The specific format used when writing a brand positioning statement may vary from company to company. However, in one way or another, a brand positioning statement should answer the following four questions.
1. Who is the target for brand use?
Brand positioning begins with a clear understanding of the targeted customers. It is useful to describe these customers in terms of their current usage patterns, demographic characteristics, and general goals. Insight into the target's goals is especially important because purchase decisions are rarely motivated by a desire for a brand per se. Rather, there is a belief that having the brand will facilitate achieving some more fundamental goal that is important to the target.
2. Why should the brand be considered (i.e., to what category does the brand belong and what goal does it allow the target to achieve)?
As noted earlier, this question is often answered by invoking membership in a particular category. Such an approach is particularly appropriate when launching a new product, because it links the new product to familiar products and thereby facilitates understanding. As customers' knowledge of the brand grows, the competitive frame may evolve to span several product categories and be defined by usage occasions or users. For example, Ariel, a nonalcoholic wine, might define its competitive set in terms of products that are consumed when both sociability and clear thinking are requisite. Competition might include bottled water and soft drinks, as well as other nonalcoholic wines. Similarly, Waterman pens might be positioned as heirlooms that can be passed on to the next generation, thereby competing with antique furniture and jewelry.
3. Why should the brand be chosen over other alternatives in the competitive set?
A brand must offer a compelling point of difference in relation to other options in the marketplace. Moreover, the firm must make the claimed point of difference believable to the consumer. The simplest approach is to promote a unique product attribute. Thus, Visa may claim that it is the most widely accepted card and reference the number of places that it is accepted around the world as support for that claim.
When the point of difference is more abstract or image-based, support for the claim may reside in more general associations to the company that have been developed over time. Thus, Chanel No. 5 perfume may claim to be the quintessential elegant, French perfume and support this claim by noting the long association between Chanel and haute couture.
Typically, brands focus on a single point of difference, though this point of difference may be an abstraction based on multiple features of the product. For example, BIC might claim that its disposable razors offer greater convenience than other disposable razors. The brand's broad distribution, in-store placement near checkout counters, and low price might all be used to support this claim.
It is important that the point of difference be specific and meaningful. Claims such as "highest quality" or "best value" are vague. What defines high quality or value for one target may mean only moderate quality or value to another. Quality or value should be defined in terms that are meaningful to the target.
When a brand's benefits are at parity with those of the competition, the point of difference might be the depth of insight into consumers' goals in using the product. Consumers often make the inference that if a brand presents an intimate understanding of consumers' goals in using the product, it must also offer a superior way to achieve those goals.
4. How will choosing the brand help the target members accomplish their goal(s)?
The final element of a positioning statement links the brand's point of difference to the target's goal(s), drawing on an understanding of brand essence and category essence. Visa is accepted at more places than any other credit card. This means that Visa customers can shop and travel with the confidence that their card will be accepted. The low price and convenient availability of BIC disposable razors may enable busy people to focus on matters that mean more to them than their razor.
It is important to recognize that the elements of a positioning statement are interrelated. A particular feature or benefit may distinguish the brand when considered against one set of competitors but not another. Further, a point of difference may help accomplish the goals of one target but not another target. Thus, each target requires a distinct positioning; if the same category membership and point of difference are relevant to two targets, these targets should be combined. Moreover, because both competitors and the goals of targeted customers evolve over time, a brand's positioning requires periodic review and updating.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: John Wiley & Sons, excerpted from Kellogg on Marketing, 2nd Edition by Alice M. Tybout (editor), Bobby J. Calder (editor), Phillip Kotler (foreword by) (c) 2010 by The Kellogg School of Marketing.
Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop