In a recent Forbes articleEllie Victor (Co-founder and CEO of ZOOM Marketing) asks ‘Does your organization need branding, positioning or both?’

Victor asks this question to highlight that many people cannot distinguish between these two terms, and often use ‘branding’ and ‘positioning’ interchangeably. Although these concepts do have a lot in common, it’s worth being mindful of their differences. According to Victor:

[B]randing is more focused on emotion, visual identity and personality, while positioning is focused on category leadership and competitive differentiation.

Victor then touches on the history of both concepts, noting that ‘branding dates back thousands of years to the practice of branding livestock to signify ownership’, whereas ‘positioning’ originated in the 1960s. (More on the history of branding here.)

Here’s a quick reference guide to branding and positioning, according to Victor:


  • It’s focused on visual identity and personality description.
  • It’s intangible, like the magical feeling of childlike wonder you might experience at Walt Disney theme parks.
  • It seeks to connect with the customer’s heart. For example, have you ever adorned your water bottle or laptop with brand stickers? Most likely those brands resonate with your heart.
  • It answers the question “How do we look and feel?”


  • It’s focused on category definition and competitive differentiation.
  • It’s tangible. Categories, their contents, competitor strengths and weaknesses, and often category leaders are defined and agreed upon by the market.
  • It owns a place in the customer’s mind. For example, if you say “pretzels,” I think Snyder’s.
  • It answers the question “What category do we lead and how do we stand out?”

So, now that we have established a distinction between these two key terms: how can they be part of a successful brand strategy? Victor recommends starting with positioning, before you get going with your branding:

Initiating the process with positioning ensures that your visual and brand identity will bring home a unique narrative.

With both branding and positioning, it’s important to adopt what Victor calls an ‘outside-in’ approach. This means considering the opinions and perspectives of your customer audience, as this can help you connect with them emotionally. Another way to effectively connect and communicate with your audience is ‘to develop a theme you can use to drive your brand across every touchpoint’.

As Victor notes, everything should come back to reinforcing your brand narrative—which is something both branding and positioning can help with:

Positioning and branding collaborate in weaving your story.

If your brand would benefit from better defined positioning, or a brand update, we’re here to help – drop us a line today.

We are Novagram, a UK creative agency
specialising in branding, design and digital development