How to write a winning Brand Positioning Statement

Brand Positioning Statements provide the most useful function of taking everything you know about your brand, everything that could be said about the consumer and making choices to pick one target that you’ll serve and one brand promise you will stand behind.  While we think this brand positioning statement sets up the creative brief, it should really set up everything the brand does–equally important for internal as everyone should follow to what the positioning statement says.

The Brand Positioning Statement

A best in class positioning statement has four key elements: 

      • Target Market (a)
      • Definition of the market you play in (b)
      • Brand Promise (emotional or rational benefit) (c)
      • The Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise (d)

The more focused your decisions, the more successful you will be: decide on one target, one promise and maybe  one or two reasons to believe that help to directly back up your promise.  But the target shouldn’t be everyone 18-65, and don’t throw your eight best features at the wall and hopefully something sticks.  And the reason to believe has to back up your promise, not be a whole new promise.

The classic way to write a Brand Positioning Statement is to take the elements above and frame them into the following:  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).  This is what it looks like when you put them into this format:   

Slide1

Looking at the example above for Gray’s Cookies (fictional brand), the target is proactive preventers, who want to do everything for their health, including sacrificing what they eat.  That’s all about a consumer that wants control. The main benefit is guilt free control, with the balance of taste and health in the cookie.

The biggest thing you have to do is make tough decisions.  Find the target of those you can get to love you, rather than trying to sell to everyone that might one day like you.   Match up your benefits to the need states of the consumer.  And leverage where you are on the Love Curve to determine how much emotion you are able to build into your Brand Positioning Statement.

Who is Your Target?

Beloved Brands know who their customer is and who it is not.  Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in mind.  Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive–low return on investment and low return on effort.  While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact.  Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you.  It becomes all about choices and you will be much more effective at convincing a segment of the population to choose your brand because of the assets and promise that you have that match up perfectly to what they want.

To demonstrate knowledge of that target, defining consumer insights help to crystallize and bring to life the consumer you are targeting. The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”.   Too many people think data, trends and facts are insights.  Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth–you need to bring those facts to life by going below the surface and transforming the facts into insights.

When insight is done right, it is what first connects us to the brand, because we see ourselves in the story.  Insight is not something that consumers didn’t know before.  It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell.   That would be knowledge not insight.   Insight is something that everyone already knows and comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”.  That’s why we laugh when we see insight projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.  

What’s the Benefit?

The next decision is the main benefit you want to focus on.  Doing a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) helps to organize your thinking as a great tool for bringing the benefits to life.  

Slide1

Hold a brainstorming session with everyone who works on the brand so you can:

    1. Get all of the consumer insights and need states out.  
    2. Match them up against the list of the best features the brand offers.  
    3. Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over again “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”.   Ask it five times and you’ll see the answers will get richer and richer each time you ask.  
    4. Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?”  Ask that five times as well, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own. 

For instance, no one really cares that a golf club has 5.7% more torque.  When you ask what do i get from that, the better answers are longer drives or lower scores or winning a tournament.   These are rational benefits.  When you ask how does that make you feel, the emotional space is confidence and optimism.  This is the emotional benefit.  

Some CVPs can end up very cluttered, but the more focused you can make it the easier it will be for you to choose which one you will stand behind, and which one benefit you’ll communicate.  Slide1That’s right: JUST ONE BENEFIT!  Agencies use so many tricks to get it down to the ONE THING.  Examples of this could be a postcard or a bumper sticker, or silly questions like “what would you say to get someone to marry you” or say in an elevator. My favourite is to get people to stand up on a chair and “SHOUT FROM THE MOUNTAIN” what your benefit is.  It forces you to want to scream just ONE THING about your brand—keep it simple.  You can’t scream a long sentence.  And if you are into math, another way to look at this is through a simple function, where the probability of success (P) is directly linked to the inverse of the numbers of messages (M) you have in your ad:   P = 1 divided by 1 to the power of M.  My guess is that if you find this last formula motivating, maybe marketing isn’t for you.

Emotional Benefits

People tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits.  I swear every brand out there thinks it is trusted, reliable and yet likeable.  It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers.   Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers.   I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at http://www.hotspex.biz  Leverage this type of research and build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs.  Leveraging Hotspex, I’ve mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below:

Within each of the zones, you can find emotional words that closely align to the need state of the consumer and begin building the emotional benefits within your CVP.  It almost becomes a cheat sheet for Brand Managers to work with.  But you want to just own one emotional zone, not them all.  

Finding Your Uniqueness

Brands are either better, different or cheaper.  Or not around for very long.  The key is to find a unique selling proposition for your brand.  You don’t always need to find a rational point of difference as long as there is room to be emotionally unique.  

