue in place brand management is the right selection of
activities aimed at various target groups. Very frequently, these activities do not share elements which would
create and support a consistent image of a place brand.  is is further impeded by the fact that manage-
ment of an administrative unit changes as the local governments change following elections. In this context,
positioning may play a key role as a guide and coordinator of activities revolving around a common brand
idea.  e idea implanted in positioning should be capacious enough to enable brand development targeted
at various groups of stakeholders of a place brand. On the other hand, the idea should be unique and dif-
ferentiating. It is also worth noting that the success of brand positioning is largely aff ected by skilful imple-
mentation.  is requires knowledge and competence on the part of the administrative unit’s management.
In the external dimension, well-formulated brand positioning should involve all employees who may
aff ect the image of a place brand and stimulate creative activity around the brand idea. In the case of ad-
ministrative units, civil servants and representatives of administrative units may determine the place brand
experience in the target groups. When employees strongly identify themselves with the brand positioning it
translates into the place’s energy.
On top of forging an emotional bond between the employees and the brand, positioning also plays a
more pragmatic role. It off ers a fundamental set of guidelines and directions of the brand’s activity and devel-
opment. On the basis of positioning, a form may be created to verify the adequacy of the planned activities.
e closer the affi nity between the activity and brand positioning, the higher the priority a specifi c activity
should be given in the plans of an administrative unit.  erefore positioning may serve as a useful tool of
strategic planning. Brand activity verifi cation is subjective and requires ex post research to ultimately confi rm
the extent to which specifi c projects are aligned with the positioning.
erefore the internal strategic dimension of positioning also demonstrates itself in brand control.
Measurement of eff ectiveness of a place brand is relatively poorly covered in literature on the subject. Regular
research into brand image in the context of its compliance with the adopted positioning may be an impor-
tant element of the eff ectiveness of specifi c activities pursued by an administrative unit.
e usefulness of brand positioning at every stage of strategic activities (planning, verifi cation of activi-
ties and operational tools, the system of monitoring and control) confi rms the importance of positioning.
In the external dimension, by reference to the original meaning of the notion, brand positioning sets
the frames of the communication strategy. It defi nes the major communication idea which may be creatively
expressed by means of available methods, techniques and means of execution. Brand positioning is a manda-
tory element of every brief written for an external advertising agency. Well-defi ned positioning may indicate
the subjects, style and tone of communication. Any communication activity of a brand should result in
imprinting the brand in the audience’s minds in line with the adopted and desired positioning.
Karolina Janiszewska, Andrea Insch
The strategic importance of brand positioning
in the place brand concept...
15
Providing an organization with an opportunity of consistent growth is a key strategic feature of well-
defi ned positioning. Sustainable development is at the same time the major goal of administrative units
operations. In this context, positioning may serve as a useful tool indicating possible directions of growth,
creating and supporting brand image.
e external dimension of brand positioning may also demonstrate itself in the context of ordering rela-
tions within brand architecture.  is issue is of special importance with respect to administrative units and
place brand management. Brand architecture orders relations between mutually connected brands. In the
case of administrative units, mutual relations are an inseparable element of their operations. Inclusion of the
context of the brand category into positioning lays down the limits of brand infl uence.
ELEMENTS AND STRUCTURE OF THE POSITIONIG STATEMENT
IN THE PLACE BRAND CONTEXT
Positioning statement is an internal document which synthetically captures brand vision to turn it into
the basis of tactical and operational eff orts. For the document to be synthetic and brief, it necessitates broad
analyses and studies owing to which the positioning statement will contribute to the brand’s robustness and
value.  e key role of the brand positioning statement is to inspire and motivate an organization to pursue
activities resulting in growth.  is is the starting point in the entire process of brand management. Further
in this article, the authors will focus on this specifi c stage of the entire process. While this stage does not
determine a brand’s success it is nevertheless a prerequisite aff ecting the extent to which a concept has been
implemented. Literature on the subject identifi es four major elements of the positioning statement: the
target group (1), the frame of reference (2), the point of diff erence (3), the reason to believe (4) (Tybout,
Sternthal 2005).
