Positioning Statement – Definition

Cite this article as:"Positioning Statement – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated April 12, 2019, last accessed November 26, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/positioning-statement-definition/.


Positioning Statement Definition

A positioning statement refers to statement that tells a brand’s target consumer why the product is unique from other similar products in the market and the customer’s needs that it fulfills. The statement typically provides the central focus and direction of a company, and the unique reputation they intend to create for the brand.

Generally, a brand positioning statement is a crucial element to any marketing plan in order to set a product apart or differentiate it from the competition. It is like a slogan and will often be captured in advertisements primary to appeal to target consumers and compel them to take action and consequently increase sales.

A Little More on What is a Positioning Statement

A positioning statement might appear simple but it is a well thought through process and a product of positioning in a marketing plan. Positioning is when the marketing department deliberates on the image they want to create and the direction they need to take in order to occupy a certain market. A positioning statement is the slogan that guides that direction.

However, Positioning should not be confused with branding. Whereas, positioning identifies the target market and differentiates the product from competition, Branding on the other hand is about personality and the entire market perception about the product. Simply put, Branding helps drive the point in a positioning statement and product differentiation.

There is not a clear authority that states the origin and adoption of positioning statements as a marketing strategy. However, some renowned marketing scholars suggest that the concepts traces back to the period following World War I. It is believed that positioning statements influenced marketing greatly in the 1920s but was not codified as a distinctive strategy until the 1950s and 60s.

American advertising agencies, for instance J. Walter Thompson (JWT), focused on building personality, image and identity of brands from as early as 1915 which are concepts comparable to brand positioning. For instance, when JWT was contracted to handle the marketing for LUX soap, they repositioned the product to be associated with fine fabric and consequently expensive clothing. Initially the traditional view was that the soap is meant for only woolen garment.

Renowned marketing guru David Ogilvy is credited for developing the concept of positioning in marketing in the mid-50s. Ogilvy’s creative marketing teams were well versed with the concept and assisted several brands in occupying certain niche markets with their products. For instance, in 1957 they positioned Dove as beauty soap for women with dry skin. Later, in 1961 they successfully positioned SAAB as the best winter car. Interestingly, the positioning still works decades later and is more of a slogan for those companies to date.

Also, other marketing scholars like Al Ries and John Francis ‘Jack’ Trout are credited for devising positioning statements as a marketing concept. However, the assertion is challenged by others scholars such as Stephen A. Fox who disagrees and states that the duo only built on what already existed and made it a trademark.

Purpose of a Positioning Statement

Crafting a positioning statement serves numerous purposes in a marketing department some include:


  1. a) Commits the marketing team to research and understand their target customer attributes and

needs relative to the product.

  1. b) A positioning statement enables a company’s marketing team to identify their product differently from the competing product and subsequently weigh on competitive pressure.
  2. c) A positioning statement informs the marketing team the appropriate communication channel that will effectively reach the target consumers.
  3. d) Most importantly, a positioning statement helps the marketing team to convey the value added aspect of a product to the target market and what differentiates it from other similar products.
  4. e) Helps the marketing team deliberate and set the product pricing on certain grounds. For instance, if the target consumer is a low income earner, then the pricing will be set a little below the market average since low income earners are more concerned about pricing rather than quality most probably.

Developing the positioning statement

Drafting a positioning statement is part of a broader marketing plan that typically follows three steps namely segmentation, targeting and positioning. The procedure is sometimes referred to as the S-T-P method:

  • Market Segmentation – involves the marketing team grouping consumers into categories or segments.
  • Target market – involves choosing one of the categories or segments to be the focus that will drive sales for a particular product.

Positioning – This is where the creative marketing team identifies that aspect that differentiates the product from other similar competing products in the market. Product positioning  identifies certain features relative to the competition such as;

  • Functional positions looks at what problems does the product solve, the benefit it provides and the general perception by stakeholders.
  • A symbolic position tries to identify a product image enhancement, creating a unique identity and a social meaningfulness.
  • An experiential position, on the other hand, identifies both sensory and cognitive stimulation provided by the product.

