Article

From statement of brand position to brand positioning statement

February 15, 2024
Illustration of a CEO of an successful brand winning a prize for it

Your brand position consists of the words and ideas customers associate with your brand name. When you think of brand position, think of brand perception. Branding is the process of creating your desired brand perception in customers’ minds through the right kinds of words, images, and experiences. If customers don’t know your brand exists or don’t associate it with the words you want them to, then you don’t have a brand. You can own your brand name, logo and tagline, but customers ultimately own your brand because they decide what your brand stands for in their minds and and ultimately decide what your brand is worth.

Now: Statement of Brand Position

The first step in the brand positioning process is to determine what words and ideas customers currently associate with your brand in their minds compared to how you want them to perceive it. Customers’ current perceptions of your brand make your statement of brand position. Before you can change customer perceptions of your brand, you’ve got to understand how they currently see it.

If you have an established business, you can determine your statement of brand position by identifying the kinds of customers you’d like to have more of – your ideal customers – and ask them what comes to mind when they think of your brand name. These should be real customers who’ve already bought from you, not too-good-to-be-true customers whom you’ve never encountered in the real world. And there should be enough of them to constitute a sizable, addressable market opportunity for you and your business.

As discussed previously, it’s important to gather perspectives from a representative cross-section of your most valuable customer segments, which we define as groups of people who buy for the same reasons and talk to one another. If you are building a new brand with no customers, find prospective customers representing the market segments you believe will find your products and solutions most relevant and valuable.

The Future: Brand Positioning Statement

To change your brand from its current perception to the one you want, you need to make intentional, deliberate and consistent choices that reinforce your desired brand perception from the customer’s point of view. You need to determine the words and ideas you want your brand to be synonymous with in your customers’ minds. This is your brand positioning statement; it summarizes how you want customers to perceive your brand in the future. Your business or product may already live up to your desired brand perception, or you may have some work to do to close gaps to make your desired perception true. Either way, you’ve got to make your brand reality match up with your desired brand perception.

In his classic marketing book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore provides the framework below as a guide for writing brand positioning statements by filling in the blanks with your own answers:

For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy).
Unlike (primary competitive alternative), our product (statement of primary definition).

Of course, your answers to these basic questions should be informed by real insights gleaned from enlightening conversations with real customers, not assumptions or the opinions of the loudest or most persistent voices in your conference room.

Traditionally, management consultants, brand strategists and product managers have also used simple frameworks like a two-by-two matrix to represent how brands are positioned visually – or want to be positioned – relative to one another. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is an example of a two-by-two positioning matrix.

Within a two-by-two positioning framework, the goal is to position your brand as a leader in its category, placing it in the upper-right-hand corner of the right-hand quadrant. Claiming this position on your own is one thing; getting credible third-party industry experts and analysts to say it for you requires that you provide compelling evidence in the form of validating customer case studies and significant business results. The process of winning over industry pundits can take years of validating your claims with a consistent and compelling body of work. And it may require you to share the stage with influential opinion makers who make a living out of defining categories and crowning their winners.

Bridging the gap

The gap between your current brand perception, we’ll call it P1, and your desired brand perception, we’ll call it P2, is your brand perception gap. Closing this gap is the essence of developing an effective brand strategy that defines the words, images and experiences that will successfully influence customers' perceptions of your brand. You may not be able to decide what customers think of your brand, but you can influence their perceptions of it.

Making sure your brand makes the right first impressions on a customer is important because getting them to change their perceptions of your brand later on is difficult, if not impossible. Also, it’s important to think about what you want your brand to be known for long-term – from the beginning – so you don’t box yourself in by making moves early on that create narrow perceptions in the minds of customers.

From/to

In its simplest form, the brand positioning process can be stated as going from a current perception to a new one. A simple two-column table can help to organize your thinking about this study in contrast. By listing current brand perceptions in the left-hand column and contrasting the desired perception in the right-hand column, you can make the before-and-after positioning picture easier to understand and share with your team.

A nonprofit organization called VentureCapital.Org asked us to guide them through a rebrand. The organization was approaching its fortieth anniversary of mentoring first-time startup founders and showing them how to validate, package and pitch their business ideas to early-stage investors. Despite the organization’s longevity, it was diluting its brand position and perception by sending mixed signals to stakeholders.

The organization's name confused state legislators; some mistakenly thought it was a for-profit venture capital fund and couldn’t understand why it would ask for state dollars to help grow new businesses and create more jobs. Similarly, the name of the organization led some entrepreneurs to think that VentureCapital.Org could be a source of funding for them, which wasn’t the case. Mentors saw the organization as a way to make new professional connections while giving back and sharing their expertise. Investors were starting to identify with and revolve around the organization’s subbrand events as though they were the parent brand itself.

Like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, VentureCapital.Org stood for something different to each of its audiences. It lacked a clear brand position that all its audiences could buy into, identify with, promote, and support.

Based on our findings from the brand discovery process, we uncovered insights into narrative themes and threads that were authentic to the brand’s origin story, acknowledged positive developments in becoming more inclusive of women and minorities, resonated with all its stakeholder groups, and paved the way for new growth opportunities. We leveraged these insights to position the brand from an organization with a fuzzy and confused image to a nonprofit organization that makes entrepreneurs more investable and connects them to capital in underserved markets across the US.

In support of this new positioning statement, we changed the name of the organization from VentureCapital.Org – a name chosen for its domain availability – to Kinect Capital. This name reinforces the organization’s origin story as one of America’s first accelerators. It renews its heartfelt commitment to creating a sense of kinship and community where entrepreneurs, mentors and investors connect.

By clarifying its brand position and changing its name, the organization re-affirmed its nonprofit status and positioned the parent brand as being paramount by positioning at the center of the Kinect Capital universe, around which all its event brands revolved as strong subsidiaries and satellites.

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