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How to Nail Your Competitive Positioning (with examples)
Competitive Enablement

How to Nail Your Competitive Positioning (with examples)

There’s a lot of confusion as to what competitive positioning actually means nowadays. 

Spoiler alert, it’s not just saying that you’re different than [competitor XYZ] for reason [ABC].

So, we teamed up with a few of the best product marketers out there to clear a few things up.

In this blog, we’ll share what competitive positioning is (and what it isn’t), how to build your strategy depending on the market you’re in, and some real-life examples to get us out of the ‘theory clouds’ and give you some inspiration to tactically execute yourselves.

(You can watch our whole conversation with the Fletch PMM crew on positioning below or on The Compete Network here.)

What is competitive positioning?

The biggest confusion around competitive positioning is that it gets mislabeled for two other things:

It is not messaging (what we are saying to the market).

It is not copywriting (the words we use to deliver a message).

Instead, it is the strategy your business builds to answer three questions:

  1. How are we going to approach the market of our target audience?
  2. What are the competitive alternatives our buyer could choose?
  3. In what ways are we different to those competitors?

The other elements of messaging and copywriting are downstream tactics that are guided by your competitive positioning; things like the value wedges your sales team uses, your homepage messaging, and ads.

Now, you don’t have direct control over your competitive position in the market. It’s a collection of perceptions from your buyers — which is always changing pending on what you sell, new or changing competitors, and the evolution of the category you exist within. 

And that’s where the fun stuff comes in. Let’s walk through three examples of how to position against competitors depending on the market you’re within.

Three ways to positioning against competitors in different markets

Okay, what better example to use for competitive positioning than the pseudo-craze of 2024 (which I’m fully addicted to)… ice baths! 

This product, and category, has rapidly evolved over the past twenty years. Here’s how you would position it competitively across three different stages of market maturity.

Stage One: Concept Awareness

Imagine it’s the early 2000s. The concept of ice baths is relatively unknown. 

In fact, few people even know what a cold plunge is!

The competition: The alternative isn’t another product, but a different activity.

The positioning strategy: Educate the market about the activity itself.

Competitive positioning example: “Don’t spend hours in mindfulness meditation to build mental toughness. Instead, try daily cold plunges for faster and more effective results in mental resilience.”

If we think in the B2B context, this is the stage where your marketing focus should be on educating the market to grow your category.

In order to stand out and attract customers, you DON’T want to explain why you’re different from other ice baths out there.

Your audience won’t care about your superior temperature control or ease of setup. They need to be convinced why they should even engage in the activities that your product supports.

Check out even more great competitive positioning examples in the wild in our Coffee & Compete newsletter.

Stage Two: Category Awareness

Let’s fast forward to the 2010s. 

Influential figures are now starting to popularize cold plunges. It’s starting to become a popular fad among a set of early adopters.

The competition: Other methods or DIY solutions like cold showers.

The positioning strategy: Transition from education to convincing them the best way to engage this activity.

Example: “Why settle for a cold shower that’s incapable of reaching the temperatures needed for optimal benefits? Discover our ice bath solutions, designed for perfect, controlled cold plunges.”

Here’s another popular example. Let’s say your Netflix in the early days. People are increasingly using the internet and enjoying films in the comfort of their home.

Now, your competitive positioning is to transition this audience to your product based on key competitive differentiators:

  • Don’t bother driving all the way to the DVD store when you can pick the movie you want to watch without getting up from your La-Z-Boy.
  • Don’t purchase each individual movie you want to watch, instead subscribe for a small monthly fee for access to thousands of movie options

(Get the brief history of how Netflix disrupted the television industry below, or listen to the full episode of Ready for Launch on The Compete Network here.)

Stage Three: Product Awareness

Now, let’s zoom ahead all the way to today. 

There is existing demand for ice baths, and the market has a number of these products available.

The competition: Other existing ice baths in the market.

The positioning strategy: Directly compare your ice bath product with other similar products in terms of features, quality, and price.

Example: “Why pay extra for overpriced, complicated models? Our Ice Pod offers all the necessary features at a fraction of the cost. It’s the practical choice for dedicated cold plunge enthusiasts”

This is the area where a majority of B2B products sit today.

There are few (if any) true blue oceans to swim in. Just go look at G2 grids for a category and you’ll see a dozen or so options for nearly every single one.

In this case, you’re competitive positioning has to be directly targeted towards where your unique differentiators are, and what matters most to your buyers.

In tactical execution, we often refer to this as communicating your value wedge (which Q walks through in the video below).

Other great examples of competitive positioning in the wild

Here’s a few other great examples of competitive positioning so that you can get your creative juices flowing.

VRBO positions ‘a place to yourself’ against AirBnB

The short-term rental category is red-hot. None more notable than the first-movers, AirBnB. However, one of their emerging competitors, VRBO, began a series of ads leaning into their unique differentiator: only renting entire places for travelers.

Timex zags against the smart watch movement

While Apple continues its pursuit to drape people in technology across every square inch of their body, Timex positions itself against the ripple down consequences of having a computer buzzing on your wrist 24/7.  


Samsung welcomes Apple 

I don’t mean to take another shot at Apple, but it’s lonely at the top. Samsung chucked on their sassy pants and went after Apple’s AI release, letting their audience know that they’d been in the AI game waaayyy before Tim Cook decided it was cool


Keep your competitive positioning game sharp

If you made it this far, then you care about standing out from your competition.

That’s why we built the Coffee & Compete newsletter.

Each week, we share some of the best examples of competitive positioning in the wild and why they work, and walk through strategies you can apply in your own role.

You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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