A positioning statement is the message you send to all levels of the market by how you position your product. Ideally, the statement compels the buyer to make the purchase. “If you buy a dozen of these cupcakes, we’ll give you 13 for the same price” — that’s a quantity position. “The price of this car includes servicing” – that’s a long-term, cost-reduction statement, and may also be a distinguishing statement if no others offer the same thing.
The idea of a positioning statement comes into play when you’re planning your brand strategy and thinking about how to market your brand. What positioning statement do you want to make?
- Through category choice. What is this product? What is its niche? Where do I put it? Is it hardware? Or jewelry? Within your product’s broad category, how is it distinguished from its competition? Then, how does it distinguish itself by name, price, and third-party endorsements? If it’s the most highly ranked camera in Consumer Reports, for example, it’s distinguished by holding the top position.
- By doing things first. If you’re the first to make a TV screen work as a computer monitor, or if you’re the first to produce a car that gets 65 miles to a gallon, you distinguishing your product within its niche. These are great positioning statements.
- Through its stance in the marketplace. The positioning statement is to a large degree about where the product, brand, and company stand in the marketplace. Progressive, Geico, and All-State Insurance companies are all trying to value- position themselves by making proclamations about giving you more for your money, rewarding good drivers, offering roadside assistance, and so on. Other companies might make a positioning statement distinguishing them as organized, dependable, honest, or authentic.
- By standing for quality or value — or both. Your positioning statement improves, of course, if it is both. Many Mercedes owners buy the brand exclusively. Is it because they want to be big shots? Not necessarily. Many say it is because they can’t afford not to, because Mercedes offers such good value for the dollar by outlasting most other cars. So it’s both quality and value. Whatever positioning statement you choose to use for your product, make sure it’s a position that is defensible. Toyota’s positioning statement was always one of value for the money – but then they had problems with their safety image. Now they have to reposition themselves. If you have a problem with your product, you may have to come up with a repositioning statement. Reiterating the original statement once you fall from grace is very hard, though some companies have successfully done it.
- Through Pricing. One of the most obvious price positioning statements in the wine business is Two Buck Chuck – it’s the low price leader. Opus One, on the other hand, uses its high price to send a message of quality – which, most will agree, it delivers. Retailers position seven-dollar items at $6.99 to make a price-positioning statement. Shoppers have proven that they prefer to buy something that its six dollars plus 99 cents over something of equal quality that is $7.00.
A positioning statement is all about messaging and orientation. In my experience, you telegraph your positioning statement via the messages you send. Your messages are made via the choices you make in all aspects of the market from pricing, packaging, value perception, economy, uniqueness, endorsements, and signage.
Of course, there’s much more that could be said on this subject. What’s been your experience? Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine, the largest selling wine brand in the nation, invites you to join the discussion on Positioning Statements with your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders