Brand positioning and messaging are often used and thought of as interchangeable concepts. But they’re different notions, even if one doesn’t make sense without the other. If you don’t figure out exactly where you fit in the market (aka positioning), it’s almost impossible to craft compelling messaging for your target audience and ensure they would choose your brand.
Let’s uncover how positioning differs from messaging and the essential elements you need to include at these two crucial go-to-market stages.
Plus, check out some real brand positioning and messaging examples and easy tips on how to craft your unique value proposition in this article below.
What Is A Positioning Statement
Let’s say you’re all set with your product’s basic concept. Now comes the part when you need to define how you’ll position your product or service in the market. Positioning reflects how you want your customers to perceive your product or the general idea you want your customers to associate with your product.
Positioning is an internal strategy or your company’s rehearsal behind the scenes before the real live show. It goes beyond having your audience know what you’re selling; it’s also about how you sell your product or service and how you portray the story behind your brand.
The elements that will help you define your positioning include:
- target audience – the customer persona based on market and user research
- vision – the definition of your company’s success plans in the long term
- mission – the reason you founded your company/brand and your goal
- position statement or value proposition – your brand’s promise or how customers will benefit from your product or service
- differentiation element – your brand’s unique factor that helps set itself apart from competitors
Let’s take Apple’s example. When it first entered the market, Apple wished to be considered a premium, high-quality tech product that offers an incredibly intuitive and user-friendly experience. For its positioning strategy to be successful, the company created a premium design and focused a lot on storytelling and emotions (among other things).
This way, they’ve managed to showcase that Apple is more than an exceptional product, it’s a lifestyle and a symbol of the most innovative technology out there – this was their unique factor.
Apple’s target audience is enthusiastic tech adopters who mainly buy these products for social status. Apart from Apple devices being among the most expensive ones, owning an Apple product gives people a sense of exclusivity and a mark that they only settle for state-of-the-art tech.
How to Formulate A Clear Value Proposition
The general assumption is that the value proposition should focus on the product. At the risk of sounding cliché, the hard truth is customers don’t care about your product; they care about what your product can do for them.
That’s why your value proposition should focus on a meaningful pain point or a memorable and enticing experience for your target audience.
For instance, despite its success and finding a market niche, Blackberry’s initial positioning statement focused on the product, and the outcome was a confusing target audience.
Their statement was: “To busy mobile professionals who need to always be in the loop, Blackberry is a wireless connectivity solution that allows you to stay connected to people and resources while on the go more easily and reliably than the competing technologies.”
It says a lot about the product but not much about the product’s effects, or the reason why someone would want to buy it.
At first, value propositions might sound scary or that they require lots of hard work. The good part is that they don’t have to sound too smart or perfect.
Keep in mind this is just one of the important exercises for you and your team to articulate your product and its main benefits better; your end users won’t see it as a tagline somewhere.
Tips To Articulate Your Value Proposition With Examples
Let’s take an example to help you better articulate the value your brand offers. Imagine your product is an accounting tool. Go through these 3 simple steps:
1. define what your product does
Example: you offer an accounting tool, but going further, this tool helps users to send and track invoices to their clients.
2. clearly define your product’s audience
Example: let’s say your product is dedicated to freelance workers, but to narrow it down, you can choose one category of freelance workers, maybe those who are just getting started on their freelance activity.
3. define the unique way your product offers a benefit
Example: the accounting tool provides easy integrations with most common payment systems, includes multi-currency and time-tracking features.
Taking all three statements above, you get this value proposition: ‘We help beginner freelancers easily convert work hours into invoices.’
This would be a super-simple version of crafting your value proposition. Here’s another template that goes a little more specific:
Taking the example from above, you’ll get a value proposition that goes something like: ‘To beginner freelancers, our product is the software that provides less friction because it automates all the invoicing work.’
Now that you have this figured out, let’s move on to your messaging.
What Is Brand Messaging
As its name suggests, messaging is all about what you communicate to your customers and how you want to pack the words and phrases that will translate into all your content marketing efforts.
Your messaging should reflect a unique style, personality, and tone of voice, from taglines to ads, website copy, or social media campaigns.
