The Positioning Statement Definition

Does your firm have a positioning statement?  What is the positioning statement definition? Typically we see vision, values, mission statements, strategy, etc. But, I submit to you, Modern Marketers, that the written positioning statement is rare.  Maybe you could find a senior executive who could cobble one together on the spur of the moment based on experience and the many meetings he has attended.  If your firm does happen to proffer a formal positioning statement, is each and every employee able to articulate that statement?  Probably not.  Who is responsible for developing the positioning statement and who is responsible for ensuring that every person in the firm is able to articulate it?  I suggest that it is you, the Modern Marketer, especially if you are at a senior director, VP or CMO position.  If  your firm has one, then I applaud you and place you at the top of the heap of firms and marketers.

The Positioning Statement definition is comprised of 4 parts; the target, the category, the differentiator, and the payoff.  We’ll talk about these in summary below, but first, there is some work to be done.  Before sitting down to write your PS, decisions must be made. You must choose your target market.  “All Industries” or “All People”, by the way, are not a target markets.  More on target markets in the next blog post.  You must establish your differentiator. You must establish your target market’s buying criteria and determine how your core competence fits or does not fit with the criteria. You should be intimate with your target audience.

The 4 parts of the Positioning Statement:

  1. Target Market.  You must know where and what the target is before aiming and firing (your marketing activity).  The target market should be defined based on criteria that is available such as demographics, geography, psychographics, pains, needs, etc.  Again, “all” or “everyone” are not acceptable criteria.
  2. Category.  Prospective customers (all of us) need a frame of reference when we evaluate a proposed product or service.  We want to know the context in which we evaluate.  Your customers want the same thing.  This can be achieved by stating a common category where you play like lawn service, PCs, digital television, tablets, etc.  If your prospective customers can’t place your offer in a context, they will not spend any time evaluating the offer.
  3. Differentiation.   One point of differentiation is best.  Multiple benefits or features should not be provided as the differentiators.  The unique features or benefits will support the main differentiator.  Stating that your firm is “the global leader” is a weak differentiator and should be avoided. Rather, state the reason why you are the global leader.  Having the biggest market share or the biggest turnover are also weak differentiators.
  4. The Payoff.  This ties the differentiation with the needs or goals of the target market.  You need to tell the target audience how your differentiator will help them achieve what they want to achieve.  What’s that you say, you don’t know what your target market wants to achieve?  In order to have a meaningful PS, you must understand your target market intimately. This understanding should be based on real market research not hearsay.

Your Positioning Statement definition might be constructed something like this:

“To [target market], [brand] is a [category] that [differentiator] because [target market] needs [the payoff].”

One more thing to consider, this is a high level endeavor and will drive your marketing mix and many other strategic and tactical decisions. The highest level executives must buy in and support the initiative to develop a positioning statement.


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