How to write a winning Brand Positioning Statement

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Brands need to stand out to win

Marketers face limited resources that they apply to an unlimited choices. The role of the Brand Positioning Statement is to take everything you know about your brand and begin making focused decisions on who you will serve, what you will say that is unique, own-able and motivating to get consumers to think, feel and act differently to create a bond that is stronger than what the product alone could do. A good positioning statement should balance the rational and emotional benefits for the consumer. Your positioning has to reflect your internal brand soul and help shape your external brand reputation.

 

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As we dig in on doing our homework on the brand, here are the 4 questions that a winning Brand Positioning Statement must address:

  1. Who is in the consumer target?
    • Who is the most motivated to buy what you do?
  2. Where do you play?
    • Definition of the market that you compete in
  3. What are we are selling?
    • What is your main benefit (rational/emotional)?
  4. Why should they believe us?
    • What support points to back up the main benefit?

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The space to play. The space to win.

Where to Play: Starting with the consumer, the first step is to uncover the various consumer needs and wants, then begin matching them up with what your brand does best. By being consumer focused, you can stay on top of consumer trends and listen for the changes to any underlying needs and wants. You can also do this with regular marketing research that would include Usage and Attitude type studies, tracking data, focus groups or observing other categories to see what the consumer wants. This match up of the consumer wants and your brand benefits sets up the ideal space for your brand to play in.

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Where to Win: We rarely play in a blue ocean without any competitors. If you think that you can do such a good job in delivering what the consumer wants, you might be naive to ignore that a competitor may be doing it better than you are. Bringing the competitor into the mix, we can see a shrinking playing field as your competitor can match up better with certain key consumer wants, than you can. Focus on the space where you can WIN. That winning zone is the perfect match of what the consumer wants and what you do better than any competitor.

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If we look below, the winning zone has to be better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. You want to avoid competing in the Losing Zone, going head to head with a competitor that can deliver the consumer wants better than you can. The area with the yellow arrow is a the Risky Zone, which is a relative tie. The way to win this zone is by being first, being more innovative and creative or finding the right emotional connection that makes the rational tie less relevant to the consumer decisions. At all costs, avoid the Dumb Zone, where you wage a competitive battle in a space that the consumer does not care about. When you find yourself competing in this space, you will find yourself eventually talking to yourself.

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There are market research testing methodologies you can use to find what is most motivating to consumers and what is most own-able for your brand. There are huge consumer changes happening in the market place–with the advent of new generations and new technologies. Marketing has to change with consumers. Consumers see more brand messages than their brains can handle. Consumers are tired of being burned by faulty brand promises. Consumers now take control over the buying process. Consumers connect with brands that they believe in. Consumers reward amazing experiences over products alone.

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Who is your target?

Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in mind. Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost-prohibitive with 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.Positioning 2016.027Realizing 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. Great brands don’t go after consumers, great brands get consumers to go after the brand. The best way to get consumers motivated is to tap into their need states, by understanding what frustration points they may have. We call these consumer enemies. While products solve regular problems, beloved brands beat down the enemies that torment us every day. What are your consumer’s frustration point that they feel no one is even addressing? To paint the picture of our consumer target, you should use Consumer Insights to 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. Positioning 2016.026Facts 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. 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. When Consumer Insights are done right, we get in the shoes of the consumer by starting the insight with the word “I” and we use the voice of the consumer by putting the insight in quotes.

As part of the positioning exercise, we recommend that you put together a complete Consumer Profile that outlines the focused definition of the target, add flavor with needs, enemies and insights and then talk about where they are now and where you’d like to move the consumer in the future.

 

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What’s the Benefit?

The next decision is the main benefit you want to focus on. Doing a Consumer Benefits Ladder helps to organize your thinking as a great tool for bringing the benefits to life.

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The best way to work the Consumer Benefits Ladder is to hold a brainstorming session with everyone who works on the brand so you can:

  • Leverage all the available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target and get all the consumer insights and need states out.
  • List out all the features that your brand offers, and the brand assets it brings to the table. Make sure that these features are competitive advantages.
  • 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 “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”. Ask up to 5 times and push the answers into a richer zone.
  • Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” As you did above, keep asking, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own.