Identifi cation of a place brand’s target groups is extremely diffi cult; it also necessitates skills and experi-
ence.  e magnitude of stakeholders (residents – native and immigrants, investors – local and global, tour-
ists – internal, external and foreign, public opinion – leaders and broadly defi ned society) calls for individual
research aimed at defi ning the stakeholders’ needs and expectations of a place.  e contemporary marketing
approach necessitates in-depth insight not only into the needs and expectations but also the system of values
determining the target groups’ attitudes and behaviour.  is approach assumes the form of consumer insight
according to which triangulation is the major research method with special emphasis placed on ethno-
graphic research. It is worth emphasizing that specifi c groups’ expectations of a place brand may be mutually
exclusive. Another important aspect is the fact that the roles of specifi c target groups are superimposed i.e.
an inhabitant may be at the same time a local investor, an internal tourist and an opinion leader. Yet another
reason why defi nition of this area requires time and competence.
In the context of a place brand, four major positioning strategies may be adopted depending on the
approach to the target group (Florek, Janiszewska, 2007), namely concentrated, exclusive, interrelated and
uniform positioning.
Concentrated positioning is aimed at one or several chosen target groups.  is approach usually results
from already shaped preferences of so-called ‘natural’ target group (Kotler et al. 1993) as a consequence of
a place’s existing features. Concentrated positioning might be appropriate and eff ective for places character-
ized by unique attraction(s) or feature(s).  ey often focus on market niche interested in these qualities.
Exclusive positioning is based on diff erent positionings for diverse target groups.  is approach is a
consequence of expanding marketing activities into next, so far not penetrated target groups. It consists of
the implementation of separate positionings for various, separate segments. It can be seen from practice that
Journal of International Studies Vol. 5, No.1, 2012
16
this approach is very popular, usually when applying separate brand strategies for tourism and investment
markets. Very often, relevant units such as tourist organizations or foreign investment agencies run their
own, not related strategies or programs aimed at suitable targets.
Interrelated positioning – based on diff erent positionings for diverse target groups with a common
core. In this approach, still, the brand is positioned separately for each segment but there exists a common
element which is the core of the brand that infl uences the character of particular positioning decisions.  e
brand core is something unalterable and constant regardless of the target grroup to which the brand posi-
tioning is defi ned. is shared point decides on the consistency of brand positioning.  e synergy eff ect is
therefore the crucial benefi t of this approach allowing at the same time individual attitude towards diverse
target groups. (Gilmore 2002).
Uniform positioning – where the same (single) positioning is defi ned for all, diverse targets groups.  is
option is the most unambiguous and coherent since it suggests one common positioning basis for all diverse
target groups.  e core brand in this case needs to be broad enough in its cognitive sense to enable develop-
ing a common positioning statement. As Gilmore (2002) notices, the positioning must be suffi ciently rich
and deep to ‘translate’ into multifaceted place’s targets.  e problem lies then in defi ning a universal posi-
tioning base being at the same time unique and distinctive.
e choice of the relevant approach and further positioning strategies depend on the potential of a place
product and its characteristics, previous place brand strength and its perception as well as the number of
possible segments and features of competitors’ places. Of special importance is the structure of symbolic (or
representational) and functional elements in place brand architecture that determine the options of brand
positioning extension into various segments.
e above listed positioning strategies may be analysed in an evolution approach taking into account
the extent of positioning integration on condition that the large number of target groups has been taken
into account (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Evolution of positionig strategy
Source: author’s own source.
Adoption of the right strategic option depends on the experience and competence of an administrative
unit in the realm of brand management and positioning.  e higher the level of positioning integration, the
Karolina Janiszewska, Andrea Insch
The strategic importance of brand positioning
in the place brand concept...
17
bigger managerial skills are required.  e level of integration also indicates consistence of the positioning
concept with reference to the target groups.  erefore administrative units with poor experience in brand
management should start positioning by adapting the concentrated or exclusive strategy. By gaining compe-
tence in adopting the strategy in the course of evolution one can look for common elements in the area of
needs, expectations and specifi c target groups which will form the basis for an interrelated strategy. Another
tactical step to be taken is extending the area of shared references within the interrelated strategy to ultimate-
ly create a basis for following the uniform strategy. Uniform positioning is the most cohesive strategic option
taking into account the needs of various target groups.  is strategy off ers a tremendous benefi t of simplicity
and possibility of adopting it in many areas of a place brand’s activity. One should indicate, however, possible
threats resulting from the uniform positioning strategy. In this case, brand positioning should be universal
and capacious enough to refer to the place brand stakeholders’ diversifi ed needs. However, this universal
nature and capacity are contradictory to the need of looking for unique brand features to be included into
positioning.  e strategy requires considerable skills and experience to ensure that the universality and sim-
plicity of positioning do not result in non-diff erentiating and banal positioning.
