(Fourth in a series about fundamental marketing documents every business needs. The third was: Shape your business culture with your core values. )
You don’t control the position your brand occupies — your customers do. But you can influence it.
And the place to start is with a brand positioning statement.
A position statement identifies your target market and paints a picture of how you want your target market to perceive your brand. While the customer ultimately decides where your brand will be positioned, you can influence that perception by deciding which positions you have the best chance of occupying and defending based on the strengths of the brand.
You need to write a positioning statement before you begin marketing your product or service. It’s important to understand who your target market is so that you don’t waste money trying to appeal to the wrong audience or to the ubiquitous “everybody.” “Everybody” is not a target audience.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but trying to appeal to everyone is the sure path to failure. Success is found through differentiating your brand so that it appeals to a narrow audience and then clearly defining it in your positioning statement.
Once the audience is defined, the next step is making a list of the needs or wants that your target market has and the benefits that your product or service uniquely provides. How is your solution different from every other product on the market? This is your unique selling proposition, or USP.
You should provide one or two “reasons to believe” in your product or service. These are your best supporting points that defend your brand’s USP. Perhaps they are irrefutable research facts. Maybe they are emotional truths. Whatever you can say that bolster your case in the best possible way, use them.
Brand Positioning statement templates
There are a number of templates available for writing a positioning statement. Geoffrey Moore, an American organizational theorist, management consultant and author of Crossing the Chasm, suggests this format:
For (target customers)
Who (have the following problem)
Our product is a (describe the product or solution)
That provides (cite the breakthrough capability)
Unlike (reference competition),
Our product/solution (describe the key point of competitive differentiation)
Here is an example of a positioning statement written in this format:
For movie producers and others
Who depend heavily on post-production special effects,
Silicon Graphics provides computer workstations
That integrate digital fantasies with actual film footage.
Unlike any other vendor of computer workstations,
SGI has made a no-compromise commitment to meeting film makers’ post-production needs.
Beloved Brands suggests this format:
For the target market (a) Brand X plays in the market (b) and it gives the main benefit (c). That’s because of the following reasons to believe (d).
Blueprint Creative uses this format:
– Core User: a group of like-minded people who have a special allegiance to your brand (existing), or are most likely to (new)
– Reference Point: the framework where your brand will reside.
– Brand Promise: The primary feature or benefit with the strongest, most persuasive appeal to the Core User.
Examples of positioning statements written in this format:
To family-oriented adult car owners concerned with safety, Michelin tires are the premium tires that can provide greater peace of mind.
To adults suffering from a variety of cold and/or flue symptoms, NyQuil is the original soothing night-time cold medicine that effectively relieves symptoms so you can sleep through the night.
There is no right or wrong format — use what works for you as long as you are clearly identifying your target market, the main benefit you provide that audience and your rationale.
The emotional brand
As you can see in these examples above, it’s important for brand positioning statements to incorporate an emotional appeal. In the Michelin statement, tires provide “peace of mind” because they are safer. NyQuil is “soothing” and “effectively relieves symptoms so you can sleep.” As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, studies have shown that we make decisions from our emotions.
Another thing to be aware of is that your positioning can change. As new competitors enter the market, you may find that you need to shift positions. What works a one point in the lifecycle of a product or service may not work at another point.
OK, it’s your turn. What is your positioning statement?