Let’s talk for a moment about who you’re not. We all know who you are, but your forced choices under pressure often reveal more about you than your bio might reveal. What are you willing to walk away from? Answer that and you’ll define yourself in vivid terms that stick. If it works for you, then it will work for your brand, too. So let’s get less personal for a moment and talk about brand positioning – specifically, what you’re not.
Developing a positioning statement is mandatory. This isn’t fluffy. This isn’t one of those, “if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be” questions. This is what you and your team are responsible for as marketers. You give the output of this disciplined process to your agencies, from which they make commercials, websites, PR stories, brand books, and pretty much everything else. Without this, you’re ad hoc at best and off message at worst.
The positioning statement isn’t ad copy. It isn’t “Be All You Can Be”, or “Just Do It,” or anything that remotely looks like either of these two taglines. A positioning statement is a verbal schematic of your brand:
[BLANK] is the [BLANK] that [BLANK] because [BLANK].
You fill in the blanks.
How you do this is important. I won’t go into the deep dive specifics here – you can check out my positioning lens on Squidoo later, if you’re interested – because this note is about doing it, not how to do it.
Too often brands simply skip this step, which is incredibly shortsighted and extremely dangerous. This isn’t just about your overall brand; it’s about how your brands fit together to form a family, how they relate to alternatives and competitors, and how you need to communicate these differences to people who should care.
Too often brands do this in a hurry, with everything sounding the same. “Whizbang is the industry leading solution for busy people that let’s you do everything you want to do because we look cool and perform fast.” Garbage in, garbage out.
I did a branding exploration of an interesting Web 2.0 company recently. I started out tactically, with specific descriptions of how the solution allowed the user to remotely monitor what was important to them:
(Acme Corporation) is the PORTABLE MONITOR that GIVES YOU THE REASSURANCE YOU NEED TO GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE because YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THERE TO KNOW EVERYTHING’S OK.
What choices did we make here? It’s a monitor: a viewer – but not a controller (who we’re not). It gives reassurance: a big emotional payoff – but not a means to act (who we’re not). It allows you to “get on with life”: you can stop worrying, you’ve got it under control. And it’s in a positive framing: it’s OK, you don’t have to be there now – you’ve got (Acme) – it’s not Big Brother, your e-peeping Tom. Thankfully.
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> BLANK is the BLANK that BLANK because BLANK. Use it.
> Don’t just say who you are. Don’t just say what you want to be. Don’t just whip this together, either. What are you willing to walk away from?
> Get smart people who deeply care about the outcome and the output in a room for ten hours and figure this stuff out. And never, NEVER, cede this to your agency.
> Your positioning statement needs to drive your outbound marketing, guide your inbound marketing, and strongly influence everything about how you go to market, from product feature decisions to promotion to packaging to customer service. That’s why it’s so important.
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The Acme example is a good one. Interestingly, after boiling it down over time, we revealed some deeper underlying values that we decided to bring to the surface:
(Acme Corporation) is THE WAY that I KNOW EVERYTHING’S OK because NOW I CAN KEEP AN EYE ON THINGS, WHEREVER I AM.
What does this mean? Peace of mind. Care. Security. Positive. Family.
Can you build a brand around this? I thought so. So could I. Talk later.
Copyright (c) 2006 Stephen Denny