Writing brand positioning statements gets at the heart of your value prop and core messaging—it’s an essential skill for marketers.
4 min read
Several years ago, I wrote Writing the Perfect Brand Positioning Statement where I laid out strategies I learned from Eric Schulz and which have served me well. This is a concise edit and update (for those daunted by the more verbose original).
What the heck is a BPS?
A brand positioning statement is an internally-facing concise statement of your company’s who, what, and why.
Those three questions form the building blocks of a compelling BPS.
You may be tempted to expand this list. Like any business rule, break it if you know why your situation warrants an exception. Otherwise stick with the rule.
Here’s the formula:
1. Who. For [ideal customer profile] who [insert pain points],
2. What. [Your product] provides [key benefit that combats the pain].
3. Why. That’s because [magical quality that forms the foundation of your positioning in the market.]
You can’t skip steps one and two, but the third phrase is where all the action lives. It’s the pixie dust, the sizzle, the sex appeal, the reason to believe.
The first two are the who and the what. The third is the why. And all the compelling material lives in the why. But you can only get there by first nailing the who and the what. (I know this sounds like that old three stooges skit, but bear with me.)
Here’s the “how-to”
Whether you’re founding a company, launching a new product, or starting a job leading marketing for an existing brand, it’s worth taking the time to nail the BPS.
Step 1, the Who
Marketers sometimes try to talk to everybody, and end up talking to nobody as a result.
Getting clear on who your product is for (therefore also who it is NOT for) helps you steer clear of this pitfall. You can’t answer this question without putting the customer first. It should be narrow, such as “For thirty-something male adjunct professors with teen children” or something equally precise.
Step 2, the What
Second is focusing on what benefit your product provides.
Marketers sometimes describe their products in terms of what is important to the company, rather than what is important to the customer. At its essence, a product is something that empowers the buyer. With it, they can do something they were unable to do before.A product is something that empowers the buyer. With it, they can do things they were unable to do before. #productmarketing #brand Click To Tweet
This is where the positioning comes in. As Doug Stayman from Cornell describes it in more academic terms, this is where you include a point of differentiation among a frame of reference.
Have an honest features vs. benefits conversation and identify truly what the benefit is that your product provides. How does your product imbue someone with mythical weapons with which they slay their own dragons.
Step 3, the Why
Simon Sinek made answering this question famous.
It isn’t enough to just say, “we are better.” You need a reason why. This is the biggest thing most marketers (and advice-givers) miss. And the final piece is where the magic lies.
At this point, your customers are either not interested OR they believe that your product would make life better for them.
So, why don’t we stop there?
Because if we do, nobody buys.
What’s missing? Prospective customers need a reason to believe that your product can actually deliver the promised benefit. The magic happens when you talk about the why.
The why is the thing that makes you different, better, or special. What special ingredient do you have that allows you to deliver where others cannot. It’s what keeps you from being boring, nondescript, and indistinguishable. It’s what makes you recognizable and unmistakable.A brand positioning statement that doesn’t include your product’s magical properties is useless. #brandpositioningstatement #brandpositioning Click To Tweet
What I hope you take away is this: do the work to nail the who and the what, but spend time and artistry crafting the message around the why. The why is where you land customers who are happy to open their wallets, because that’s where they start to believe that what you are telling them might actually be true.
Informing your strategy and messaging
Formal product or brand marketing plans are incomplete without the BPS.
But the BPS is NOT customer facing. It’s internal. It informs your strategy but isn’t yet in the language that you will use with your customers.
Step 1 tells you who you are trying to serve. That is the first step in selecting the right channel to deliver your marketing messages through, so where that persona is your brand will show up.
Step 2 tells you what the benefit is and how to position against the competition. Now you need to learn to describe that benefit in the language your customers would use, preferably in exactly the words they have used in interviews, surveys, etc. In How to Steal Your Marketing Message From Your Audience, Ramona Sukharaj lays out some great examples of just how to do this.
Step 3 is the component (if not the language) that you should keep driving home in your messaging. It’s the reason people believe in your brand. It’s a promise you should make to your customer over and over again… and then keep.
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P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Eric Shultz, check out his brand consultancy.
@cmo_zen is a blog of micro meditations for marketing leaders, designed to help them find clarity and peace in the marketing maelstrom.