Branding vs. Positioning What Is The Difference

Branding vs. Positioning: What Is The Difference and Do You Need Both?

Nancy MyrlandAll Posts, Branding, Personal Branding, Positioning Leave a Comment

You might hear people talk about the need for you to establish your personal brand, or you need to create a brand for your firm.

You might also hear some of us talk about the need to position yourself in the marketplace, or what is called positioning.

It can be confusing because they are related. They are definitely cousins, but they are very different.

Bottom Line

Let’s talk about branding, and positioning. What is the difference between them? Do you need to worry about them? Let me start with the answer to that question.

Yes, you do need to worry about personal branding and positioning.

If you would like to listen to this via podcast, just press the green play button below, or click here if you are reading this via email. If you would prefer to read this via blog post, I have rewritten the podcast to a blog post below for you. 

Branding and Personal Branding

First, let’s talk about personal branding. If you think about your brand, or you think about the brand of anything, any product, any service, what comes to mind?

It might be subconscious, but what comes to mind when you see or hear a brand name are attributes you can always count on when you hear that brand name.

For example, what comes to mind when you read these names?

  • Mercedes Benz
  • Volkswagen
  • Walmart
  • Starbucks
  • Target

When you saw each name, didn’t you have a feeling or an impression about each one of them?

I’m pretty sure each one caused a different reaction in your mind because all of them have worked very hard to establish their brand in the marketplace.

By the way, you and I are the marketplace. We are their customers, their clients, or their potential clients.

Deliberate and Consistent Planning and Behavior

To establish the brand that seeing their name caused you to think or feel was created because of their deliberate and consistent planning and behavior in marketing and branding. Because of those efforts, they have established a reputation to be known for something and to cause a feeling that suddenly comes to mind when people hear or experience that name, that brand, that product or that service.

How Does This Translate To Your Brand?

For you, I would ask the question: What is your brand? What do you want to be known for? This is your personal brand.

For example, Starbucks wants to be known as a premium product that people pay a lot of money to consume. Yes, they are expensive, but they do little things to make a difference.

  • They have perfected their ice.
  • They use clear, high-quality plastic cups.
  • They have fancy stores.
  • They have nice people at the drive-thru.
  • They are known for giving back to some communities.
  • Their culture is known to be contemporary and attracts contemporary baristas.

Compare this to Dunkin Donuts, or Dunkin’ as they are called. Dunkin’ has a great brand, but it’s different.

  • It is more reasonable.
  • It is welcoming to every type of coffee drinker.
  • It is quick and convenient.

I am not a coffee drinker, so you can tell me if this is way off-base or what I have missed, but the people who love Dunkin’ love their coffee. They are loyal to it and will defend it when discussing the merits of drive-thru coffee.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ are different brands. They have worked hard to establish those brands, which, through my observation and interpretation, has worked for each of them.

You Are Your Product

A brand is also partially defined by the quality of its product(s). Remember that you are your product. You are the product and the service you would like your potential clients to consume.

All of these things and more come together to establish your brand:

  • The kind of work that you do
  • Your personality
  •  The way you conduct business
  • The way you communicate
  • The way you solve problems
  • The way you show empathy
  • The way you take care of them
  • The way you dive deep into your practice area and the issues your clients have

So, yes, you do need to think about brand-building for your firm, and personal brand-building for yourself. There is a process you can go through to walk through questions that will help to establish your firm’s brand and your personal brand.

You should spend time figuring this out, because if you don’t, what will happen is that people will establish your brand for you. If you are not deliberate about articulating who you are, and what you want your brand to stand for, what you want people to experience every time they do business with you, then other people will establish that for you.

They will make assumptions through observation and experience, which isn’t always correct. It can be, but it can also be off-base or incomplete if you haven’t taken control of your brand identification and communication.

What Is Positioning?

Positioning is different from branding. As I mentioned above, it is related to personal branding, but each has its own lane.

Let’s start by thinking about the word position.

What position do you want to have in the marketplace? For example, on my desk, I have copies of my mission and vision statements that I have created for my business, which is me as I am my product and my business.

For my vision statement, I had to ask myself, “Nancy, what position do you want in the marketplace?”

That means what position do I want to have in the minds of those who are considering doing business with me, or who are already doing business with me?

Does that mean that I am the first person my clients and potential clients think of when they are looking for someone or some education from someone who knows a lot about content, social and digital media marketing and how they fit into marketing and business development?

Does this mean that I want to the first person for them to call?

