How To Write A Positioning Statement

Arek Dvornechcuck
Branding Expert

I'm a branding expert and graphic designer based in NY. I specialize in the development of brands: brand strategy, identity & web design. Need help with your project?—Get in touch

Writing a positioning statement will help you stay focused in the creative phase and design something that is on brand, on strategy and on message.

Table of Contents:

1. What is Positioning Statement‍

2. Understanding the Brand Ladder

3. Positioning Statement Framework

4. Positioning Statement Examples

5. Conclusions

1. What is a Positioning Statement

Positioning statement is a succinct articulation of your brand's position in the marketplace.

Positioning statement is client facing not customer facing.

Therefore, it is for the staff and customers don't see it - it's for internal purposes only.

What is a positioning statement
What is a Positioning Statement

What customers see is the brand slogan or tagline, the marketing campaigns and ads in all of a brand's touch-points.

The centerpiece of the position is often a tagline communicated externally, but positioning statement itself is meant for internal purposes only.

Writing a positioning statement involves in-depth research to articulate certain aspects of your brand.

It should be overarching on the brand level, where it would not be used short term or attached to a single campaign.

This is where the impulse to be tactical is at odds with an approach rooted in strategy because it takes more than writing a witty line to create.

However, I did my best to make the process of developing your positioning statement as easy as it can be.

You will no doubt find yourself in a situation or on a team where some on the team members don’t value the depth needed to formulate a sound positioning statement.

If you are a freelance designer or the scope is narrowly focused on your project, save this big-picture concept for later.

When you are on a pitch team and have the ability to participate in this process - then you can get down to writing one.

It couldn’t hurt to ask the account team or an in-house marketing or brand strategist for this statement as well.

If there's no positioning statement, you can simply write your own to inspire the work you do.

And if you're participating in a big-picture meeting, suggest to write one with the team.

So, how do you write one?Keep reading, you will find a positioning statement template below.

First of all, you need to understand the brand ladder:

2. Understanding the Brand Ladder

You can't create a sound positioning statement without building it from the ground up in a brand ladder.

Brand Ladder has been used at some of the best agencies to build brands.

This methodology originated at Procter & Gamble in the 1960s.Think of it as a foundation of the house because it's built from the ground up:

What is a brand ladder
Understanding the Brand Ladder

First, you need to start with your product features or brand attributes.

Features or attributes are tangible.E.g. My iPhone got 64GB space - that's a tangible feature of the product.

Bentley is a luxury brand - that's a tangible attribute of the brand.

Next, you layer on top of those features the corresponding benefits to the target audience.

If I got 64GB - what does this do for me? how does it benefit me?Well, it gives me a lot of space so I can capture every moment of my life without worrying about running out of space or having to limit pictures or videos.

Or it benefits me in a way that I can enjoy all the music I like with me everywhere without having to limit my myself.

Features are tangible, benefits are intangible.

What actually sell is benefits, not features - because people respond to emotions.

Then on top of those benefits, you identify a list of values the target uses to make purchase decisions.

And lastly, we put all of this together to create a positioning statement for a company or brand.

Here's how to write your own:

3. Positioning Statement Framework

People often ask me: How to write a positioning statement?

Every positioning statement is different, but we can distinguish a common framework.

Different brands have different positioning statements, but when you analyze most of them, we can notice some similarities.

Use this time-tested and widely-used positioning statement framework:

Positioning Statement Template
Positioning Statement Framework

Remember that this is the place where you need to be succinct and make every word count.

But you also must to be sure that you capture everything you need to.

So in order to capture everything in a succinct way you must be selective with words, but you also need to understand all of the elements that go into it.

So let's break it down, step-by-step:

Define The Target Audience

First, you need to know your customers well - define your target audience.

Who are your customers? Describe their demographics and psychographics.

Demographics is all that that people in marketing always refer to: sex, income, age (all the facts about the users).

Psychographics are totally different and there are more valuable to us designers and brand strategists.

Target Audience
Target Audience: Demographics & Psychographics

So we start with demographics, then we talk about opinions, activities, interests, and all the other behavioral characteristics.

You need to figure out who your target audience is, you need to create user profiles.

And finally define them in the most succinct way possible - in one short sentence or just a few words. (see examples down below)

Once you do that, the next is “brand name” - which is whatever the name of the brand or product you are working on is. (e.g. Apple etc.)

No need to explain on that, but next step is “category”.

Describe your category of business

The more creatively you can describe the frame of reference in ways that still apply, the better.

Define your category of business, but do so in a unique and creative way.

Just like BMW did with the slogan: “The ultimate driving machine”.

BMW could be a car company, or engineer of ultimate driving machines.

Category of business
Describe your category of business creatively.

An iPad is a tablet computer positioned in a differentiated way so that it is never described as a tablet computer.

Be creative. Also check other brand slogans for inspiration.

