Archive for the ‘Positioning Statement’ Category

A brand messaging architecture is the first thing you should develop to help you manage your brand image and communications.  It is primarily used by internal departments and external vendors (such as PR firms) who communicate externally to customers, partners, and influencers.  The brand messaging architecture is a formal structure that summarizes and communicates messages about your company, products, and services. 

There are a lot of components to messaging and not all of them will be needed for every brand messaging architecture.  Depending upon your situation, you will choose from the following components to develop the messaging that you need:

– Vision Statement
– Mission Statement
– Positioning Statement
– Value Proposition
– Key Messages
– Proof Points

Here’s an example of a brand messaging architecture for a global non-profit professional association, the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (it’s an older version of the brand architecture, so I can share it).

Example: Brand Messaging Architecture

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Branding is as much an art as science.  As a science, there are the “to do’s” of branding which encompass processes and procedures for marketing a product.  As an art, branding is about influencing and managing perception on a grand scale, a much trickier proposition.

So it’s clear there is a lot to building a brand.  Now, where do you start?

Before you create that product launch, media event, or advertising campaign, you’ll need to be clear about who you want to talk to, what you want to say to them, and how you want them to feel about it.  In addition, consumers should be hearing the same messages about your product from all parts of your organization.  So, if you are selling an apple, it wouldn’t be good if some people in your organization describe the apple as red, juicy, and delicious, but others are talking about how great apple trees are for planting in a garden.

My new book, Before the Brand, contains a process that will help you create a messaging baseline for your company, product, or service.  I developed the process over the course of many years providing messaging for high technology companies such as Apple, Adobe, and Cisco.

But the value in the process described in Before the Brand isn’t simply the solid foundation you will create with positioning and messaging.  Rather, one of the most significant values of the messaging process itself is that it’s experiential.  You will take the people who know and care about your company, product, or service through a step by step process that results in alignment of participants – from company executives and stakeholders to partners and customers.  In addition to creating alignment – and therefore making it easier to communicate consistently – participants will also consciously debate what kind of perception they want to create in the mind of your consumer.

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It’s been a while since my last blog post, and that’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my new ebook!

I am truly excited to announce the publication of  “Before the Brand: Using Positioning and Messaging to Build Brand Identity.” 

Think about it.  How is your brand perceived?  Unless you consciously define your brand, your customers will create their own perception. This book helps you take control of your brand by defining what your brand is before your marketplace does.  It contains a step-by-step process to create positioning, value propositions and messaging, making it much easier to influence customer perception of your brand.

To learn more, or to purchase a copy ($10 USD), click here.

And there is another change you may have noticed.  My blog brand has changed from “Marketing Magic” to “Before the Brand.”  I’ve had so much interest in the intricacies of positioning and messaging that I’ve evolved this blog to cover that topic more fully.  In upcoming posts, you will learn:

  • How to create a value proposition
  • How to manage brand perception
  • How to position your product
  • What the difference is between vision statements and mission statements
  • …. and much, much more!

I’m pleased to bring my subscribers new, useful tools to help them in their day-to-day work.  Go forth, and make your mark!

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On July 14, I presented Part 2 of how to conduct a Strategy Workshop, centered around the agenda and how to get the attendees engaged and creating the Positioning Statement.  Today, I discuss post-workshop activity, including finalizing and validating the messaging you’ve created.


Now that you completed the first two phases of the messaging process, Discovery and the Strategy Workshop, you’ll move into the final phase.  in this phase, you will finalize the messaging, then validate it with key influencers to be sure that you have hit the mark.

Finalizing the Messaging

To finalize the messaging, review the positioning statement that the participants created in the Strategy Workshop.  You may want to word-smith it a bit to make it flow more smoothly.  Then, taking the positioning statement and the information gathered during the Discovery phase, you should have enough information to draft the following two deliverables:

  1. Brand Architecture.  This consists of the Positioning Statement, Key Messages and Proof Points, and, if your messaging process was extensive, you may also have developed a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Tagline.  Read my post from April 8, 2010, for more detail on creating a the Brand Architecture.
  2. Messaging Document.  These are commonly used by company executives to stay in alignment on messages around different products and services.  But they are primarily used by PR people and marketing people to produce marcom materials.  They usually consist of the following information:
    • Boilerplates:  25 and 50 word descriptions of the topic.
    • Specific Messages:  Then you’ll produce messages in the following format for Industries, Audiences, Partners, and Customers:
      • Introduction
      • 3 Key Messages
      • Descriptive Paragraph

Read my post from April 14, 2010, for more detail on creating a Messaging Document.

Messaging Validation

Next, it’s time to test your messages to see if:  a) they capture the points you were trying to make, b) they communicate what you are trying to say clearly and succinctly, and c) they resonate with your key audiences.

Most validation processes are not fancy.  It may be as simple as sending the document to a select group of people who can represent the interests of core audiences or industries.  In more elaborate messaging processes, you can actually conduct a formal validation, with surveys, demos and even focus groups.  It all depends upon the scale — and strategic value — of the project you have undertaken.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to evangelize your new messages.  After all, if you create them and no one uses them, then what was the point in creating them?

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On July 6, I introduced the second stage of the messaging process, the Strategy Workshop.  Today, I dig into the workshop in more detail by reviewing the workshop agenda.



I like to segment the agenda for the day into two three-hour segments, with about a 90 minute break in the middle.  This enables the participants to focus on the process and produce results — while giving them time during the long break to not only eat, but to catch up on phone calls, etc. 

The trigger for discussion (and ultimately, decision making) is a review of the Discovery findings, which has seven sections.   The Discovery findings are presented using the format of the positioning statement, and we discuss trends, gaps and review relevant quotes from the interviews.  Then, as a group, we discuss what the answer to that section of the positioning statement will be.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds.  It goes like this:

Section 1:  Define Specific Market

The positioning statement opens with a phrase describing the specific market for which the product or service is intended.  In the Discovery Interview Guide, we capture what the content of the phrase should be by answering the following questions:

For: [define specific market]

 1)     What is the target market?

2)      How do you segment that market?

3)      Who are the decision makers (role/title)? 

In the Strategy Workshop, you’ll review the answers to these questions from not only the people that you interviewed, but also from Web sites and other collateral which discusses the target market for the product or service.    Then, guide them through the Discovery findings:

  • Trends:  Commonalities.
  • Gaps:  Disconnects or gaps in knowledge/opinion.
  • Relevant Quotes:  These can frequently be the most revealing, especially the quotes from company executives and industry influencers.

While you are reviewing this information, there should be a lot of discussion among the group.  If there isn’t, prompt them with open ended questions like, “What do you think?” “Do you agree?” “Is this a trend or gap?”  I find it’s most effective to just let the group talk — not over each other, of course, but with one another.  After they’ve said what they have to say, then it’s your job to take them to the next level.  This is where you ask the six million dollar question:

“Let’s complete the phrase.  What should it say?”

Then, guide the group through the process of completing the phrase.

Total time on each section of the positioning statement will take about 45 minutes.  I like to cover four sections in the first half of the workshop, take a break, and return to the final three sections in the second half.

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On June 19, I discussed the Discovery Analysis aspect of the messaging process.  In this post, I pick up where that post left off as we launch into the second stage of the messaging process, which is the Strategy Workshop.


Prepare for the Strategy Workshop

When you started the messaging process, you will have selected and involved team members based upon role (see my post June 16).  For most projects, team roles boil down to (in order of depth of contribution):  Team Leaders, Core Team, Extended Team and Influencers.  This implies a hierarchy of importance by role and helps prioritize the weight given to input and involvement for each team member.

The people that are usually invited to the Strategy Workshop are the Team Leaders, Core Team, and select Influencers who are essential to buy-in for the new messaging.  About a week prior to the Strategy Workshop, you’ll distribute the Discovery findings to attendees for review.  The workshop will take about six hours, so I like to structure 3 hours in the morning, a long mid-day break, and then 3 hours in the afternoon.

Purpose of the Strategy Workshop

The purpose of the Discovery stage is to find the patterns and trends of messaging and to identify any gaps.  Gaps are those items where opinion, information or messages diverge or don’t exist.

The purpose of the Strategy Workshop is to get everyone moving in the same direction.   As the leader of the process, you’ll need to bring a very different mind-set to the workshop than what you brought to the Discovery stage.  In the Discovery stage, you gathered and analyzed information.  In the Strategy Workshop, you’ll unveil the patterns, trends and gaps and will be seeking to bring people together, resolve differences, and get everyone going down the same path.  I call it the “Pied Piper” effect, with one key difference — you may not know where you will end up.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Happily, there is a way to get everyone moving in the same direction — focus them on a task.  In this case, it is the task of putting a positioning statement together (check out my blog on March 30 regarding positioning statements).  This isn’t an arbitrary move.  Firstly, focusing everyone on a task engages them in the process and in the end they will feel not only a sense of their own contribution, but they will also feel ownership in the messaging itself.  This is why and how organizational alignment is one of the primary impacts of a messaging process.

Secondly, the task focuses attendees on creating the postioning statement because it is the foundation of all messaging.  Essentially, a positioning statement aggregates all elements of a marketing plan and addresses all the questions that a prospect or customer will have about your message: the target audience, the value proposition and the competitive differentiation.  So, you can already see that this session was aptly named a Workshop — it’s definitely not “death by PowerPoint” and attendees will be continually engaged.

In my next post, I’ll walk through the agenda for the Strategy Workshop and how to guide the team in building a positioning statement.

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In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  In my last post, June 16, I discussed the messaging process in general — it’s advantages and components.  In this post, I dig deeper into the execution of the messaging process.  The execution of the process begins with the Discovery phase.


In the Discovery phase,  the “legwork” of the messaging process begins.  It is the most complex and involved phase because its scope is elastic, based upon what you “discover” as you go along.  The objectives of this phase, however, are very clear:  1) to create a picture of the current situation and 2) to evaluate and present your findings to the core team.

Information is gathered by auditing internal and external communications and conducting discovery interviews with a select group of company executives, team members, and company influencers.

Critical here is the concept of relevant messages.  Basically, any messages that your customers remember about you, new or old, are relevant and should be collected as part of this process.

Communications Audit

For the internal audit, start by gathering internal documentation and presentations on company, product, and service strategies, because messages you create should support and evangelize those strategies.  Then, check out company and partner intranets, and private communities.

For the external audit, there are a broad range of information sources to tap, including, but not limited to:

  • Public Web site
  • Partner Web sites that contain information about your company, product, or service
  • Press releases and published articles
  • Analyst communications, if relevant
  • Multimedia:
    • Commercials, Web seminar recordings, Podcasts
    • External blogs
    • Company-sponsored as well as industry-specific communities
    • Social networks – Facebook, Twitter, etc., and other, industry-specific social networks
    • Buzz sites:  Association Web sites and other influential media sources that customers, partners and employees refer to regularly

Discovery Interviews

The goal of discovery interviews is to collect perceptions, opinions, and insider knowledge that impacts the way your company, products, and services are perceived in the marketplace.  But the impact of the discovery interviews doesn’t just rest in the information that is gathered.

The interviews also engage executives and internal influencers in the process, thus enlisting their unspoken support in the messaging process, simply because you’ve elicited their input.  During these interviews expect to uncover additional people who need to be interviewed as well as additional questions that need to be either added to the interview questionnaire, or brought to the core team for guidance.

Tool:  Discovery Interview Questionnaire

The discovery questionnaire is organized in the format of the Positioning Statement, so there are certain questions that will be consistent to every messaging process.  You will naturally want to customize the questionnaire as needed.  I have a base-line discovery questionnaire that I use, but since I can’t post files on my blog, here is a guideline for you to reference as you create your own questionnaire.  Since I frequently send the questionnaire to the person I interview prior to our discussion, I usually put a brief description of the project and the purpose behind it.

Interview Guide

For: [define specific market]

 1)     What is the target market?

2)      How do you segment that market?

3)      Who are the decision makers (role/title)? 

 Who Need: [compelling need]

 4)      What are the needs of the decision makers in your target market? (Probe by target market segment.)

But: [capture pain points]

5)      What is preventing the decision makers from getting their need met?

6)      Do the decision makers know there is a solution for their compelling need?

 Our offering is: [category]

7)      What is the category of your offering?  (Is it a product, service, technology, other?)

 Including: [components]

 8)      What components does it contain (if relevant)?

 That: [your value]

9)      What is the greatest value that your offering delivers to your target market?

 Which: [overall benefit]

 10)  What is the key benefit of that value for your target market?

 Unlike: [define competitive category or companies]

11)  Who are your competitors?

12)  What is your competitive category?

Our Company: [your competitive differentiators]

 1)      What are your strengths and opportunities relative to the competition?

  • Strengths
  • Opportunities


In my next post, I’ll review how to consolidate and analyze the information you have collected.

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