Updated: Mar 3
Credit : Graham Robertson
A brand positioning statement focuses on the consumer target your brand will serve and the emotional and functional benefits your brand will stand for. If you don’t position your brand the way you want, then your customers and competitors will do it for you, and you might not like their answers. A smart brand positioning statement should narrow the target to those consumers who are most capable of loving what the brand does. With your consumer in mind, your brand positioning should find the ideal balance between functional and emotional benefits.
Why you need a brand positioning statement
The best brand leaders target a specific motivated consumer audience and then define their brand around a brand idea that is interesting, simple, unique, motivating and ownable. Brand Positioning starts by building a consumer profile and using our consumer benefits ladder, with functional and emotional benefits. From there, we explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
Writing the brand positioning statement
There are 4 elements that make up a brand positioning statement, including who will you serve, where you play, where will you win and why consumers should believe you. These are the consumer target, category, main consumer benefit and support points:
1. Who is the consumer target?
What 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?
What is 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, it is faster.
3. Where will you win?
What is the main promise you will make to the consumer target, that will 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 how the brand makes them feel (emotional benefits).
4. Why should they believe us?
Understand what 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.
Where to win
As you create your brand positioning statement, you should be looking for the ideal space to play and the space your brand can win.
To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce a Venn diagram below, with three circles. The first circle comprises everything your consumer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best, including consumer benefits, product features or proven claims. And, finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.
Your brand’s winning zone (in green), is the space that matches up “What consumers want” with “What your brand does best.” This space provides you a distinct positioning you can own and defend from attack. Your brand must be able to satisfy the consumer needs better than any other competitor can.
Your brand will not survive by trying to compete in the losing zone (in red), which is the space that matches the consumer needs with “What your competitor does best.” When you play in this space, your competitor will beat you every time.
As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It has become harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands have to play in the risky zone (in grey), which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie.
Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone (in blue) where two competitors “battle it out” in the space consumers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” No one bothered to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Both brands are dumb.
Who is the consumer target market
The 7 key questions to define the consumer target market:
What is the description of the consumer target market?
What are the consumer’s main needs?
Who is the consumer’s enemy that torments them every day?
What are the insights we know about the consumer?
What does the consumer think now?
How does the consumer buy?
What do we want them to see, think, do, feel or whisper to their friends?
One of the biggest mistakes I see Marketers make is when they pick too big of a consumer target market. A smart target market not only decides who is in the target but who is not in the target. There is this myth that a bigger consumer target will make the brand bigger, so the scared Marketer targets ‘everyone’. 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 actually riskier because you are spreading your resources so broadly, that you never see the full impact you want to see. This broad consumer target gives your brand a lower return on investment and eventually will drain your brand’s limited resources. Please focus.
Below is a target profile you can build with the 7 questions.
The consumer benefit ladder
The Consumer Benefits Ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop thinking about what your brand does and start thinking about what your consumer gets. This will help your positioning statement come alive.
The 4 steps to build a Consumer Benefits Ladder:
Leverage all available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target profile with consumer insights, need states and the consumer enemy.
Brainstorm all the possible brand features that your brand offers, plus any brand assets. Make sure that these features give your brand a competitive advantage.
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?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up to 5 times, pushing the answers into a richer zone.
Then move up to the emotional benefits by looking at each functional benefit and then 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.
What are the functional benefits?
To help Brand Leaders, I have taken the 9 functional need state zones shown earlier in this chapter and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits that you can build around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your consumers, and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with my words and layer in your own creative language with the specific category or consumer language.
What are the emotional benefits?
Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits help build an emotional brand positioning statement. From my experience, Marketers are better at the rational benefits than they are at the emotional benefits. I swear every brand thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable and yet likable. As a brand, 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. When I push Brand Managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand.
I have used Hotspex research methodology to create a ‘cheat sheet’ with 8 major Emotional Consumer Benefits, that includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, 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. Do 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.
Build your brand around benefit clusters
Start by looking 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.
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 Gray’s Cookies, 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.
Consumer benefits ladder worksheet
Use the brainstorm to populate the consumer benefits ladder worksheet to focus your thoughts. Like any brainstorm, you will end up with more choices than you can use.
Find the winning statements
Looking at the positioning Venn diagram we have been using, I have created a 2×2 grid in the diagram below 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.
With Gray’s Cookies, 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.
The “feel more confident” benefit falls into the risky zone.
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.
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
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.
Clinical testsIn market usage study
Before and after studies
How to write the final brand positioning statement
Taking all the homework, here are some thoughts on bringing the brand positioning statement together:
Who is your consumer target? Keep your target definition focused. Never go after two target markets at the same time. Bring the target to life with need states, consumer insights, and a consumer enemy.
Where will you play? Define the space you play in, measuring it against those brands you compete with.
Where will you win? Narrow your benefit down to one thing. Never try to stand for too many things at once—whether too many functional benefits or too many emotional benefits. You cannot be all things to all people. Make sure you talk benefits, not features. The ideal space must be unique and motivating to the consumers while being ownable for your brand.
Why should they believe us? The role of support points is to resolve any potential doubts the consumer might have when they see your main benefit. Ensure these support points are not just random claims or features that you want to jam into your brand message. They should support and fit with the main benefit.
This tool also works for B2B brands
This type of thinking is in the Beloved Brands book, by Graham Robertson. To order Beloved Brands on Amazon https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe or on Rakuten Kobo: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4 or on Apple Books: https://lnkd.in/e6UFisF