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Want a better brand? It’s a matter of position.

It’s important to understand that your brand is more than just a name or a symbol. It’s a culmination of a consumer’s interactions, expectations, memories, and relationships that, taken together, account for their decision to choose one offering over another.

Put simply, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Companies with great brands don’t happen by accident. They have a strong, clear focus on how they want the world to perceive them. Everything they do, from the way they design their products to the way they market them to the service they provide, is all geared toward delivering a consistent and credible brand experience.

One of the most powerful ways to shape the way your brand is perceived is by establishing a well-defined brand positioning statement. A brand positioning statement is a few carefully crafted words that articulate the essence of who you are, why you exist, and what makes your brand unique and special. It provides a unifying lens that brings a focus to everything your organization does — from day-to-day decision-making to long-term business planning.

Don’t confuse a brand positioning statement with other aspects of your brand identity. Mission, vision and values statements are all important, but they are often geared toward helping internal stakeholders understand the organization’s reason for existing, what the organization believes and how its people should behave. A brand positioning statement is about shaping the perception of your brand with external audiences.

Companies that carefully craft a brand positioning statement are often more likely to present their brand in a consistent and credible way, in turn building more equity and value in their brands.

Take Starbucks for example. When Howard Schultz took the helm in the early 1980s, he understood that coffee was most often consumed at home or at the office. So he set out to position Starbucks as “the third place” in someone’s daily routine — a warm and welcoming place for people to gather and connect over a cup of coffee.

By positioning the brand in such a fashion, everything Starbucks did was designed around the customer experience, from comfortable furniture to the mug coffee was served in to the style of music that was played. Later, free WiFi became an important piece of the puzzle. This positioning was so easy to understand that everyone from the CEO to the barista was able to embrace it and deliver on it.

The third place wasn’t a gimmicky marketing slogan. It didn’t appear as a tagline in advertising campaigns or on product packaging. It was simply an authentic and ownable translation of who Starbucks was and who they aspired to be.

Sure, Starbucks could have positioned itself around convenience, customer service or quality, but by establishing a well-crafted positioning geared toward true differentiation, it was able to transcend its brand into something much more and masterfully set itself apart.

Whether you need help refreshing your brand to better communicate what you stand for or to set the stage for a pivotal transformation in your company’s history, establishing a brand positioning statement can be one of the most important steps you take toward creating lasting brand value and business growth.

Not only will taking the time to refine your strategic brand positioning help you clarify who you are and where you’re going, it will help you articulate a roadmap for the future and help you become more efficient and effective in the way that you market your business.

What’s your company’s “third place”?

Nick Swartz is director of brand strategy for Klunk & Millan Advertising in South Whitehall Township.

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