Building an awesome brand part two: brand positioning

April 11, 2018
5 minutes read

Welcome to the second post of our April #goals series, where we’ll be tackling the challenge of building a strong brand in four parts:

  1. Mission statement
  2. Brand positioning
  3. Visual identity
  4. Brand story

This post will focus on the second item on the list—your brand positioning. If you missed the first post in this series, make sure you go back and read it first because we’ll be building on it.

Research your audience

Before you can craft your brand positioning, you need to define and understand your target audience by doing research. What are their needs and pain points? What do they expect from a product or service like yours? Where and how do they shop for or source products and services? What’s their online behaviour like? What kind of demographic information can you find?

You’ll want to do some research to find the answers to all of these questions, and start to build a picture of the customer you want to target. Building one or more customer personas can be especially helpful—the better you understand your customers, the easier it is to create brand positioning that will help you sell to them.

Find your competitive position in the market

It’s equally important to research your competitors. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ products, and how do they compare to your product? How are they positioning themselves in the market? What do your customers think of them?

It’s helpful to create a positioning map to try to see where your product or service fits in compared to what else is out there for customers to choose from. You’re looking for something unique about your offering that you focus on in your positioning to differentiate your company in the eyes of your competitors.

What’s a positioning statement?

Customers are surrounded by a lot of different products and services to choose from. You want to be laser-focused on what’s unique about your product, and having a clear positioning statement helps you do that.

Your brand positioning statement helps you define how your product or service is “positioned” in the market. It communicates what you offer, how it benefits customers, and how it’s different from similar products or services. Then, you’ll be able to use it as a starting place for any ads or marketing collateral you create.

What isn’t a positioning statement?

Sometimes people confuse their brand positioning statement with their tagline, mission statement or value proposition. I’ve created a chart to help explain each commonly confused terms so that you know how to use them properly in your marketing and branding exercises.

Branding termWhat it means and how it’s different from the others
Mission statementYour mission is what you aspire to as an organization. It’s aspirational, it’s concise, and it’s more about the company itself than the products you offer or their value to customers.

Goal: To help staff, customers, and the general public understand what your company stands for and what it aspires to be in the world.

Use: Usually internal, but sometimes also on the public website.

Fixed or flexible? Your mission statement won’t change unless the company is changing directions in a significant way.

Positioning statementYour positioning statement clearly describes your product or service, its benefit to customers and how it’s different from competitor offerings.

Goal: To help customers understand (and hopefully prefer) your product relative to the other options available to them.

Use: Used internally to help ground marketing efforts, keeping them consistent and customer-focused.

Fixed or flexible? Your positioning statement won’t change unless you’re rebranding or the company is changing directions in a significant way.

Tagline/sloganA catchphrase used in advertising campaigns. Unlike your brand essence or brand promise, it’s usually product specific.

Goal: To make advertisements “stickier” by adding a memorable phrase.

Use: Used in marketing or advertising campaigns.

Fixed or flexible? Often kept over time for maximum “stickiness”, but it can be changed.

Unique sales proposition (USP)A benefit or feature that you identify from market research that you believe will be the main reason people will buy your product or service.

Goal: To help increase sales by zeroing in on the most likely reason customers will purchase and putting that front and centre.

Use: Used as the single most important message (SMIM) in marketing and advertising materials.

Fixed or flexible? It’s a selling tool, so it can change from campaign to campaign, and from product to product.

Value propositionThe main value a customer will get from your product or service. Unlike the USP, your value proposition might not be unique to just your product.

Goal: To help marketing teams understand the main value of the product or service and communicate it in campaigns.

Use: Included in any marketing collateral or advertising materials.

Fixed or flexible? Remains fixed unless the product itself changes and new benefits are introduced.

Building your positioning statement

Now that you know exactly what you’re creating and why, here’s an exercise to help you get there.

Step 1: Answer five questions

In the last post, you answered a series of questions and then built your mission statement using what you wrote. We’re going to follow that same path this time, using a different set of questions.

Let’s use our fictional company, Yogify, again as an example.

Describe your target customer

People aged 16-65 who do yoga or want to try it.

Describe the product or service that your company offers

We offer yoga classes in a variety of levels, both in-studio and streaming online.

What features does your product or service have that your customers want most?

  1. Different levels that you can progress through to build your strength and skills
  2. Online streaming for convenience (take the class whenever you have time)
  3. Optional 1:1 sessions where you can get help from a teacher to improve your skills

What are the biggest benefits of your product or service to your customer?

  1. Relaxation and stress relief
  2. Fitness and overall better health
  3. Convenience
  4. Affordability

What’s unique or different about what you offer?

We let customers build their own fitness path using our app, and they can follow it with in-studio classes, online classes or a mixture of both.

Step 2: Write your first draft

Like last time, we’ll use the answers as building blocks to create our positioning statement. The difference now is that we want to be much more specific, more detailed, and more customer-focused.

[Your company name] helps [your customer] to [benefit of your business] by [what you offer + what makes you unique].

Let’s try it for Yogify:

Yogify helps people aged 18-69 to reduce stress and improve their fitness, in an affordable and convenient way, through in-studio and online classes that can be built into a customized fitness path.

Step 3: Add proof points

If you’re going to make a claim about your company’s benefits, it’s important to think through how you would back up those claims with facts. Draft a series of proof points to accomplish this—often called “reasons to believe”—that you could use in marketing materials to support your positioning statement.

Some examples of proof points for Yogify’s positioning statement:

  • Claim: Yogify classes benefit your health
  • Proof point: A study followed 113 patients with heart disease and found that they had a 23% decrease in total cholesterol, a 26% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol, and the progression of heart disease stopped in 47% of those patients.
  • Claim: Yogify classes are convenient
  • Proof point: Yogify offers classes that can be streamed online, so customers can take them whenever is most convenient.
  • Claim: Yogify classes are affordable
  • Proof point: Yogify offers classes at different price points, with memberships, drop-in classes, discounted online classes and karma classes.

Step 4: Refine

Spend some time on your positioning statement to make sure you’ve found the right words to highlight your company’s value. Show it to some customers, friends, and family and take note of how they react to it. Compare it against how your competitors are positioning their products to make sure you’ve highlighted your strengths and unique benefits.

Take it to the next level

Now that you’ve got your positioning statement nailed down, you’re in a good place to start looking at your visual identity—we’ll cover that in detail in the next post. In the meantime, there are a few other brand elements you should create to get really clear on your positioning, and how you’ll represent that to your customers in marketing and advertising materials.

Try working through these pieces before you start with your visual identity. It will help you and your designer more easily capture the brand visually.

Brand essence

Your brand essence is 2-3 words that capture what your brand will be known for. This is what you want customers to think—or what they already think based on your research—about your brand.Here are some exercises to help you determine your brand essence.

Brand promise

Your brand promise refers to what you’re going to guarantee to your customers that makes you unique. Some examples of great brand promises include:

  • Toyota: “Quality, safety, and innovation.”
  • Casper: “Obsessively engineered mattresses at a shockingly fair price.”
  • Chipotle: “Food with integrity.”
  • FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Brand voice

Your brand voice is how your brand will sound to customers when they read your content. This voice will guide every expression of your brand, from your blog to your sales collateral to your ads. Will it be academic and authoritative? Friendly and conversational? Funny and clever? Start thinking about your ideal brand voice, and make sure it makes sense based on what you know about your customers.

Keep following this #goals series—part three will help you build a beautiful, unique visual identity for your brand.

By Kristin Knapp

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

Create your truly free Wave account today.

Let's do this