Purists of the branding game, understand that a commodity like soap can be sold using "it cleans", it makes you beautiful, kill germs, smells great, how it makes you feel, form factor, celebrities and more.
Only the first player in the category, sorry "in the consumer's mind", can stand for the category. Like Big Basket can stand for groceries delivered home. Anyone else has to position themselves away from the dominant player in the category to win. You could be organic produce or only alcohol being home delivered. But raise money and fight against a player who has more money, head on in the same markets, now that is just being foolish.
That's akin to heading into a war in an open field being outnumbered 2 to 1. You know how that war ends don't you. The one with more resources wins the war without even losing 20% of his force, while the opposing army is wiped out.
What is instead needed is find out where the weakest point of the enemy army, and concentrate your entire force on that spot. That in a nutshell is positioning.
Who are we, What do we stand for, Who is our ideal consumer, How do we want the customer to view us as a brand, What problem do we solve, How are we different
These are questions more startups need to ask of themselves. And more VC's need brand architects in house or in every startup if possible. Simply throwing money at marketing, rarely works especially if competition has more money. Would you send 100 men to fight 500 and pray that it works out.
But imagine if the 100 men had a fort, a moat, trebuchets and archers and had to just defend a territory they know really well. They might actually beat that army of 500 approaching the wall.
You can think of the startup battleground as an open field or a land filled with hills, caves, and alleyways.
If you are taking on a better funded opponent in an open field, I would like to hand you the Param Veer Chakra for bravery, but I know you aren't going to win.
But if you have alleyways, hills and caves to hide, spring surprises, attack in the dark and hit them where they least expect it or even if they do,don't know how to counter, Aha you would have won and weakened the resolve of the enemy.
Positioning is a little intangible. It's almost like art meets psychology meets marketing meets science.
In the search for tangibility, to assign measurable outcomes, startups might have lost out on positioning. And purists will tell you that positioning is the battle for supremacy that happens in the consumer's mind.