How to define your brand positioning to set up new growth

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Your brand positioning statement defines how your brand shows up to your ideal consumer target. Your brand positioning matches what consumers want with what your brand does best. Many brands are negligent in failing to define themselves. Keep in mind, if you don’t position your brand the way you want, your customers and competitors will do it for you. And, you might not like their answers. To help your understanding, we will show you plenty of examples of brand positioning statements.

A brand positioning statement starts with the consumer target your brand will serve. It should focus on the emotional and functional benefits your brand will stand for. A smart brand positioning statement should narrow the target to those consumers who are most capable of loving what the brand does.

Where you can win

As you create your brand positioning statement, look for the ideal space to play and the space your brand can win. I introduce a Venn diagram above, with three circles. 

To start, the first circle comprises everything your consumer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best. And, finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.

Your brand’s winning zone (in green). This space that matches up “what consumers want” with “what your brand does best.” You can own and defend this space from attack. Satisfy the consumer needs better than any other competitor can.

Your brand will not survive in the losing zone. (in red) This space matches the consumer needs with “what your competitor does best.” Your competitor will beat you every time.

What happens when there is a tie?

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It is harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands play in the risky zone (in grey). This space is where you and your competitor meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie.

Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone. (in blue) Here, two competitors “battle it out” in the space where consumers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” However, no one bothered to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Both brands end up playing in the dumb zone.

Brand positioning statement

There are 4 elements that make up a brand positioning statement. Start with who will you serve. Then, where you play, and where will you win. Follow it up with why consumers should believe you. 

1. Who is the consumer target?

To start, define a slice of the population is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about who you want, but rather who wants your brand.

2. Where will you play?

Next, consider the competitive set that defines the space in the market your brand competes in? Brand positioning is always relative to who you compete against. For instance, a brand is never fast. But, it should be faster.

3. Where will you win?

Most importantly, what is the main promise you will make to the consumer target? It should make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating and own-able. Do not talk about what you do. (features) Talk about what the consumer gets (functional benefits). And, talk about how the brand makes them feel. (emotional benefits)

4. Why should they believe us?

Finally, lay out the support points and features are needed to back up the main promise. Moreover, these support points should close any potential doubts, questions or concerns the consumer has after hearing the main promise.

Consumer target

Focus on those most motivated by what you do. There is this myth that a bigger consumer target will make the brand bigger, so scared marketers targets ‘everyone’. For instance, there seems to be an irrational fear of leaving someone out. 

Spreading your brand’s limited resources across an entire population is completely cost-prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is riskier because you spread your resources so broadly, you never see the full impact you want to see. Moreover, a broad consumer target gives your brand a lower return on investment and eventually will drain your brand’s limited resources. Please focus. To help your understanding, below you will find a consumer profile that sets up Gray’s Cookies as an example of brand positioning we use.

Use our consumer benefit ladder to find your differentiation

Turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. Stop thinking about what your brand does and start thinking about what your consumer gets. As a result, your brand positioning statement comes alive.

The 4 steps to build a Consumer Benefits Ladder:

  1. First, leverage all available consumer research to brief the team. Define the consumer target profile with consumer insights, need states and the consumer enemy.
  2. Second, brainstorm all possible brand features that your brand offers, plus any brand assets. Focus on the features that give your brand a competitive advantage.
  3. Next, move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and for each feature on your list, ask “so if I am the consumer, what do I get from that?” Keep asking with answers that move into a richer zone.
  4. Finally, move up to the emotional benefits by looking at each functional benefit and ask “so if I am the consumer, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a deeper emotional space that you can play in and own.

Avoid ph-at words in your brand positioning

Ph-at Words are vague words that mean so many things, they mean nothing at all. The best examples I have are nice, interesting or quality. It is interesting that interesting is such a boring word. 

When you define your brand positioning, the specific words you choose must matter to your consumers. Most importantly, your brand positioning statement should leave zero room for interpretation. 

This type of thinking is part of our Beloved Brands positioning process. To help, keep reading below, to see how we provide two consumer benefit cheat sheets with 60 functional benefits and 40 emotional benefits to help you write with much more specific words. 

Consumer benefits

Functional consumer benefits

To help brand leaders kickstart their brand positioning work, I have taken the 9 functional need state zones that expands to over 50 potential functional benefits. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your consumers. And, where your brand doesit better than competitors. Start with our words and then layer in your own creative language with the specific category or consumer language.

Emotional consumer benefits

Below is a list of 40 potential emotional benefits help build an emotional brand positioning statement. Most importantly, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. 