Slogans don't inspire positioning statements (the opposite) but just to give you some understanding.

So describe your category and ultimately, you have to own who you are.

It can't be something that won't be able to back up.

Once we have that, then we describe what differentiate you from your competitors in the same category.

Your point of difference

Point of difference refers to the factors of products or services that establish differentiation.

Qualitative and quantitative research should inform this point.

What can your brand or product say that no one can say?

This is very difficult to write, it's your onliness statement basically.

Point of difference
Point of difference.

Think about what your customers can positively evaluate and believe they could not find to the same extent with a competing brand.

For example: points where you are claiming superiority or exclusiveness over other products in the category.

An easy way to begin thinking about this is to imagine a consideration process where you had to evaluate and compare your client’s brand with others.

Try to find a way to sum up the point of difference with words that aren’t generic.

What makes you special? Find and claim a space.

What can your brand or product say that no other brand can say?

Others describe it as Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

The next step is the “end benefit”.

What is the end benefit

State what the brand or product does for the target that is emotional and intangible.

What does the brand do for the target audience?

Remember that features are not benefits.

What's the difference between them? - I described that in the “brand ladder” paragraph.

End benefit
Famous brands - end benefit to customers.

An end benefit is the advantage a consumer gets from a product.

Another way to look at it is that benefits answer this question: What’s in it for me?

You should go back and do that first because is hard to come up with enticing end benefit without understanding features.

Coca-Cola is all about happiness - that's end benefit.

Harley is all about freedom - that's a great end benefit.

Once we got all of this, the last thing we do is we articulate why should they (target audience) believe in your claim.

What is the reason to believe

Finally you need to back up your statement - why should I believe you?

Your reason to believe cannot be just an opinion statement.

The reason to believe must be rooted in the truth about this particular product or brand and its point of difference.

Reason to believe
Reason to believe.

Reason to believe[/caption]What are the tangible details of your brand or product features?Look into those details to craft a solid reason to believe.

You have to back up your claim with qualitative and quantitative research.

What is it about what you've done so that you can back it up with data.

You can say something like “because we have X years of experience and we are determined to Z”

Now, let's look at some examples:

4. Positioning Statement Examples

Seems like it may take you some time to become comfortable with the process of articulating your brand/product in this way.

And that's ok, because a solid positioning statement will take a few drafts to get right.

Once you’ve got it, rooting your creativity in strategy makes for more successful solutions.

Write something first, and then you can judge it.

I may not come easy, but that's how you unlock the difference between one-time transaction and a long-term relationship.

Probably the best way to give you some idea of how to use this framework for your brand is to show you some examples of positioning statements of famous brands:

Nikon Positioning Statement

This is the positioning statement of Nikon:

“For (creative professionals with an eye for capturing and sharing beauty), (Nikon) is the (digital point and shoot) that delivers (a window to their world), so they can (experience deeper connections through a shared perspective), because (of Nikon’s 100 year history of developing new technologies that allow you to capture and share your experiences in their purest form, it’s as if you were there)”

Nikon Positioning Statement
Positioning Statement of Nikon

Apple Positioning Statement

This is the positioning statement of Apple:

For (individuals who want the best personal computer or mobile device), (Apple) is the (leader of technology industry) that delivers (the most innovative products) so they can (enjoy seamless experiences across all Apple devices & be empowered with breakthrough services), because (Apple takes an innovative approach to business best practices, considering the impact our products have on customers & the planet).”

Apple Positioning Statement
Positioning Statement of Apple

Coca-Cola Positioning Statement

This is the positioning statement of Coca-Cola:

“For (individuals looking for high-quality drinks), (Coca-Cola) is a (wide range of the most refreshing beverages), that delivers (happiness unlike other beverage options), so they can (enjoy a Coca-Cola drink & make a positive difference in their lives), because (the brand is intensely focused on the needs of customers)."

Coca-Cola Positioning Statement
Positioning Statement of Coca-Cola

5. Conclusions

Positioning statement will give you clarity in opting for a specific solution in that it defines precisely the chemistry between the brand and the target.

Positioning statement will help you justify the creative solutions your propose to the team.

Once you as a designer, art director, copywriter or other creative involved in the project have a sense of the specifics, it will drive your creative work and inspire your design solutions.

And that's why you should consider writing one, or better yet involve your team to write it together.

What that also means is that you will waste less time in conceptualization and executions phases.

So write a positioning statement for your brand (or the brand you're working on) and gain more clarity.

As a homework think about some of the brands you interact with on a daily and try to guess what'd their positioning be?

Remember: positioning statement is for internal purposes only - we don't see it.

What we see is some ad copy, tagline or slogan.

However, we're all creative people and we can uncover the positioning statement that drives those ads.

Did you do your homework? Was it fun? - Let me know in the comments below.

Learn how to write a positioning statement — check out the Market Research exercise from my Brand Strategy Guide.

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