Yes, that is that position I would like to have in peoples’ minds, whether they’re clients or potential clients, referral sources, media, or others who might care about these practice areas.

So that is the “position” that I want to have in all of your minds.

This is how I state that:

“I am the most the most sought after and engaged provider of marketing, content, social and digital media education and coaching to lawyers, law firms and legal marketers.”

Let’s look at this even closer. What did I say there? I said I am the most. That means that the position I seek to have is that number one slot and that I want to be in that first position in your mind so that when you think about those sorts of things (and this isn’t a sales pitch, I’m just using me as an example which could help you identify and articulate your position in the marketplace), I am the first person you think of.

What Would You Like Your Position To Be?

Where do you want to be? Do you also want to be the most sought-after in your practice area? What I just read to you is my vision statement. I spent some time on that, but it was worth it because it can also serve as my positioning statement because that is also the position I want to have in the minds of those who are looking for somebody who does what I do.

Did I say I want to be the second person they think of, or I want to be in the top five? I did not. I said I am the most sought after, and I mentioned the specific areas where I want that position. Yours might also include a geographic area.

Your Positioning Statement Can Be Aspirational

Is it aspirational? You bet it is. That is what having vision is all about. But once you know what position, which slot you want to occupy in the minds of those you want to do business with, then you can then go about trying to achieve that position. Your actions, your marketing and business development actions, speak to that vision, that position, as often as possible.

Positioning vs. Branding

So again, very different.

Branding answers:

  • What are you like to do business with?
  • Who are you?
  • What will your clients be gaining as a result of interacting or doing business with you?
  • How will they feel when they are around you?
  • What do others see in you?
  • What do they gain from doing business with you?

Positioning answers:

  • What position in the marketplace do you want to hold?
  • What position do you want to earn in the minds of those who know about you, who are asked about you, or who are looking for someone like you?

Positioning defines a position, not the attributes.

It is the place, the position. You might know that you want to be number one in their minds, or you might say, you know what, I’m okay if I’m in the top three and I’m called to the table. Everybody doesn’t have to be the most sought after.

So, to answer my original question, yes, there is a difference, and yes, you need to define both.

Execution Is Critical To This Process

Equally as important as defining your brand and your position is that you then act upon both of those definitions. Your marketing and business development activities need to speak to those on a consistent basis. You need to demonstrate your brand and work toward securing that position you have defined. If you define these and do nothing with them, you have wasted your time and a huge opportunity.

Please Let Me Know Your Thoughts

Please do me a favor and let me know your thoughts about this topic of branding and positioning. Please leave a comment as I would love to hear from you.

Let me know if I have made the distinction clear to you or if it’s still a little murky. If you’d rather do so privately, you can always email me at [email protected].

Thank You

Thank you so much for spending a few Legal Marketing Minutes with me. I know your time is valuable, so I appreciate you spending a few of them right here with me.

Additional Personal Branding Posts That Might Interest You

Personal Branding For Lawyers: What Do You Want To Be Known For?

You Damage More Than Your Own Personal Brand With Bad Online Behavior 

Branding vs. Positioning: What Is The Difference and Do You Need Both? (this post)

In Business, Personal Branding Is Important

Lawyers & Law Firms, Are You Paying Attention To Your Brand?

Personal Branding In The Age of Social & Digital Media

Can Your Personal Brand Hurt Your Firm’s Brand?


Nancy Myrland, Legal Marketing and Business Development Advisor to Lawyers

Nancy Myrland is a Marketing and Business Development Advisor, specializing in Content, Social & Digital Media. She helps lawyers grow their practices by integrating the right marketing practices in order to build their reputations and their relationships, which leads to building their practices.

Also known as the LinkedIn Coach For Lawyers, Nancy is a frequent LinkedIn trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers learn and implement content, social, and digital media strategies that cut through the clutter and are more relevant to their current and potential clients.

Nancy is also a personal branding speaker, trainer, and advisor, helping legal and business professionals in firms understand the importance and the impact of defining and reinforcing their personal brand. 

She is also the founder of the hybrid self-study and live online course, LinkedIn Course For Lawyers, where she personally guides lawyers through the sequential creation of their LinkedIn profile and presence. 

As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasting, video marketing, voice marketing, and livestreaming. Nancy also works with many firms and lawyers on Zoom and virtual presentation training and coaching to be the best they can be when presenting online.

She also helps lead select law firms through their online social media strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases.


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