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How to Write Brand Positioning Statements that Don’t Suck

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

Brand Positioning Statement

Several years ago, I wrote Writing the Perfect Brand Positioning Statement where I laid out strategies I learned from Eric Schulz that 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, how and why.

Those 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. For [target customer/ideal customer profile] (Who?)

2. Who has [problem/pain/desperation/compelling need],(What?)

3. [Your product] provides [key benefit that alleviates the pain].(How?)

4. Unlike [alternatives]. (Also how?)

5. That’s because [magical quality that forms the foundation of your positioning in the market.]

You can’t skip steps one through four, but the last phrase is where all the action lives. It’s the pixie dust, the sizzle, the sex appeal, the reason to believe. 

The first four get you through the who, what, and how. The last is the why.

All the compelling material lives in the why. But you can only get there by first nailing the who, what, and how. (I know this sounds like that old three stooges skit. 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 as a result end up talking to nobody.

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 problem the target customer has, what pain are they experiencing. Describing the problem as pain or a desperate need, underscores that solving it is important. If it’s not important to them, they won’t have the motivation to buy. The demand will fall flat.

Step 3, the How

What are you doing to solve the customer’s pain? Solved pain is the benefit your product provides.

Marketers sometimes describe their products in terms of what is important to them, rather than what is important to the customer. At its core, 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 Share on X

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 4. Differentiation

The customer is addressing this problem in some fashion already.

They may be using a competitor that you want to position against. Or, if you’re bringing a new product to market, they may be doing nothing, ignoring the problem, or unaware that it can even be solved. They may be cobbling together a solution from existing tools. Always consider if the status quo or doing nothing is your biggest competitor.

Step 5, 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 this 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 not 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  Share on X

I hope you’ll capture this takeaway: do the work to nail the who, what, and how, 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 articulates the pain. Being the best at understanding where the pain truly lies puts you miles ahead.

Step 3 tells you what the benefit is. 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 4 is what makes you special because this is also how to position against the competition.

And Step 5 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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@cmo_zen is a blog for founders and early marketing teams, designed to help you find clarity and peace in the marketing maelstrom.

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