Ask a dozen marketing experts about a "branding positioning duality" and you may get twelve different answers. Within the marketing community, there is a general consensus on what branding and positioning mean, but there's a lot of debate on some of the details.
The Classic Concept of Branding
In the world of marketing, branding strategy (or "building your brand") refers to creating a buzz around your company and its various products. It's important to keep in mind that branding traditionally refers more to visibility for the company logo or name, (thus: brand), then for a specific product. Things that a lot of marketers refer to as branding activities include showing off the company logo at community events, talking in general about how great a company is, or related activities that get visibility for the company as a whole and improve its perception in the general consumer community.
The Classic Concept of Positioning
A positioning strategy relates a lot more to specific products that a company puts out. In positioning, a company looks to develop its products or services according to specific niche markets, or roles within a consumer demand scenario. Companies may develop a positioning statement that may even determine what kinds of research and development they are doing to promote the creation of new products.
A way to think about product positioning is to consider the various categories that exist for any kind of consumer product. A good example is the auto market, where compact, midsize or luxury vehicles represent different auto categories, or opportunities for positioning a car in the market. When auto makers look at positioning, they're thinking about how to insert a particular model into one of those categories and compete there, rather than in a more general market. That's why some marketing experts claim that product positioning has a lot to do with knowing and reaching a target audience, and defining who is most likely to buy what specific kind of product.
Asking "what is branding?" or "what is positioning?" is a great way to get a company started in renovating overall strategies for growing business and expanding the enterprise. These kinds of questions may be a good introduction into team building activities or brainstorming sessions that are aimed at using a talented and skilled personnel to help chart the future of a company or business.
Branding and Positioning: The Chicken and the Egg
To some marketing people, a discussion on branding and positioning become cyclical. You might think that positioning creates branding visibility, or that good branding leads consumers to select a product that might be automatically fit into its demand niche. But most experts would agree that a thorough study of both of these elements will often help lead a company into the black, where positioning or offering a good product set compliments a good set of strategies for getting company visibility.
All of the above illustrates how the marketing community sees branding and positioning as common tools for a game plan to grow any business in its market environment.