Sunday, June 24, 2012
HOW TO WRITE A POSITIONING STRATEGY
This week’s title may seem a bit, well, rudimentary for many marketers. After all, don’t most marketers follow pretty much the “classic” model for writing a brand positioning strategy? Oh sure, there are often small difference in the names given to the positioning parts (like Reason-to-Believe/ “RTB” for Reason Why and Brand Personality for Brand Character). But most marketers tend to agree on what each of these positioning parts means, regardless of the names.
The thing is, though, writing a technically perfect brand positioning strategy usually requires doing things a little different than we all learned in school for writing a paragraph or term paper. Certain things are the same. For example, we learned in school to keep the number of ideas or themes in a technically well-done paragraph to a minimum; similarly, we learned that the entire paragraph should be about the theme expressed in the topic sentence. For technically well-done brand positioning statements, it’s also really important to keep the number of themes (what the brand wants to stand for versus competition) to a “winning” minimum. And it also makes good sense to keep the entire positioning strategy about the same theme or themes expressed in the Target part, which is typically the first part of any positioning strategy and therefore a kind of “topic paragraph.”
Some other things are not the same: while our school teachers exhorted us to vary our language so that the reader would not get bored, in a tight brand positioning strategy it is better to repeat key language in certain key places; in addition, the actual order of writing the brand positioning allows for more flexibility than the more rigid order many of us were taught about essays we were writing.
Of course, we are not suggesting that we marketers un-do all the good writing principles we may have learned in school. But it’s funny how old habits remain hard to break. Without over-thinking any of this, we would still like to share some of the really helpful writing “tips” we have learned over the years about writing technically sound (if not always perfect) brand positioning strategy statements. We’ve found that, when followed, the resulting positioning strategies are typically more strategically sound as well—mainly because they are amazingly clear, simple, and best of all, virtually incapable of being misunderstood.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS: Tips for Writing More Technically Sound Brand Positioning Strategies
1. Once the Market Definition is decided upon, start writing the Target Definition first. By Market Definition we simply mean the category or class we intend to compete in and the major sources of volume for our brand; many marketers refer to this as the Literal Competitive Framework. As already noted, by then starting with writing the Target Definition we are effectively “setting up” the rest of the positioning strategy. That’s because the Target contains driving attitudes about the condition, life-stage, or occasions related to the brand’s usage. It also contains the current level of category or class usage, along with any dis-satisfactions (which will set up the target’s needs). Finally, the Target ends with the needs, which later in the positioning strategy will become the brand’s benefits.
2. After completing the Target (with demographics, psychographics, condition or life-stage or occasions, driving attitudes, current usage & dis-satisfactions, telling behaviors, and needs), go back through and “circle” the key, repetitive themes…BEFORE continuing with writing the rest of the positioning. This sounds a lot like what our teachers did with us in grade school, when we were first learning how to keep paragraph themes limited and the same. Only this time, we don’t need to use red ink! We can use whatever color ink we want—the important thing is to look for those “out-of-left-field” themes that show up in only one place and should probably be edited out.
3. Last thing, before moving on from the Target: cover up or temporarily delete the needs (last part of the Target) and ask someone who hasn’t been helping you write the positioning to infer what needs the brand will satisfy…based upon all the other parts of the Target. This is a great “hidden” tip that our colleague, Dave Roche, has suggested and used often. As he explains, if the themes of the psychographics, driving attitudes, usage & dis-satisfactions, and telling behaviors are consistent, the needs should be obvious—to anyone!
4. Next in order, which should be a “cut & paste” effort, is to insert the Benefits (functional and emotional). Quite literally, we mean to take the exact words from the Target Needs section and place them in the Benefits section of the positioning. We sometimes refer to this repeat writing as conscious redundancy—we are consciously repeating now in the Benefits what we identified as Needs the brand can win with in the Target. It’s probably the most “unnatural” writing act of the entire positioning effort because we have been taught that redundancy in other forms of expression is a sign of poor writing. But in a brand positioning strategy it is excellent writing! It not only confirms that the brand’s Benefits are ones we can win with (and are based upon customer research), but it leaves no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation by anyone who wasn’t involved in writing the positioning.
5. After inserting the Benefits, draw a “table” around them with two columns, and place the Reasons Why in the column next to the Benefits column. In other words, while the rest of the positioning strategy statement may be a collection of short paragraphs and bullet points, the Benefits and Reasons Why should be “side-by-side” so it is readily apparent (a) that each benefit has at least one reason why to support it and (b) that each reason why in fact links to a benefit. This eliminates the bad habit of including “dangling” reasons why—those that add nothing to the support of the brand’s benefits.
6. After completing the Brand Character (the last part of the classic brand positioning strategy format), is the best time we’ve found to articulate the brand’s Perceptual Competitive Framework—that “label” or “sound-bite” that gives our brand more than just a category or class-effect nomenclature. If you have been reading these Dispatches for awhile, you have probably heard us talking about Gatorade’s powerful Perceptual CF: “Ultimate Liquid Athletic Equipment”—which is considerably more competitive than simply being perceived as a leading sports beverage or thirst quencher. Coming up with something like this is easier to do when the rest of the entire positioning strategy is in front of us.
7. One last tip. Repeat that “circling of key themes” exercise we recommended for the Target section, only this time do it for the entire brand positioning strategy. It’s one last check on our writing for consistency of themes.
Follow these easy tips and steps and there is no reason to fear the blank positioning page!
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
© 2003 Brand Development Network (BDN) International. All rights reserved.