Put all the information of the group brainstorm into a Consumer Benefits Ladder Worksheet.

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Line up strategy behind your brand’s core strength

There are four options for what Core Strength your brand can win on: product, promise, experience or price. Many brand leaders have their marketing strategy wrong, when it comes to aligning everything behind the right strength. Which core strength can really impact your brand positioning. Product and experience brands have to be better, promise brands have to be different, price brands have to be cheaper.

Here’s a simple little game that we play with executive teams. We provide them with 4 chips against the 4 choices of product, promise, experience or price. They have to put one at the highest competitive importance, two at the mid level and then force one to be at the low level. Try it and you will be surprised that your team struggles to agree. You may also find that you are at one strength now and figure it is time to shift your brand marketing to become focused on something else.

 

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  • Product: your main strategy should focus on being better. You have to invest in Innovation to stay ahead of competitors, remaining the superior choice in the category.
  • Promise: your strategy should focus on being different. To tell that story, you need to invest in emotional brand communication. You want to connect consumers on a deep emotional level with the concept.
  • Experience: your strategy and organization should focus on linking culture very closely to your brand. After all, your people are your product. As you go to market, invest in influencer and social media that can help support and spread the word of your experience.
  • Price: focus on efficiency and drive low-cost into the products you sell and high turns and high volume. You have to be better at the fundamentals around production and sourcing.

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Emotional Benefits

From my experience, Marketers are better at the rational benefits than they are at the emotional benefits. I swear every brand out there thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable and yet like-able brand. As a brand, you want to own the emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. 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 We have taken this research method and created an Emotional Cheat Sheet for Brand Leaders. This lists out the 8 major emotional consumer zones, optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge.

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To own a space in the consumer’s heart, you want to own and dominate one of zones, always thinking relation to what your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will just confuse your consumer as much as trying to own a long list of rational benefits. Once you narrow the major emotional zone you can own, you can use the supporting words of the Emotional Cheat Sheet to add flavor.

Benefits sell and features tell. Stop telling consumers what you do and start telling them what they get and how it will make them feel.

 

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Reasons to Believe (RTB’s)

If we borrow from a classic logic technique below, they teach you to one conclusion and two premise. I took one logic class at University 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. I 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.

Claims can be an effective tool in helping to support your Reason to believe. We look at four types of claims: process, product, third person and behavioral.

Process

  • Detail how your product works differently
  • Showcase your point of difference in the production process.
  • What do you do differently within the production process
  • What added service/details do you provide in the value chain

Product

  • Usage of an ingredient that makes you bette
  • Process or ingredient that makes you safer

Third person

  • Experts in the field who can speak on the brand’s behalf.
  • Past users/clients with proof support of their stories.

Behavioral

  • Clinical tests
  • In market usage study
  • Before and after studies

Keep your positioning simple, focused and unique. Make it own-able and motivating for consumers.

 

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops to help teams build their Creative Brief, helping the team find the target, main benefits, reason to believe.  Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

We run workshops that help Brand teams make better decisions on the way to smarter action plans

We are big believers in the workshop process. We think it’s the best way to get the decision makers in the room, push for alignment, make decisions and drive the team towards action. The most noticeable point of difference we offer is that we will challenge you with new ideas to get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. As the facilitator, I bring my executive experience into the room, ready to challenge the thinking and pushing for better answers. It’s like having another VP Marketing in the room.

While anyone can recommend a strategy, we recommend a realistic strategy that drives towards action. Quite frankly, I’m not big on consultants that just bring in big presentations that just sit on the shelf and never make it to the market. They cost a lot, take a long time, and in general they are written by consultants that have never run a business. Even Ad Agencies can recommend strategy, but they usually bring an agency bias and just give strategies that set up work they want to make–whether it drives growth for your business or not. I’ve run many businesses and I understand the pressure you’re facing on driving growth.

My personal promise to you is that I will get your brand in a better position for future growth

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

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149 thoughts on “How to write a winning Brand Positioning Statement

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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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