USP 2.0

Here’s how this process works

Map out everything your consumer wants–all the possible need states. Then map out all the benefits that you and your competitors can do better than anyone else–both functional and emotional zones.  You want to find that intersecting zone where what you can do best matches up to a need state of the consumer.   Then find a way to serve that need state to the best of your ability and transform it into an even bigger deal than first meets the eye.   Avoid the intersecting zone where your competitor is better than you and please avoid that zone where you and your competition foolishly battle in an area that “no one cares” about.   The battle ground (?) zone is where both you and your competition can satisfy the consumer need at an equal rate.  To win in this situation, you need to get creative and find ways to out-execute or find some emotional connection that changes the game and makes you the clear winner.  

Reasons to Believe (RTB’s)

If we borrow from classic logic below, they teach you to one conclusion and two premise.  I took one logic class and sat there for 13 straight weeks of premise-premise conclusion.  Easy class, but the lesson has stuck with me:

      • All fish live in water (premise)
      • Tuna are fish (premise)
      • Therefore, tuna live in the water (conclusion)

In a positioning statement, the brand benefit would be the conclusion.   And the Reason to Believe (RTB) would be the supporting premise.  Slide1I say this for a few reasons.  First, the RTB should never be the conclusion.  The consumer doesn’t care about what you do, until they get something from it.  The benefit has to come from the consumers’ shoes.  Second, if pure logic teaches two premises are enough to draw any conclusion, then you really only need two RTBs.   Brands with a laundry list of RTBs are not doing their job in making a decision on what the best support points are.  You either force the ad agency to decide what are the most important or the consumer to decide.  By deferring, you’re weakening your argument.

While this helps with HOW to write a positioning statement, ask Beloved Brands how we can help really bring the concepts to life with a workshop with your team as well as writing of the final concept options.  We promise to bring magic to the concept which will help get you into the right positioning.   For more reading on how to turn this positioning statement into a concept, follow this link:  How to write a winning Brand Concept statement

Keep it simple, focused and keep it Unique

 

Slide1

How loved is your brand?  

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.  

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.  With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits.  To read more, follow this presentation.  

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

 

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http://beloved-brands.com

Graham is the voice of the modern Brand Leader. He started Beloved Brands, knowing he could “Make Brands better and Brand Leaders better™”. His Beloved Brands blog has 2 million views, and his public speaking appearances inspire Brand Leaders to love what they do. The idea behind Beloved Brands is the more love you can generate with your consumers, the more power you have in the market which drives higher growth and profits for your brand. As a brand coach, Graham helps to find growth where others couldn’t, creating Brand ideas consumers love and Brand Plans everyone can follow. For Brand Leaders wanting to reach their full potential The Brand Leadership Center offers workshops on strategic thinking, analytics, planning, positioning, creative briefs, judging advertising and media. Graham spent 20 years leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, General Mills and Coke, rising through the ranks up to VP Marketing. Graham played a major role in helping Pfizer win Marketing Magazine’s Marketer of the Year award. Beloved Brands has a robust Client list that includes NFL Players Inc, NFLPA, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Earls Kitchen + Bar, 3M, 649 Lottery, Sunlight, Carlsberg, Slimquick, Red Racer, Shagri-la Hotel, Canada’s Wildlife Health and Fluke.

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122 thoughts on “How to write a winning Brand Positioning Statement
  1. gabriella

    Hi Graham! I am a fan of brands like you!
    I wanted to print this post but it does not print the A4 pages. Could I find another way so I can keep your article in my files?
    Thank you
    G.

     
    Reply
  2. Pingback: upside » Hands on Brand Positioning

  3. Pingback: upside » Hands on Brand Positioning

  4. Seanie Mac

    Deadly cool, thanks. I am writing something on Personal branding and this gives really good insight.

     
    Reply
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  22. dianhasan

    Hi Graham, I love your write ups on all the different aspects of Branding. Concise, to the point and explained in simple terms. I’m currently helping an upscale real estate developer client position their brand new luxury residences. Crafting a Brand Strategy for a new brand is a double edged sword. There are no preconceived negative notions, so one could build a brand based on the tangible attributes (location, premium quality product, luxurious setting, etc)… But of course it’s ultimately the customers who will decide whether the brand resonates w/ them. Your posts were helpful indeed.

     
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  39. Carola

    Great Information. Something that looks difficult to do and execute, simply explained and direct to the point. Thanks Graham!

     
    Reply
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  46. Terence Savage

    Great post – what you say or imply is not what Rosser Reeves – the man who first developed the USP concept – said in his book ‘Reality in Advertising’. He said that a USP is about about the product, it is tangible and that to be unique it can’t be shared by any other product. I think that the concept of the USP is so limited that it ought to be archived.

     
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