The positioning statement is a vital document for any business because it describes how a company wishes to be perceived by its market. Actually, a good positioning statement answers the question: “How do we want our market to feel about us?” In the heart of any good positioning statement there is, or there ought to be, a brand promise. The brand promise articulates that one, unique, differentiating feature that sets the business apart from its competition. It reveals the company’s true competitive advantage.
That differentiator can be anything from Google’s original algorithm to KFC’s original-recipe eleven herbs and spices. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it needs to be expressed, as a brand promise, through the positioning statement. There are a lot of brand promises out there and some of them are pretty strong. Unfortunately, there are some weak ones as well. Here are eight characteristics shared by the strong ones. Your brand promise has to be …
You must have exclusive ownership of your brand promise. Don’t just say that you’re the best at what you do because everyone makes that claim. Dig deep down inside your business. Deconstruct it. Find out what you do differently – something that’s yours alone – and spotlight it. Sometimes it helps to reverse engineer the search. What customers can you serve better than anyone else? Why is that so? Follow that trail to your unique differentiator.
You’re going to be making your brand promise to people – people who are becoming more and more media-fluent with each passing day. They can smell a con a mile away. So your brand promise has to be true to who you are, to your values and to your skills. People have to believe you can deliver on your brand promise. You have to believe it too.
Your brand promise has to describe who you are but also who you aim to be. Every business is in the act of becoming. What will your business be five years from now? Let your market see the products and services you’ll be able to deliver in the future, not just the ones you can offer now. Inspire them to come along on the journey with you.
Aim high, yes, but not pie-in-the-sky high. You don’t want your market to think you’re overreaching. If you run a corner bakery, perhaps you aim to someday be a national chain. That’s fine. But no one will buy it if you plan on growing your bakery into a regional airline. You have to display judicious goals if you want to maintain credibility with your market.
You’ve heard it many times before because it’s true. You can’t be all things to all people. Again, concentrate on the customers that you can serve better than anyone else. When they understand your brand promise, they’ll march right past your competitors to knock on your door. So be clear, in your own mind, about what that brand promise should be. Then communicate it clearly.
Once you are clear about what it is, you have to start making your brand promise consistently. That means you make the same brand promise to your employees that you make to your customers. And to your vendors, and to the press and to every other constituency whose perception of your brand is important to its future success. You have to ensure that everyone in your organization is making the same brand promise to the people they meet.
Your products and services will come and go. So will your advertising campaigns. But a strong brand strategy should last your organization for 15-20 years. So make sure your brand promise is something you can live with – and deliver on – for a long time to come. You don’t need your market to fall in love with your advertising, or even with your product. You need them to fall in love with you – the entity that makes the product and that’s doing the advertising. That comes from continuing to deliver on the brand promise, year after year.
Everyone in your organization, from the mail room to the board room, needs to understand the what the brand promise is. They each need to learn how the work they do every day helps to fulfill the brand promise. They need to understand how their number one mission, no matter what it says on their business card or their job description, is to keep the brand promise. So this is no time to get overly scholarly or verbose. Express your brand promise in a simple sentence (positioning statement) that everyone can remember.
One last thing.
Brand promises are usually crafted by the CEO, working together with the CMO and/or, perhaps, with an outside consultant. It can be a difficult, laborious process and, when you’re finally done, all you have to show for it is a single sentence – albeit, an exceptionally important sentence. But, as hard as it is to craft and make the perfect brand promise, it’s harder still to keep it over time. At Boardwalk, our professional motto is: “A brand is a promise kept.” It’s the keeping of the promise, consistently, over time, that establishes the kind of symbiotic relationship between a business and a market wherein a strong brand can take seed and grow.
Best Branding Reads – Week of September 19, 2016
KFC Would Make the Colonel Proud as It Reignites Growth in His Image
Had initial doubts about KFC’s new campaign but it sure has paid off. I’m a fan now. Can’t wait for the next colonel.
Registered Trademark: Six reasons your brand needs one
Trademark atty and friend of Brandtalk, Cheryl H., has her own blog & posted this great article.
Coming Soon: In-Store Restaurants That Put the ‘Bar’ in Barnes & Noble
Retailers still looking for ways to get people in the door.
It's Time for Marketers to Help Ease the Consumer Anxiety They've Helped Create
An important read, especially for those of us who live in the Home of the Brave.
New Logo and Identity for Another Place
Love the letterforms are defined by the neg space. Also how it scales into abstract backgrounds. Kudos!
Marketers Must Fight For Their Brand Ideas
Marketers! Read this before going to work on Monday.
A Future Without Human Marketers?
Even now, we can tell when a campaign targets our key words – and not us.