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Writing a positioning statement: a four part formula

Branding is all about positioning. One of the most useful branding exercises is writing the positioning statement. We’re not talking about a sentence that one person within your organization can sit down and write in 5 minutes. Writing a positioning statement should be a thoughtful exercise.


First things first, what is it? A positioning statement is a short description of your company’s target audience and a description of how you want that audience to view your brand. Many companies have mission statements, which are typically focused on the company’s core values. A positioning statement is different because it is intended for internal use to guide marketing and business development tactics. Larger companies might have a few positioning statements that are intended for groups, committees or industry niches.

Here’s a breakdown of the formula:

Positioning Statement = [Target Audience] + [Frame of Reference] + [Point of Difference] + [Reasons to Believe]

Black & Decker’s positioning statement for DeWalt tools illustrates the components:

“To the tradesman who uses his power tools to make a living and cannot afford downtime on the job (target), DeWalt professional power tools (frame of reference) are more dependable than other brands of professional power tools (point of difference) because they are engineered to the brand’s historic high-quality standards and are backed by Black & Decker’s extensive service network and guarantee to repair or replace any tool within 48 hours (reasons to believe).”

This is not their tagline and is not used in external messaging. It’s intended to identify their main points of difference, why they’re different and the audience they’re targeting.

The process of writing a positioning statement has multiple benefits:

  1. It forces you to identify your target audience. A surprising number of businesses haven’t identified their target audience. Or if they have, they might not be aligning their marketing, communications and business development efforts to reach that specific demographic. This is often because no one wants to turn away potential clients. Most companies have limited marketing budgets and must focus their efforts. Taking the time to identify your “perfect client” allows you to spend your marketing dollars most effectively.

  2. You learn a lot about your company and clients during the process of writing it. One of the key components is points of difference. To understand how you’re positioning your company to your audience, you must know how you’re different from your competitors. Pull your team together for honest conversations about your unique selling points. Gather any market research or client surveys and review the comments. Another critical aspect is reasons to believe. These are the things that back up your points of difference. Think of adjectives or reasons why a client should believe in your brand positioning.

  3. It serves as a reference as you implement other marketing initiatives. As you develop new messages and create marketing or communications materials, your language should support your positioning statement. Don’t use your positioning statement externally. Refer to it as you’re developing new strategies. Use it to remind yourself who you want to reach, what their needs and issues are, what makes you unique and why you’re different.

Once your positioning statement is finalized and has the blessing of your internal stakeholders, it should be available to your marketing team or vendors as a reference point and reminder of your brand positioning. Learn more about strategies for branding here.

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