Succinct Positioning

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by: Jennifer Rice

Five words or less. Use consumer language, not "clientese." Follow the 4D rule. These are a few of my guidelines for writing positioning statements that are compelling and executable.

  • Five words or less. See if you can write your own tagline that clearly captures the essence of your brand. And don't whine and say that's a copywriter's job… if you can't boil down the brand essence into a short, memorable phrase, chances are a copywriter can't either. It's not a quick and easy process, but it pays off. 
  • Use consumer language. Too many times I've worked with clients who've insisted that we use certain phrases in the positioning that make sense internally but not to customers, or they're so focused on features that they forget that customers care more about benefits. To get yourself in a customer state of mind, write your positioning statements from a customer's point of view. For example, "If I choose x instead of  (alternative), I will (get what benefit) because (primary reason to believe)"
  • The 4D positioning rule is desirable by customers, distinctive from the competition, deliverable by the company, and durable over time. A good brand position will sit at the intersection of these four requirements.

Some companies live and breathe their brand positions, and they're articulated perfectly in rarely changed tag lines.  Apple's Think Different and Nike's Just Do It are so powerful that they are the "north star" for those brands.  I can think of other great companies like Southwest Airlines that change tag lines often but never waiver from their brand essence.

If you're not an Apple or SWA, it's important to follow the three rules above to determine your future state (where you want to be) and work your way forward using internal alignment, operational improvements and marketing tactics that — over time — coalesce into a coherent, memorable brand.

For a few related posts on positioning, see Positioning Debate and More On Positioning. 

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