Positioning statements and taglines: Crafting the foundation of your brand strategy.

Posted August 7, 2017 in by

When you’re creating a new brand (or refreshing an old one), there is obviously much to consider. There’s the brand architecture, nomenclature, values, brand positioning statement, visual guidelines and more.

We are of the opinion that the positioning statement and tagline are the most important.

Why? Because the positioning statement drives your strategy, and the tagline concisely communicates your core brand message to your audiences. These two concentrated nuggets have the job of conveying your entire brand and the basis of your brand strategy in just a few words.

Here are some tips on how to craft a new brand positioning statement or how to refresh your existing brand tagline.

Purpose of a positioning statement in marketing

Your positioning statement is internal. Its purpose is to guide the marketing, production and operational decisions of your company. You should be able to use a positioning statement as a litmus test to whether any decision is on-brand.

Positioning statement examples

Some famous positioning statements include:

  • Target: Style on a budget.
  • Volvo: For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety.
  • Home Depot: The hardware department store for do‑it‑yourselfers.

Whatever products Target supplies, social offers they make, mobile functionality they offer, they have to ask themselves: “Does this help us provide style on a budget?” Disciplined, company-wide adherence to a clear, easy-to-understand positioning statement internally is key to building long-term brand value.

From positioning statement to tagline

A tagline, by comparison, is consumer facing. It is the distillation of the positioning statement into a catchy, memorable snapshot of the brand that conveys both the benefit and the personality.

Brand tagline examples

Look at the taglines of the brands mentioned before and see if you can tell how they were laddered up to the positioning statements.

target-tagline-expect-more-pay-less

  • Target: Expect more. Pay less.
  • Volvo: For life.
  • Home Depot: You can do it. We can help.

Start with positioning statement templates

Positioning statements and taglines don’t just fall out of thin air. In order to make sure that the positioning statement is saying all that it needs to say (without trying to say too much), try this formula below from Al Ries’ and Jack Trout’s classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Template

[NAME OF BUSINESS] is [KIND OF PRODUCT OR SERVICE] for [KIND OF PEOPLE].

Example

De Cecco brand pasta, for example, uses: De Cecco is the premium pasta for serious chefs.

For a more in-depth structure that accounts for several insights gathered from research or account planning, try the following template from Marty Neumeier’s ZAG.

Template

What: The only [category]
How: that [differentiation characteristic]
Who: for [customer]
Where: in [geographic location]
Why: who [need state]
When: during [underlying trend]

Example

Harley Davidson used this to determine their positioning statement, which is:

  • The only motorcycle manufacturer
  • That makes big, loud motorcycles
  • For macho guys (and “macho wannabes”)
  • Mostly in the United States
  • Who want to join a gang of cowboys
  • In an era of decreasing personal freedom.

A little long? Yes. But it gives you a crisp, precise picture of what the company does and who they do it for. And it’s easy to see how this generates the brand tagline: American by birth. Rebel by choice.

harley-davidson-positioning-statement

Test your message

Using a template gives you a good starting point for a positioning statement. But in the end, just looking at it and asking yourself, “Does this sound like us?” is going to be the test of whether you’ve succeeded. This is even more true with a tagline. Try your tagline out on strangers, who know nothing about your company, and ask them for gut reactions. Consumers act on gut reactions, so for your oft-repeated brand snapshot, that’s the reaction that matters.

This post has been updated and was originally published on November 8, 2012.

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