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  • brucemckinnon


Updated: Jul 17, 2020

In the second of my series on the four steps to building a brand strategy we are going to look at why it’s essential to know what is at the heart of your brand, and be able to express it in a word or two. 

Here’s a quick exercise. Using only one word, sum up the following brands: Volvo, Amazon, and LinkedIn. I’m not suggesting you will know exactly what each one stands for but you’ll have an idea. 

Done it? For me, Volvo means safety, Amazon is convenience and LinkedIn means connections. However, a quick glance at the advertising and website for Volvo does not reveal any headlines about safety, nor can I find convenience written large on the Amazon site or connections on LinkedIn. I would not expect to either, because the brand positioning lies at the heart of a brand, and what you see on the surface is an expression of that heart. 

What is brand positioning? 

The role of brand positioning is to define how the brand is positioned in the minds of the team responsible for delivering it – defining in effect the essence of the organisation – to express in one or two words, what makes it tick, what makes the brand unique. As a customer, you see the direction the brand is being taken by how the brand behaves, what it delivers and how it communicates with you, all of which will be directed, to some degree, by the brand positioning.

Who is it for?

The brand strategy’s number one customer is the team responsible for delivering it and they need to know that it has been developed from the most significant truth about the organization. The brand positioning acts as a reassurance that the brand strategy has been born from truth, that it is authentic, “it is us”. It can be used as an internal benchmark to measure any brand strategy activity against that brand positioning – for example, does this message/planned activity/new visual reflect our positioning? 

But why only a word or two?

It’s my experience that you should aim to communicate the positioning in one or two words. Just like reducing a sauce, the more you reduce, the more concentrated and flavoursome it becomes. And so the more you can reduce your word count, the more concentrated the power of the words will become. In effect, if I only have a couple of words to sum up the brand, I’ll have to do some hard work and prioritize what the most important words are. The more you can reduce your word count, the more concentrated the power of the words will become.

This second step is all about capturing what lies at the heart of a brand - and when you get that right, when it resonates with the culture, when it is distinctive and compelling, the brand positioning is a great creative catalyst for developing the direction and expression of the brand. The next blog will look at step 3, the brand proposition - how you express the positioning to your customers. 

To receive free content and a chance to win a copy of What’s Your Point?, Bruce's award-winning book on brand strategy, click here.

As well as the four steps, the book explores how brand strategy can fuel business growth, referencing some of the world’s most successful brands as well as sharing case studies from his own global consulting practice

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