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Messaging vs. Positioning: Defining These Go-to-Market Staples

Posted by Emily Dumas on Fri Aug 16, 2019 08:00 AM

If you have ever found yourself instantly drawn to a particular product, it is probably due to a highly effective campaign from the company’s marketing team. That campaign began with an internal strategy that included positioning the product in front of your eyes and then pulling you in with a powerful, luring message.

Positioning and messaging are both essential elements of successful product promotion. While they differ in their methodology, they form the nucleus of a product or service launch. How does each element play a role, and how do they work together? 

Positioning

Positioning helps you articulate how your product or service is unique and why it is better than the competition. Positioning establishes where your company fits in your market and how you will succeed long-term. 

Your goal in positioning is to identify how your team will communicate your product or service to your audience based on factors such as:

  • Demographics
  • Specific needs / pain points
  • Values
  • How your product is unique

Positioning provides a structural guide for your team. It helps you determine what product features you will highlight, how you price your product, or how you will craft your message. It sets the stage for your entire agenda before you launch your product.

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Putting Together a Positioning Strategy

Positioning creates a strong foundation for your strategy that begins with releasing the product or service and continues with every subsequent action. Your strategy should include elements such as:

  • How your product will fit into the market
  • The core benefits of your product or service
  • How positioning will meet your company goals
  • How to assess if your messaging is reaching the target

Positioning gives your team the ability to provide measurable benchmarks and goals so that you can see how well your efforts are performing against the competition. It eliminates any guesswork and helps you to refine your efforts as you go.

Characteristics of a Strong Positioning Strategy

Relevant

The strategy you choose should be relevant according to the needs or desires of your buyer persona. If you do not make a relevant connection with the buyer, then you will lose them, regardless of how good your product is.

Clarity

You should position your product image and message so that it is clear and easy to understand. There should be no ambivalence at all in what the customer is purchasing and why they should purchase it from you.

Unique

In a crowded market full of competitors, your goal should be to stand out, not just compete. What makes your product or service unique? What do you have to offer that no one else is providing? The customer should be able to see a distinct difference between your brand and your competition’s brand.

Desirable and Deliverable 

One of the best ways to position your product is to give buyers what they want and fulfill the promise to deliver it. Your product should meet or exceed all expectations, including design, performance, and dependability.

Messaging

Now that you have positioned your product for a successful launch, it is time to decide what you are going to say about it to your audience. Messaging consists of a few statements that reinforce why you have a great product or service to offer. It highlights the key points that you want your buyers to remember and act upon.

The positioning sets the strategy, and the messaging is the avenue by which that strategy is articulated to the market. The positioning is not likely to change frequently, while the messaging could be altered and optimized more often. The only difference between the two is that positioning is likely to stay the same, while the message will evolve.

For instance, Coca-Cola has consistently positioned itself as the beverage of choice for people who like refreshing, carbonated drinks. For this reason, it is still one of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world. Coca Cola positions itself in the following ways:

  • It is the ultimate symbol of pleasure and happiness.
  • The company speaks to consumers at a personal and local level.
  • Socialization is at the heart of Coca-Cola’s identity. Coke is an experience that is meant to be shared.
  • Nostalgia is a key positioning strategy. Coke has been around for a long time.

How does the messaging reflect positioning? Consider their slogans over the years:

  • 1886 – “Delicious and refreshing”
  • 1923 – “Enjoy thirst”
  • 1963 – “Things go better with Coke”
  • 1969 – “It’s the real thing”
  • 1979 – “Have a Coke and a smile”
  • 1989 – “Official soft drink of summer”
  • 2001 – “Life tastes good”
  • 2009 – “Open happiness”

While Coke’s slogans and messaging have changed over the years, their positioning hasn’t changed at all. Consumers identify Coke as a definitively refreshing carbonated beverage. They reach buyers on a visceral level by continuing to promote the product through powerful messaging.

Characteristics of Strong Messaging

Inside Out Approach

When framing your messaging, start from the inside out. What is the core message you want to convey? You may want to create a hierarchy or pyramid that starts with a single concept and then prioritizes all other concepts. Try to limit your main message to three to five key statements.

Tell Your Story

Each statement should tell your story and highlight the truth about your product or service. What is it about your brand or product that connects with people? What does it promote? How does it benefit people? What is it that drives your company to create this product? Telling your story gives flesh and blood to your offering.

Create a Movement

Have you ever noticed how some brands give the appearance of starting a cultural revolution? Tesla, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Disney have all created a world within a world. Who are your people, and how is your messaging reinforcing their loyalty to your brand? How does it differ from your competitors?

Keep It Simple and Direct

Your messaging must be clear and concise. Your wording should be compelling, using as few words as possible. You do not want your target audience to overthink when considering your product. There should be a clear and quick path between what they see and the decision to buy.

Positioning your brand and crafting the right message is a process that can involve several team members, some trial and error, and several weeks of thinking and rethinking your strategy. You may even want to test your product or strategy on the market before the official launch. You may go through several drafts and revisions until you finally come up with a workable plan. Make sure that your values are clear, be prepared to adjust your position and messaging as needed, and be specific and realistic in what you can deliver. Doing so will give you sure footing as you compete in your market.

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Product Marketing

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