What is brand positioning?

Your brand positioning may seem like a high-level strategy that’s only important to your marketing team, but it's key to the success of your entire company. At its core, your brand positioning is how you want your audience to think about your brand. As Seth Godin writes, “Positioning isn’t what you do to a product; rather, it’s what you do to the mind of the prospect.”

The positioning of the product or service and its most salient features will determine how it relates to competitors and other offerings in the marketplace.

Think about Apple: They don't just beat their competition through better technology; they are able create an aspirational image for their products that helps them dominate markets and command premium prices. Their advertising shows us that they are more than just a computer company—they're making things that will change our lives (or at least make them easier). Their messaging tells us they are different from other brands because they care more about simplicity and ease of use than packing in every possible feature. This all fits together into one clear package: we know what Apple stands for, and we know why we should buy their products instead of someone else's.

Think about a few of your favorite brands for a moment. What stands out about their positioning? What makes them special, and how does that translate into the experience of using their product or service?

What is brand messaging?

Your brand messaging is the words and language you use to express your brand’s identity, personality, and values. To put it simply, it’s what you say to your target audience.

So, if you need to know what you should be saying in order to develop effective messaging, where do you start? Your messaging needs to address two primary questions: Who are we (as a company)? What do we value?

You know, the copy (or words) on your site, and the way you talk about your offering. Brand messaging is how you tell your brand story. Messaging documents define why a company exists, what they do and why it matters.

Brand messaging is what you say to your audience in order to explain who you are and what makes you unique. It’s also an essential element of ongoing communications with existing customers and potential buyers. Your business will use brand messaging in everything from marketing emails to sales presentations to social media posts, so it’s important that everyone in the organization understands it and knows how to apply it consistently.

For example, if your company values transparency and honesty in its business practices, then your brand messaging will reflect that. If the company has a serious personality and voice, then so will its messaging.

Brand positioning is how your audience thinks of you, while brand messaging is how you communicate with them. You can have a strong brand position without great messaging — but effective messaging depends on a strong position because it needs something to communicate!

When do I need a brand positioning statement?

A positioning statement is an important strategic tool for any business, but it’s especially critical if:

  • You’re building a new brand. A positioning statement can help you figure out the audience and market that your brand is meant to serve.
  • You’re rebranding. A positioning statement can help you hone in on just who your new brand will be serving, what your updated product will look like, and why this change is necessary.
  • You're launching a new product or service. Similarly, if you are launching a new product or service, you need to create a clear vision of how this offering will be different from its competitors and how it will solve their problems.
  • You’re entering into a new market with your existing products or services. If you are entering into a new market with an existing product or service line, you need to find ways to reposition those offerings so that they appeal to another audience—and therefore meet the needs of another problem set.

When do I need a brand messaging guide?

  • When you have trouble describing yourself in one sentence and why you exist.
  • When you are able to describe what you do or sell, but not why.
  • When your marketing and sales teams can’t agree on the key messages they should be sharing with customers.
  • When your team is telling different stories about your product or service depending on the customer.
  • When your marketing team has never created or distributed content that is based on a clear, agreed-upon story.
  • When your company hasn’t reviewed its messaging in more than 12 months

How do I write a good positioning statement?

A positioning statement is a statement that explains what makes your company unique, and why a customer should buy from you and not from the competition. It combines market research, brand strategy and marketing communications into one sentence.

A good positioning statement will be clear, brief, specific to your target audience and aligned with their wants or needs. You should be able to sum up your business in one sentence. This is particularly true for early-stage startups, who may want to use their positioning statements as a tagline for their marketing materials.

Positioning statements are often organized into five parts: company name, category (what you do), target customer (who you do it for), competitive advantage (why choose you) and reason to believe (proof).

How do I write a good messaging document?

When you work on crafting messaging for your brand, think about the things that make your company unique: Are you quirky? Serious? Upbeat? Do you offer unusual payment plans or an unheard-of guarantee? Do people need special knowledge of a certain industry in order to use your product or service?

Think of your message as an elevator pitch: what would you say if someone asked “what do you do?” or “what does your company do?” You should be able to answer those questions clearly and succinctly. Think about the details of what you say.

When there are multiple people working on your brand's communications, it can be hard to achieve consistent messaging if everyone's just doing their own thing. A great way to ensure that everyone is conveying the same message in every interaction they have with your customers or clients is to create a messaging document that lays out exactly how they should do it.

It's a tool that helps you make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page about how you talk to your customers, what sets you apart, and what's important to your team.

If you do it right, it'll save you time when it comes down to actually writing content. It can help everyone from marketing and customer service to sales and investors speak consistently about your business—which makes everything from raising capital to closing deals easier.

Messaging document is basically a cheat sheet for writing awesome copy.

Thanks for reading!

We hope this post helped you understand the difference between messaging and positioning—and helped you think about how to evaluate your own brand's messaging, positioning, or both.