What Positioning and Messaging Means to Us

5 min read

Positioning and messaging is kind of like sushi. Most people have an idea of what it is—and the ingredients that go into it—but there’s endless variety when it comes to presentation and taste. And if it isn’t made correctly, it might make you sick. 

But when made with care and precision, sushi can be captivatingly delicious. Your positioning and messaging can be, too; it’s an opportunity to exhibit great taste. And it should. Because the success or failure of your brand hinges on it.

If that sounds overly dramatic, it’s not. Your positioning and messaging is the very essence of your brand. It’s your foundation. And it informs—at least on some level—every single communication or touchpoint you have, so each word should be perfect.

There are no shortcuts: Getting there takes a whole lotta brain power and hard work. So let’s talk a little bit about how we approach positioning and messaging at Well Done.

Who are you, really?

There aren’t hard and fast rules when it comes to creating your brand’s position. But there are some things almost all strong positioning statements have in common. A great position:

·  Is an island you—and only you—can own.

·  Shows how your brand fulfills a need in a way others don’t.

·  Is between two and twelve words.

·  Makes a bold, clear declaration.

·  Never hedges. You are not “one of the best” or “a leader.”

·  Is NOT intended to be a tagline.

·  Is NOT intended for external use.

Getting all of these factors to play nice in one little sentence is daunting. There’s an obvious tendency to elaborate—to create a positioning paragraph, or short narrative.

Resist the urge. Distill your brand down to one succinct, powerful statement and you’ll reap the benefits. Despite being only a few words, the right position takes even an experienced writer countless hours of brand immersion and iterating. So goes the delightful, maddening, and incredibly worthwhile process of positioning.

The right message for the right person.    

So you’ve got a great position. Now it’s on to the messaging—which is all about audiences. If yours aren’t clearly defined, your messaging falls flat. You must remember that you don’t speak to different audiences the same way. A prospective employee needs to hear something entirely different from a retail customer. 

Once your audiences are sorted, it’s time to ask: What’s the most important thing this audience needs to hear? The ONE thing. Keep it straightforward, practical, and clear. This is not the place for a sexy headline or clever pun.

Next, all those primary messages—one for each audience—need support. That’s where the secondary messaging comes in. All secondary messages must support the primary messages, which in turn support the position. Everything ladders up. You can see why we like to use the word “foundation.”  

A final note on messaging: Unlike your position, your messaging is designed to be outward facing. These are statements you should literally be able to rip verbatim and put on your website and collateral as topic sentences. They have endless practical application.

So how do you really sell this thing?

There are a few other elements to consider that can help build the emotional resonance (and clear practicality) necessary for any successful positioning and messaging exercise. While there’s no perfect formula, here are a few things we often think about:

Brand Promise: This one’s pretty simple: If people buy into what you’re selling, what do they get? Don’t overthink your brand promise. It should be concrete and concise. And it doesn’t have to be uniquely ownable like the position.

Elevator Speech: A stranger asks, “Where do you work? What kind of place is it?” The elevator speech is your answer. It’s a super conversational paragraph providing basic information—but it’s also intriguing enough as to where your audience can’t help but ask to know more. It must use words that’d actually come out of your mouth.

Manifesto: A great manifesto gets people riled up. It has a big emotional pull. It demands action. And it can often be the most powerful and compelling part of any good positioning and messaging presentation. The rules for manifestos are loose. Write what people didn’t know they needed to hear. Do it with gusto. 

Tagline: Can a position statement be a tagline? Sure. But that should never be the intention. If your position doesn’t translate into a snappy tagline, it can often help to work on one as a separate exercise to help bring some flavor.  

Brand Story: A brand story puts flesh on the bones of your positioning. It’s kind of like a manifesto, but includes more details and relatable specifics. Most good brand stories follow a simple formula: There’s a big problem, your brand is the solution, and the world’s all better again. 

Back to uncooked fish. Top-notch sushi is something you tell your friends about. It gets you excited. It keeps you coming back for more. But it must be created with thought, care, and the right ingredients.

Do you want sushi prepared by a gas station attendant or an experienced itamae at a Michelin-starred restaurant?