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Six traps to avoid in writing a brand positioning statement

Posted by Charlie Clement on Feb 16, 2016 5:05:36 PM
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Traps to avoid in writing a brand positoining statement.Writing a brand positioning statement for your product, service or company is without question one of the best ways to provide focus and clarity to your business’s marketing efforts. The primary objective is to differentiate your brand from the competition in a powerful and meaningful way. And the key is to identify the one thing on which you want to hang your brand’s hat. It can highlight either an emotional or rational benefit. But either way, it really is best to keep it singular in nature.

The standard brand positioning statement includes a description of your target market, the brand name, identification of the category or competitive environment (kind of a self-identification of what the brand is), the chosen position itself and support points that bring credibility to the position. The latter two constitute what best-selling author and founder of the Eureka Ranch innovation center (, Doug Hall, would call the overt benefit and the real reason to believe that the brand can deliver what you’re promising.

 One typical structure for a brand positioning statement looks like this:

 To _______(the specific target market)

The Brand Name is _____(self-ID based on the brand’s category or industry)

That (or Which) _____(the all-important core position)

Because _____(Key support points)

 It’s all about filling in the blanks. Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s the thing, though: Quality counts. What you put in those blanks is critical. And rushing through the development of a brand positioning statement can do more harm than good if you fall into an unforeseen trap. Here are six you really want to avoid.

 Trap #1: Positioning that a competitor already “owns”
Let’s say a competitor in your category is known for fast turnaround of its product or service. They promote the fact that they deliver within 24 hours and everyone loves them for it. They are the clear leaders in the category with a dominant market share. In that case, competing on turnaround will do little to help you because to the marketplace, your competitor owns that position. Even if you can promise same-day delivery, you’d have to spend a lot of money to get your message across. Plus, it would likely be easy for the competitor to cover the move and retain the position.

 Trap #2: Irrelevant positioning
At first blush, it seems unnecessary to have to write this, but your position has to be relevant to both your offering and the marketplace. But surely you’ve seen a tag line or slogan that makes you scratch your head and say, “So what?” For instance, there is a financial institution out there whose tag line touts it as “the most exciting bank™." Yes, it’s different. I’ll give them that. But the things they advertise seem pretty standard. More importantly, does anyone really care? Is anyone really looking for excitement from their bank? They may put enough money behind their advertising to raise awareness, but I can’t imagine people are running to open checking accounts or IRAs because of some alleged excitement factor.

Trap #3: Out of sync positioning
Whatever you choose as a position, it needs to be believable — first and foremost in the eyes of your existing customers and secondly in the eyes of prospects. If it is out of sync and people don’t believe it, the money you spend on marketing communications will be largely wasted. At best, people will ignore you. Or worse, they may just bad-mouth you for being untruthful. Neither is positive for the brand and both will undermine your marketing efforts.

 Trap #4: Ambiguous or cliché positioning
Maybe the best way to make this point is to use a cliché. If I had a dollar for every company that said what sets them apart is “service,” I’d be rich. The term is so overused, it’s lost any meaning and has simply become a part of marketing’s overall noise. Even if the service you provide is truly superior, tell everyone what makes it so. Is it because you offer no-hassle refunds? Is it because 99% of support calls are resolved with complete satisfaction? Is it because you make on-site service calls? Be specific. Focus is good.

See this link for some good examples of cliché tag lines (which theoretically would be honoring the brand’s positioning statement):

 Trap #5: Overloaded or complex positioning
It can be tempting to say you do A and B, maybe even with extra C, better than the competition. And while it may be true, such equations make for a pretty dense value proposition that can be difficult to grasp. So be careful. You’re going to be better off sticking to a benefit that is singular, succinct and easily understood. If you have a second or third benefit in your core position, it simply becomes confusing. People won’t have a clear idea in their minds of the real value that makes your brand worthy of further consideration.

 Trap #6: Positioning with questionable sustainability
In Trap #1, we gave the example of a position based on delivery speed. Years ago, FedEx made a splash with overnight delivery. But UPS and others caught up and covered the move. Avoid positioning your brand in a way that others could easily cover — and perhaps even outspend you in promoting it. Look to make a promise or identify a benefit-driven position you can own long term. Otherwise, you may not even get the chance to reposition or re-brand yourself after the fact. You may just lose the marketing competition and put the viability of the brand at stake.

 Need further guidance? Get the free eBook.
Free eBook. Positioning: The Secret To Re-Branding.Of course, avoiding traps is just part of the job of writing a winning positioning statement. Figuring out what makes your brand different and remarkable may take some work. A little bit of branding research can be invaluable. It doesn’t have to be a rigorous quantitative study conducted by a professional market research firm. In fact, you and your marketing team may very well be able to do it yourselves. It’s mostly about getting insightful feedback from your customers.

For a free eBook on how to conduct your own brand research, download a copy of Positioning: The Secret to Re-Branding   A do-it-yourself guide for small and medium size businesses, by clicking the button below. It’ll take you through a 4-step process for conducting your own Brand Discovery Study to help you craft a winning brand positioning statement — and avoid falling victim to mistakes that can undermine your brand.

 So there you have it.

Download Free eBook

Other Resources

Brand Research: Uncovering the keys to a winning marketing position.

Topics: Branding & Positioning

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