New Endangered Species: The Brand Positioning Statement

Posted on January 24, 2011

During 2010 I had the opportunity to work with several regional companies in very diverse industries:  home construction, civil engineering, consumer products, and financial services.  In three of these instances, the companies hired a design firm to create what they thought was a brand identity (logo, color scheme) — but what was missed was the actual brand positioning.

When I asked senior management to give us their unique selling proposition, the response was predictable: service quality, long-standing reputation in their city markets, and rich company history (years in business).   When I suggested that these were not truly “unique” and that they could apply from vacuum cleaners to aircraft parts — the mood became a bit tense.  However, what I had done was to simply highlight the irrationality of thinking that service (as a differentiator) will ever woo anyone to buy from your brand.   Service is invisible (to quote Harry Beckwith) and therefore cannot be compared or quantified — instead, it must be experienced after the sale.   Besides, does any competitor ever advertise mere average service, or even poor service?

A further point of confusion for these companies was the role of their Mission, Vision, and Values statements as it relates to a Brand Positioning Statement.  I explained that the Mission, Vision, and Values were important to define the culture and direction of the company for employees and shareholders — but rarely do these make a difference to the customer.   Point of illustration — when was the last time you stood in packaged meats aisle at your local supermarket evaluating which package of bacon to purchase, based on the manufacturer’s Vision statement?  I didn’t think so.

A brand positioning statement describes your target customer, the product/service category you occupy, what unique selling proposition (or value proposition) you intend to deliver to satisfy the target’s unmet needs, and reasons (proof) to believe your claims.  It is not internally focused on the company — rather, externally focused on the customer.

I came across what I thought was a superb blog post for those in the banking sector wanting to learn more about financial branding that can make a difference:

I hope that if you are reading this post, you might benefit from Jeff’s explanation of how the brand positioning statement fits into existing corporate mission statements.


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