Posts Tagged ‘Positioning’

One of the most frequently voiced complaints I hear about marketing is that it’s “squishy.”  People have trouble drawing a connection between the research, branding, positioning and communications that we do into real-world, value creating action.  One of my favorite illustrations of how a company successfully has translated “theory” into “action” is a recent advertising campaign from Symantec.  

The messaging in the advertising focuses on the customer – what their concerns and fears might be surrounding security.  Then, they created scenarios that illustrate their fears — but not in a frightening way.  Instead, they opted for entertainment value to create memorable scenarios that drive home their key messages without intimidating their viewers.

The TV commercials in the campaign showcase scenarios of cybercrime (watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avG0Eh-Uq2g).  For example, in “The Bank of Nikolai” you meet Nikolai, a cyber thief.  He tells you that he has a bank, it’s very safe and if you give him your money, it will be very safe — “right here, in my front pocket.”  The video closes with Symantec’s key message for that commercial — a statistic about cybercrime, “Cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal moneymaker.” 

Symantec effectively created an entire series of these commercials that showcase their key messages.  They have been very effective in communicating these messages in an entertaining way and on a medium (YouTube) that makes it easy to forward the video to your friends.

Symantec did one thing very well — they focused on translating all that research, positioning and messaging into something tangible that created value for their company.  Bravo!


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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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You have a great idea for a company, product, or service and you want to make your mark.  You want the world to know how revolutionary, helpful, or significant it is so that they will participate in it, or buy it, or let all their friends know about it.  You want to create a wave of interest so that your product is successful.  Basically, you want to build a brand.

So what’s in a brand?  The dictionary will tell you that the word “brand” is a noun, adjective, or verb that means “label” or “mark.”  But as marketers, we know that a brand is so much more.  To build the multidimensional thing known as a brand, you’ll need to incorporate several components:

  • Look and feel.   How your company, product, or service appeals to the senses.  It may include the logo, colors, packaging, product design, texture, user experience, or other distinctive physical attributes.
  • Product features.  Attributes of the product such as the task it performs or services it provides.
  • Product benefits.  Advantages your product delivers to consumers which will solve their problems or otherwise improve their lives.
  • Perception.  This is the “holy grail” of branding.  How do you want your consumers to feel about your product?  What do you want them to think about the product?  The perception that your consumer has about the product is the most important function of branding because it is the reason most consumers will buy or re-purchase your product.  Your consumers may not remember the product features or benefits, but they will have a perception about it.  Most of brand building is perception management – and messaging both captures and conveys that perception.

In other words:

Look + Features + Benefits + Perception = Brand

In my next post, I’ll go deeper into Brand Perception.

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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 August 4, I presented Stage 3 of the messaging process, Finalize and Validate.  It was focused on finalizing your brand and message architecture and validating it’s messaging with a test group.  Today, I discuss what do to next — get the word out through Evangelism.


Evangelism is a term that became part of the high technology lexicon when Apple Computer introduced it’s developer evangelism organization in the ’80’s.  It’s mission wasn’t just to get the word out – it was to engage the software developer community so completely that Apple became a religion to them.  Do you think it worked?

Getting the Word Out – Tactics

You’ll need to get the message out to audiences inside your organization as well as the target audiences outside your organization.

Internally, you’ll need to gauge the scope of your message and who is affected.  In some cases, you’ll want the entire company to know.  In others, only select groups, like marketing, product management and customer service.  Consider carefully how you are going to communicate to these audiences.  Will it be at a group meeting?  Will it be via Web conference or email?

For external audiences, your marketing and PR folks will be able to take the ball — they do this for a living.  Marketing people will incorporate the messages into printed materials, tradeshows & events, and online properties.  PR folks will set up media and analyst briefings, press releases, and social media distribution.  

Then comes the question – how do you deliver the new messaging?  The only people that should receive the actual brand and message architectures you created would be your marketing and PR organizations.  This is because the format and content of the architectures are exactly what they need to incorporate the messaging into their communications materials. 

For other audiences, it’s a different story – literally.  You’ll want to weave a story appropriate to each audience.  The questions that these audiences will have are:

  • Why did you create this messaging – what is the history?
  • How does it relate to me (in sales, customer service, product management, etc.)?
  • Why do I care?  What will the impact be on me and my job?
  • What do I do with the new messaging?

In other words, you need to put the new messaging in context and “connect the dots” for each audience to show them why the new messaging is relevant to them and will make them successful.

If you do this — you will be successful.

Getting the word out will have tactical components, yes.  But do you need them to feel a sense of urgency, exhilaration and excitement — so that you can create momentum and carries your organization into something greater?

Getting the Word Out – WooWoo Mojo

To take you from “getting the word out” to “evangelism” you need to engage your audiences by appealing to their emotions.  If you do that, the message will take on viral power and spread much more quickly and pervasively.

There are several ways to appeal to emotions. 

One is to give your audience the sense that they are participating in something greater than themselves.  Something that is so compelling that they feel they must engage.  From the disaster of Apollo 13 (“Failure is not an option!”) to the U.S. Revolutionary War (“We have not yet begun to fight!”) to enlisting the altruism of a generation (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”), history is filled with examples of this kind of motivation.

Another way to appeal to the emotions is to rollout the showmanship and drama.  Yes, drama.  Put on a show, turn a phrase, create some excitement.  Steven Jobs is a master of this.  But so are Tony Robbins, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin — all of these personalities excel at creating a sense of “I better get on board now or I’m gonna miss out!”

What will your audiences miss out on if they don’t step up?  Share it with them — with a little flash and razzmatazz.  Then, watch what happens.  Who knows?  That ball may never stop rolling….

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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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