The emotional benefit zones includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, self-assured, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. To own a space in the consumer’s heart, brands should own and dominate one of these zones, always thinking relative to what zone your competitor may own. Therefore, you should not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will confuse your consumer. Use the supporting words to add flavor to your emotional brand positioning statement.

Gray's Cookies Benefit Clusters

To start, look at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits. Match what consumers want and what your brand does best. Take three of the zones from each cheat sheet and add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster. Below are key benefit words we will use to set up Gray’s Cookies as one of our examples of brand positioning statements. 

Turning benefit clusters into benefit statements

Next, for each cluster, use the words to inspire a brainstorm of specific benefit statements that fit your brand, using the specific brand, consumer or category words. For example, we’ll use Gray’s Cookies, which is a fictional cookie brand that combines great taste and low calories. Concerning functional benefits, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as healthy, sensory and experiences, and emotional clusters such as control, knowledge, and optimism.

Find the winning space

I have created a 2×2 grid to help sort through the potential benefits to find the winners, according to which are most motivating to consumers and most ownable for your brand. You will see the same four zones from the Venn diagram are now on the consumer benefits sort grid, including the winning, losing, risky, and dumb zone.

First, you can see the “guilt-free” consumer benefit is highly motivating and highly ownable for the brand, landing in the winning zone.

On the other hand, the consumer benefit of “new favorite cookie” is highly motivating but already owned by the major power players, so it falls into the losing zone. Then, the “feel more confident” benefit falls into the risky zone. Finally, the benefit of “more comfort in choices” is neither motivating nor ownable, so it falls into the dumb zone.

Support points to the main benefit

I took one logic class at University and the only thing I learned was ‘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 brand positioning statement, the main consumer benefit is the conclusion, with a need for two support points as the premises. The reason to believe (RTB) should never be the conclusion. If pure logic teaches us that two premises are enough to draw any conclusion, then you only need two RTBs. Brands that build concepts with a laundry list of RTBs are not doing their job in making focused decisions on what support points are needed. With consumers seeing 5,000 advertising messages per day, having a long list of support points, risks having a cluttered mess in their brand communications. Claims can be an effective tool in helping to support your Reason to believe.

There are 4 types of claims you can use on your brand: process, product, third person and behavioral.

Process Support

  • How your product works differently
  • Showcase what you do differently within the production process
  • What added service/details do you provide in the value chain

Product Claims

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

Third person endorsement

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

Behavioral Results

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

Example of brand positioning for consumer packaged goods

B2B brand positioning

We use the same process, but we have changed the functional zones to work for B2B brands. The two different zones are drives business results and helps you execute.

B2B Brand Positioning Functional Benefits

B2B Brand Positioning Emotional Benefits

We have also altered our emotional zones to include fit with company and feel recognized. 

Start by looking at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the B2B functional and B2B emotional benefits. Match what customers want and what your brand does best. I recommend that you take three of the zones from each of the two cheat sheets, and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster. Below are the key benefit clusters that set up Gray’s Stage Lighting as an example of brand positioning.

Taking the clusters and brainstorming brand positioning benefit statements

Example of brand positioning for B2B Brand

Example of brand positioning for healthcare or pharmaceutical

Get our Brand Positioning template

  • Our Brand Positioning PowerPoint file includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own business review.
  • Include slides for target profile, brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, brand values, brand story, brand credo, and a creative brief.
  • Everything is organized and ready for your input.

Pick the brand positioning presentation that fits your brand

Build your marketing skills with our post on How to write a Brand Concept

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand concept. Read our step-by-step process for how to create a brand concept that brings your brand to life. Learn how to lay out the brand concept with the brand idea, consumer insights, main message, support points and call-to-action. 

Beloved Brands is the playbook to keep at your fingertips

Our readers tell us they reach for Beloved Brands a few times each week as a reference toolkit to help them with the day-to-day management of their brand. 

With Beloved Brands, we want to challenge you with questions that get you to think differently about your brand strategy. Our process for defining your brand positioning will open your mind to new possibilities for how you see your brand. 

We will show you how to write a brand plan that everyone can follow and knows precisely how they can contribute to your brand’s success. 

We will show you how to run the creative execution process, show you how to write an inspiring brief, and make decisions to find both smart and breakthrough advertising. 

You will learn new methods to analyze the performance of your brand with a deep-dive business review. 

Over 90% of our Amazon reviews receive five-star ratings, and Beloved Brands has spent numerous weeks as a #1 bestseller in brand management.