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Your positioning jujutsu move: Points of parity

You hopefully feel good about all of the points of difference that make your brand stand out. But while you’ve been busy thinking about how to make your brand stand out from your competition, your competitors are also busy developing points of difference that make them stand out from you.

This is where the idea of a point of parity comes in.

A point of parity is a point of difference a competitor has over you that you need to counteract. Sometimes points of parity are “table stakes”— characteristics you need simply to enter or compete in the market. Other times points of parity are advantages that competitors have been able to gain that are highly valued by customers.

A point of parity is a point of difference that competitors have over you that you need to counteract. They are places where you need to show you are as good as your competitors (not necessarily better) so that you can negate their advantage and refocus attention on your points of difference.

For an example of a point of parity, plus more on the basics of brand positioning, download our Adventure Guide.

It takes a strong person to admit to their weaknesses, and strong brands must admit their weaknesses too. This is why great brands use not only points of difference to show where they stand out, but points of parity to show where they are trying to match their competition. But highlighting a point of parity doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to turn it into a key strength for your brand, or that you need to beat your competitors at it. You shouldn’t feel like you need to turn all of your brand weaknesses into strengths.

In fact, one of the key things to understand about points of parity is that they don’t represent places where your brand needs to be the best. Instead they highlight places where your brand must simply be good enough, so that, given the amazing points of difference you have in other areas, a customer will still choose your brand over its competition.

Well-played points of parity are among the strongest branding positioning tools. They are the jujutsu maneuvers of brand positioning, with the amazing power to nullify the strengths of opposing brands, while focusing energy back on the differences that make you stand out.

Our platypus mascot harnesses Points of Parity Jujitsu moves.

Our platypus mascot knows how to harness the amazing power of points of parity.

Use the steps below find your brand’s points of parity with your team.

You might recognize the scenery coming up. The exercise to uncover your points of parity is similar to the points of difference activity you did with your team earlier today.

Step 1 Share knowledge

By now, your team should be familiar with relevant background materials and research. Make sure everyone understands the definition of a point of parity. A point of parity is a point of difference that competitors have over you that you need to counteract. 

Step 2 Ideate

Divide the group into teams. Mix the teams up so that people are working with a different partner. Have each team use the printable worksheet to answer these questions:

  1. According to our research, what are our competitors’ biggest advantages over us in our primary competitive frame of reference?
  2. What does our brand have to be good at just to stay competitive in this frame of reference?
 Step 3 Discuss

As each team shares their ideas, write them where everyone can see them.

Step 4 Vote

Use dots or sticky notes to take a vote to see which ideas are most popular.

Step 5 Consolidate

Look at the ideas receiving the most votes. Could any of these be combined to communicate one thought? Get your team’s help to reduce the number of points of parity down to 1-3 key ideas.

Step 6 Identify

Take the 1-3 points of parity you’ve identified, and ask the group to tell you, by a show of hands, whether each point of difference is true about the brand today or whether it’s aspirational. Mark an A beside the aspirational points.

Remember that the majority of your points of parity should be deliverable by your brand today. You might find that there aren’t any points of parity you need to achieve within your frame of reference, and that’s okay too. Some brands only have points of difference.  

Thank your group for their ideas, and be sure to take pictures of or otherwise record from the session.

You should now have identified a core set of possible points of difference and points of parity for your brand. If you have more than 4-5 combined points of parity and points of difference, you may want to continue to narrow them down. Start by consolidating ideas that can be combined into a larger thought. If you still have too many, consider force ranking them from the most critical to the least critical for your organization, and then focusing on only the top ones.

The best positioning platforms stay tight and focused, only emphasizing the key points of difference and points of parity. Don’t attempt to be comprehensive at the expense of simplicity and clarity.

Also try to make sure that you more of your points of difference and points of parity are true today, not just aspirational for the future. It is OK to choose one or two areas where your organization still needs to make progress, but if most of your points of difference and points of parity are aspirational, the final positioning platform will lack credibility.

Congratulations! By understanding the points of difference and points of parity for your brand, you’re well on your way to creating a solid positioning platform. Tomorrow we’ll go where many brands have never gone before—we’re seeking the brand mantra.


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