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Positioning is a strategic skillset that all great marketers and strategists need to excel at. But when you’re staring at the brand positioning statement looking for ways to make it stronger, it helps to have a cheat sheet or checklist of what you should be looking for. And if you’ve ever tried to get senior level approval on a positioning statement, you know how easy it is to get lost in “like” and “don’t like” feedback. As more and more stakeholders provide their input, it can start to feel like your positioning strategy actually gets diluted.
The good news is that the same criteria you use to evaluate and strengthen your positioning are also the best way to get various stakeholders to agree. If you can first align on the success criteria and then use those criteria to evaluate the brand positioning statement, you’ll get a stronger statement and faster approval. Below are five evaluation criteria that can also serve as the team’s aligned success criteria for your next positioning initiative.
Note: If you are still in the process of writing your brand positioning statement and need a format or template to follow, check out this related post: Ultimate Guide to Writing a Brand Positioning Statement. Or, if you already have a positioning statement and are ready to make it sharper, read on.
1) IS THE POSITIONING RELEVANT?
Most marketers know that we should always start with the consumer (or customer for B2B). Their needs are the priority. But it might surprise you how many positioning statements are written by starting with what a company or brand wants to sell instead of what the customer needs.
Ask yourself: What insight, tension or foundational need is the positioning based on? Can you point to specific research where this insight appeared? If you don’t have research, is it a hypothesis that you can test? All great positioning statements solve for something that is meaningful to the target. What are you solving for in the life of the target audience?
2) IS THE POSITIONING DIFFERENT?
It’s very possible to write a relevant positioning statement that makes you sound a lot like everyone else in the marketplace. While a consumer might appreciate the benefit you provide, and you might even test very well in monadic research, a lack of differentiation means you will struggle against the competition.
A common approach is to simply add unique features or language to the RTB section of the positioning statement. However, a stronger approach is to look at each separate component of the statement as an opportunity to differentiate. Can you differentiate by focusing on a different target audience? Perhaps a potential target is under- or over-served. What about industry or customer size? Is there a gap in the market you can take advantage of? Can you provide a unique benefit that other brands aren’t delivering? Even brand character can be an opportunity (spirits and apparel are good examples of categories with brands that differentiate based on target and/or brand character).
3) IS THE POSITIONING STATEMENT COMPLETE?
It may seem obvious that you need to fill in all of the key components of the positioning statement. But what you may not initially notice is if you’ve got all of the right pieces and parts in the right places. You may have an RTB in the benefit line or vice versa. Is the benefit really a benefit? Do you actually have an RTB? Is the RTB something specific that actually proves the benefit to be true?
4) IS THE POSITIONING SINGLE-MINDED?
This is a tough one for a couple of reasons. First, you have to be sure you don’t have more than one benefit or idea in the positioning. This can be tricky if you’ve made edits or additions based on input from various stakeholders. Other benefits can easily sneak their way in. You may also find hidden benefits—words that seem harmless at first but, in reality, are extra benefits that distract from the core idea.
Second, you have to be sure that the single idea in each of the components are cohesive and work together. You might have one idea in each component, but if they don’t directly relate or tie together, you have a broken positioning statement. Ask yourself: Are all of the components tied together by the exact same single idea (from target insight to benefit to RTB)? Does the benefit arise as a result of the specific RTB listed? Does the benefit directly answer the specific problem or tension from the insight?
5) IS THE POSITIONING STATEMENT LANGUAGE PRECISE?
Every word matters. Eliminate unnecessary wording. The fewer words, the better. Resist the urge to use fanciful language or try to make it sound creative. The positioning statement is an internal strategic document that directs the business. It must be clear and concise so that the strategy is unmistakable and cannot be misinterpreted. I’ve seen many brands try to write brand positioning statements that sound “inspiring” only to find that the positioning is vague and leads to executions outside of the original strategic intent. Is your strategic intent absolutely clear using concise and precise language? Save the creative development for the execution phase.
THE FINAL VERDICT
If you can answer “yes” to each of the five criteria above, then congratulations! You have a strategic foundation that increases your chances of winning in the marketplace. Use your new or updated brand positioning to guide all of your efforts and create focused executions.
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Kevin Namaky is CEO at the Gurulocity Brand Management Institute, a marketing education company that trains and consults for notable brand teams including Kimberly-Clark, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bolthouse Farms and Gorilla Brands. Kevin is a featured instructor for the American Marketing Association, lectures at the IU Kelley School of business, and has been featured in Ad Age, Forbes, Fast Company and the CMO Council. Previously Kevin worked for 20 years in the corporate and agency world growing notable brands. Follow/connect with Kevin on LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter.