Reverse Positioning: What Is It & Examples

Reverse positioning is highly effective at building brand value and cultivating customer loyalty. Discover the definition, benefits, and examples of reverse positioning in our in-depth guide.

Reverse positioning, also known as breakaway positioning, is one of the most talked-about marketing techniques, and it can have very impressive effects when used correctly. But what is reverse positioning? How does reverse marketing work, and why should your company give it a try?

This guide tells you all you need to know, covering reverse positioning definition, strategy, benefits, and some famous examples, too.

What Is Reverse Positioning?

While traditional marketing like print advertising, referrals, and direct sales focuses on directly selling products or services, reverse positioning focuses on building brand awareness and consumer appreciation, usually by emphasizing a brand's values or ethics.

Reverse positioning is all about drawing customers to your brand, so they become more interested and appreciative of what your company offers based on its values and identity.

The concept has been around for many years and was originally known as "reverse marketing," as it effectively flips the script of traditional marketing on its head: Instead of reaching out to customers and asking them to buy your products, you encourage them to seek your company when they need it by building your brand as one they can trust and rely on.

Key elements of reverse positioning include:

  • Establishing an emotional and value-based connection with customers
  • Building campaigns and strategies around honesty and openness
  • Allowing customers to come to you, rather than calling them to action directly
  • Evaluating and analyzing the needs and identities of your audience
  • Focusing on building awareness and appreciation, rather than instant sales

How Does Reverse Positioning Work?

Reverse positioning is a broad approach to marketing that encompasses many different marketing methods and techniques. You can break down reverse positioning into 3 core steps:

  1. Evaluate your target audience and understand their needs, desires, and expectations.
  2. Look at ways to align your business’s image with the goals and needs of your ideal audience.
  3. Develop campaigns that show how your company can meet customer needs and align with their values and ideals.

Reverse Positioning Benefits

There are 4 core benefits of reverse positioning as a marketing tool:

  1. Build long-term success
  2. Cultivate lasting customer loyalty
  3. Stand out from competitors
  4. Attract social media attention

1. Build Long-Term Success

Reverse positioning is all about the long term. While traditional marketing methods focus on instant gratification in the form of direct sales and clicks, reverse marketing is more about building the value and identity of your brand for years to come.

2. Cultivate Lasting Customer Loyalty

By developing your brand's image and personifying values like trust, integrity, honesty, and clarity in your marketing communication, you can cultivate loyalty among your customers, which leads to more recommendations, referrals, and sales in the future.

3. Stand Out From Competitors

Reverse positioning is a terrific method for brands that want to stand out from the crowd, rather than simply blending in with every other business in their industry. It's an opportunity to show the world what makes your company special and different.

4. Social Media Attention

Modern marketing is fueled by the power and potential of social media. If you can generate marketing hype about your company on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, you can enjoy a lot of success. Reverse positioning marketing is a great way to build social media buzz.

4 Examples of Reverse Positioning

To get a clearer picture of what reverse positioning is and how it works in action, let's take a look at some real-world reverse positioning examples, as used by some of the most famous and successful brands in the world.


In 2011, outdoor clothing company Patagonia launched a successful reverse positioning campaign, with eye-catching ads and messages like "Don't Buy This Jacket.”

patagonia reverse positioning example

The campaign aimed to inform customers about the environmental costs of outdoor apparel production and encourage customers to recycle and reuse their existing apparel.

The visual ads and underlying message cemented Patagonia’s status as a company that cares about the natural world.


In 2004, Dove and Unilever launched their “Real Beauty" campaign. Rather than focusing on selling individual lotions and cosmetics, the campaign celebrated the beauty in women of all ages, sizes, and races.

patagonia reverse positioning example


Dove aimed to inspire self-confidence in its customers and build its brand identity around caring about the well-being of its customers.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger went in the complete opposite direction to most big fast-food chains. It has no kids’ meals, no salads, no sides apart from fries. In fact, it has one of the smallest and simplest menus in the industry, along with a "secret menu" of special ingredients that customers only learn about via word-of-mouth.

In-n-out reverse positioning example


This is an absolute masterpiece of reverse marketing, as the brand's simplicity and quality have helped it stand out in a crowded market.


Shoe retailer Zappos thought outside the box with its “ImNotABox” campaign of 2016. This campaign focused on how customers could transform a shoe box from a box into a useful tool.

zappos reverse positioning example

The campaign was a just over 90-second video showing how a young boy used shoe boxes to create a box-home for a homeless man he saw every day.

The video reinforced Zappos' personality and drive to help others and do good – not just sell shoes. It showed creativity and sent the message that Zappos is not just another shoe retailer.

Reverse Positioning Is an Effective Marketing Strategy

These examples of reverse positioning, along with many others, show that reverse positioning can be an effective marketing strategy. It allows companies to eschew traditional calls to action and pushy sales messages in favor of innovative campaigns that highlight their values and enhance their appeal. For help with your reverse positioning marketing campaigns, consult our list of marketing companies.

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