Adoption of the right strategic positioning option with reference to the target group allows to defi ne
another element of the positioning statement, namely a frame of reference. A frame of reference refers mostly
to the brand category and defi nes the chief goals of the target group.  is is why a frame of reference is a
natural result of identifying and defi ning target groups. In the case of place brands, goals are most frequently
defi ned in an emotional area related to brand experience. Defi ning a frame of reference may largely underpin
the process of selecting a brand.  is is because a frame of reference defi nes situations in which a brand may
be experienced. At the same time, a frame of reference allows to indicate a brand’s closest competitors who
may have the ability to satisfy the same needs and achieve the same goals for the stakeholders. Defi ning a
category in the context of a place brand is determined by geographic, administrative and functional factors
accompanying an administrative unit.
By indicating a scope of competition, a frame of reference allows to identify the brand’s point of diff er-
ence. Identifi cation of the competitors and a detailed analysis of their activity indicate areas of diff erentiation
possible to use. Defi nition of the point of diff erence should simply explain how a brand is better than other,
alternative brands. Just like a frame of reference, a point of diff erence may be expressed at various levels of
abstraction. Some brands focus on specifi c, particular functional features which diff erentiate a brand from
other. Other brands refer to more abstract emotional benefi ts emphasizing how well and how unique the
audience will feel by experiencing a place brand. Unlike a frame of reference, a point of diff erence is an ele-
ment of the positioning statement which may be subjected to changes resulting from external factors like the
place brand’s geopolitical situation and that of competitive brands as well as social changes.  erefore a point
of diff erence requires regular measurements which verify the level of its signifi cance or up-to-date status.
A point of diff erence necessitates a reason to believe. Benefi ts provided by a brand to the audience are
a fundamental source of building up brand credibility.  ese benefi ts may be of functional or emotional
nature. If a brand provides both benefi ts simultaneously, perception thereof in the target group will be more
complete and more comprehensive. Preferably, the functional and emotional benefi ts complement each
other.  e functional benefi ts of a place brand come from unique resources of an administrative unit. For
this reason, functional benefi ts as a reason to believe can be applied to a limited extent. Many places have
very similar functional parameters. In this context, emotional benefi ts gain in importance as an important
source of building up relations and bonds with a place brand’s stakeholders. Emotional benefi ts frequently
refer to self-presentation and relations with others and are connected to the need of self-expression.
Journal of International Studies Vol. 5, No.1, 2012
18
CONCLUSIONS
Despite its synthetic approach, a positioning statement is an important marketing tool from a strategic
point of view of managing an administrative unit. It is a starting point for subsequent activity pursued by
an organization. It determines its operations internally (positioning as a guide and verifi er of planned activi-
ties, as a tool of building up relations with employees, as a source of inspiration and stimulation to act, as a
monitoring and controlling tool) as well as externally (positioning as a premise of building brand architec-
ture, as an indicator of growth directions, as an indicator of the frames of the communication strategy).  e
multitude of functions assumed in an organization contributes to the fact that positioning has its strategic
importance as a key tool at every stage of the management process: analytical, planning, implementation
and control (Figure 2).
Figure 2.  e role of positioning at every stage of the management process
Source: author’s own source
At the analytical stage, positioning indicates the scope, areas and research issues encompassing an analy-
sis of competitive activity and behaviour of target groups. Positioning also underpins the planning process
and is a useful tool in verifying and hierarchizing specifi c types of activity with reference to the consistency
and coherence of the brand idea. Implementation is a stage of special importance to positioning because it
infl uences its eff ectiveness. Well-defi ned positioning underpins the process of implementation. It indicates
areas, methods, techniques as well as tools and means which should be used in the implementation process.
e control function refers to measuring the eff ectiveness of operations and the level of achievement of the
objectives.  e measurements refers to perception of a place brand in the stakeholders’ minds with respect
to compliance with the assumptions made for positioning.
A skilful use of positioning at every stage of the management process determines a cohesive image of
a place brand. Positioning is the answer to the challenges posed by contemporary branding and allows an
administrative unit to make informed amendments to the growth strategy in the context of competition and
the stakeholders’ changing needs and expectations. It serves as a compass setting directions of growth and as
a guardian of consistence and coherence despite the changes resulting from political elections.
Karolina Janiszewska, Andrea Insch
The strategic importance of brand positioning
in the place brand concept...
19
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