Components to a positioning statement

There are four basic elements or components to a positioning statement:

  • Target Audience – who uses the product more often? They should be mentioned in the statement.
  • Frame of Reference – the market category in which the product is categorized should be mentioned so that consumers are aware on how to refer to the product
  • Benefit – What is that most appealing benefit that a brand completely provides that drives consumers to take action.
  • Reason to Believe – how has the brand been living up to what it promises, is there a convincing proof that drives customer loyalty.

It is good to encourage constructive criticism by the marketing team and subsequently incorporate the same to into drafting a positioning statement. Considering the above components, a template for a position statement could look like below;

For (target audience), (brand/product name) is the (frame of reference) that delivers (benefit) because only (brand name) is reason to believe).

The wordings to a positioning statement don’t have to exactly match the above template but should at least contain all the components identified in brackets. Also, the statement should be clear according to how the company wishes the product to be perceived in the market. Below is an example of Amazon positioning statement that was used exclusively in 2011:

“For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.”

Guidelines for Crafting Effective Positioning Statements

While drafting a positioning statement below are some guidelines to consider:

  • It should be simple to read and memorize by the target consumers.
  • It should create a clear picture that distinguishes the product from competitors.
  • The statement should be brutally honest and the product should deliver what the statement claims.
  • The brand should be the only one claiming the stated position and owning it.
  • It should be flexible to market changes and give room for growth to allow the position to be changed.
  • The statements should be able to assist the marketing department evaluate whether decisions made are in line with the brands positioning.

Important Questions to ask when examining your positioning statement:

Once a positioning statement has been drafted it’s better to leave it for a while, probably for a fortnight, and then the marketing team can later to evaluate it on certain criteria. Below are some suggestions:

  •         Is the message clear? It is a digital age and a message can be twisted if it’s vague and end up being misunderstood.
  •         Does the product design differentiate it from the competition? Design can be an added advantage to product positioning.
  •         Is the product unique to the target consumer and how is it of importance to them?
  •         Do the target consumers trust the positioning statement? Social media could be a good platform to get the feedback.
  •         Is the communication channel selected the most relevant to reach the target consumer? Consider all appropriate communication channels that will make the product get noticed.
  •         Is the positioning statement believable and does it inspire all company stakeholders to take action?
  •         Does the selection of wordings in the positioning statements bring forth the product competitive advantage?

Examples of Positioning Strategies

Product positioning is meant to make a product a market leader and reinforce a certain image with consumers. Companies may employ several strategies in order to achieve desired missions that may include:

1)      Price positioning

A company can use pricing strategies to appeal to consumers who are sensitive to price mostly middle and low income earners. The brand can set the price of its product below the average market price if it enjoys the economies of scales.

Alternatively, the company can create an image that associates the brand with highly priced items or services. This strategy exploits the psychological belief by consumers that an item set to be expensive is highly valuable.

2)      Positioning through quality

A company can maximize on a quality stance to gain market traction for their products. For instance, companies in the technical industry can focus on their superior engineering and identify themselves as producers of quality products in comparison to the competition.

Quality positioning strategies means that a product will be priced higher than the industry prices. The high pricing is due to probably an attempt to recoup the high expenses involved in quality production through sales.

3)      Demographics-Related positioning

A company can narrow its focus to certain demographics such as age or gender. For instance Dove soap was positioned as beauty soap for women. Similarly, in the beverage industry some drinks are positioned to target women, recently Mary Walker an alcoholic drink was introduced targeting women while the traditional brand Johnnie walker seems to be reserved for men.

4)      Benefit positioning

Generally, advocating for the benefits a product provides is the norm in brand positioning in order to attract sales. However, a brand needs to narrow down or highlight a unique benefit that no similar competing product has yet claimed.