Your product messaging strategy can include:
- Product descriptions
- Product features
Here’s an example of strong messaging from Proton.me:
It directly addresses users, has no direct mention of the product and focuses on what its target audience looks for: digital privacy.
If we were to reverse engineer this messaging and go to the point where it started, the positioning statement was probably something along the lines: “our service offers privacy-oriented people peace of mind and less worries about online tracking when sending messages and emails.”
Now let’s see the differences between positioning and messaging.
Key Differences and Where Positioning and Messaging Overlap
Positioning and messaging are closely tied together, but the differences between them are:
- Positioning is an internal statement vs Messaging is the external communication
- Positioning happens before product launch vs Messaging starts when your product enters the market
- Positioning doesn’t need a perfect copy vs Messaging has to be spot-on, clear, and catchy
What both positioning and messaging have in common is they focus on the same:
- Target audience
- Pain points
- Differentiation element
Here’s what you should avoid when building your positioning and messaging.
Common Mistakes You Need to Avoid
Trying To Be Relevant for All Audiences
There’s no product or service that fits every kind of audience.
The trap of trying to make your positioning and messaging relevant for all audiences is counterproductive, and you might end up being relevant for no one.
Focus and build your positioning and messaging based on your user research. It reveals a specific buyer persona that tells you significant details about their age, social status, interests, etc.
Including Too Many Benefits
Even if your product is amazing and offers more than one clear benefit (which is usually the case with any product or service), presenting too many benefits will only confuse your customers.
Create your product’s core benefit around the differentiating element you settled for in your positioning stage. You’ll align positioning with messaging and make things clear for the audience.
Failing to Provide Product Proof Points
What you say about your product and how it helps users counts as much as proving that the stated benefit is for real. In other words, you need to provide proof that your product does what it says.
Failing to provide at least one proof point will not only lead to a lack of customer trust, but you’ll also witness all your marketing efforts go down the drain.
Examples of proof points include demos or demonstrations, testimonials, expert opinions, statistics, social proof.
Overpromising What You Can Deliver
When stating your product’s core benefit, the key element is to be as simple and specific as possible. That means you should not go over the top with your marketing copy and promise something that’s not attainable.
For instance, let’s say your product is a content generator tool that’s limited to 10 keyword searches per day. Your messaging should not state something like “you and your entire team can generate countless content ideas.” That would be an overpromise. Instead, your messaging could focus around the idea of “generate content ideas simple and quick.”
This advice applies even if your promise is directly related to a feature on your product roadmap that you’ll develop in the future. Focus on what your product can do at the present moment. You can always adjust your messaging once you have that amazing feature live.
Using Metaphors or Bold Comparisons
You’ve probably found many marketing examples or even company founders who used analogies like “our app is the Netflix of learning” or “our product is like Google but for online courses” when trying to define their product in simple words.
This happens when the product is too complex, so you need to help the audience resonate better by using this kind of metaphor. This is usually a risky path, for reasons like:
- You’re not genuinely telling your product’s story. Instead, you’re relying on users’ imagination and their own view and definition of the stated analogy; everyone knows the mechanics behind Netflix, but “Netflix of learning or online training” can mean different things to different people.
- You’re not building your own unique brand people can acknowledge and remember; customers will stick with an analogy in mind and might not dig further to discover precisely how your product can help them.
In fact, if you’ve reached the point of not being able to define your product effortlessly and straightforwardly, you can take it as a red flag that you need to work more on the value proposition.
That doesn’t mean you should never use these kinds of comparisons. Still, they shouldn’t be the core of your messaging and act more like a supportive argument or explanation of your product’s central concept.
What you need to consider to craft the right value proposition and messaging are the user persona and how your product can solve a problem for them. After that, don’t fall into the trap of trying to sound clever with content and communications; keeping it clear and simple always works better.
Positioning and messaging always go hand in hand and they need to align around the core details. Positioning always comes before any marketing effort, while messaging is part of the entire customer journey.
While you can start from the general idea behind your product or service, zero in on the unique elements and benefits it provides. This will help you avoid having generic messaging and marketing content, so you know you’re addressing and winning over your niche audience.