For instance, Colgate manufacturer glaxo-smith built the toothpaste brand on a benefit positioning strategy. The company promised Colgate would prevent gingivitis and cavities an attribute no competing toothpaste had claimed.

5)      Problem and Solution positioning

A product can be positioned as solving common problem that faces consumers’ every day. For instance precooked noodles as solving the pressures of time and energy required to prepare a meal by providing a simple and faster solution.

6)      Celebrity-Driven positioning

Luxury items can be positioned by celebrity appeal. Getting a celebrity to endorse a certain product can lead to increased sales and even opening up new markets. Consumers who emulate celebrities may find it easy to purchase a product endorsed by their favorite personality.

7)      Positioning by repositioning(competitor based positioning)

Repositioning is a competitive based positioning strategy that employs counter strategies by the marketing team. The aim of a repositioning strategy is to change the product view in the minds of targeted consumers in relation to a major competing product claim.

One example of a repositioning statement is by Avis’ in the1960s when they developed an advertising campaign to alter the image of it competitor Hertz. The company’s slogan was “Avis is only number 2. We try harder.”

References for Positioning Statement

Academic Research on Positioning Statement

Writing a brand positioning statement and translating it into brand design, Calder, B. J. (2012). Kellogg on Marketing, 92-111. The paper discusses the possible steps to be considered when deliberating on the positioning statement and how to implement the statement into a unique brand design relative to the competition.

What is a “positioning statement”, Gospe Jr, J. M. (2011). What is a “positioning statement”. an excerpt). The article tries to define what a positioning statement is all about and the strategies that are employed in positioning a product and how a positioning statement determines the strategy used.

Positioning Statement, Mikrut, S. The article looks at how the marketing team can craft an effective positioning statement that sells the company’s vision for a product clearly.

The positioning statement: Have one before you start communicating, Kanzler, F. (1998). Public Relations Quarterly, 42, 18-22. The paper discusses the importance of having a positioning statement that clearly communicates the company’s mission for a particular brand and the image they intend to have the brand communicate to the broader market segment consuming the product.

The positioning statement for hotels, Lewis, R. C. (1981). Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 22(1), 51-61. The paper examines a positioning statement and the selling points it creates in terms of expectation by clients in the hospitality industry and how it provides a competitive advantage in terms of communicating a unique benefit or profile, supported by tangible clues, to a specific target market.

… analysis of brochures, booklets and web sites was used. One, Hong Kong, makes extensive use of food as part of its core positioning statement. The other, Turkey …, Okumus, B., Okumus, F., & McKercher, B. (2007). The paper presents studies on hotels in different parts of the world that did use Content analysis of brochures, booklets and web sites to position them differently and the valuable lessons gathered.

Positioning Statement, Jun, S. Y., Cha, T., Aggarwal, P., Haley, L. M., Grant, E. S., Yoon, K., … & Plank, R. E. (2011). The article looks at positioning strategies that can be adopted  in order to develop a focused positioning statement that delivers on what it states creating customer loyalty in the long run.

Positioning Statement, Foreman, J., Donthu, N., Henson, S., Poddar, A., Curran, J. M., Healy, B. C., … & Vivek, S. D. (2014). The paper describes what a positioning statement is and presents guideline on how to create a clear, memorable statement that appeals to the target consumers and drives them to take action.

Positioning Statement, Voss, K. E., Jiménez, F. R., Mayo, M., Mallin, M. L., Ashley, C., Ligas, M., … & Webster, C. (2010). The paper looks at key factors to consider while drafting a position statement and suggest practical guidelines to ensure the marketing team come up with an effective positioning strategy.

Positioning Statement, Carlson, B. D., Frankwick, G. L., Cumiskey, K. J., Poletti, M. J., Engelland, B. T., Ling, H. G., … & Sousa, C. M. (2011). The article examines what a positioning statement is and its importance and/ or relevance to a marketing plan by an organization.


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