In my first column for TechRepublic, I covered the importance of brand identity—who you are and what you are to your potential customers. In my second installment, I spoke of the importance of your logo and how that symbol represents your business in relationship to your brand identity. A good logo automatically tells the viewer what your company does and offers a glimpse of the corporate personality.

In this column, I’m going to focus on the next step in building a good marketing foundation for a business—your positioning line. Sometimes a positioning line is referred to as a “tag” line. I prefer “positioning line” because it is more descriptive of what the line is meant to accomplish—positioning your company in the marketplace.

Making a strong statement
The positioning line is almost a condensed form of the corporate mission statement. Companies put a lot of time and expense towards their positioning lines. You may not have the budgets that some of the larger corporations do, but you would be wise to put some thought into your positioning line.

For clarification of what a positioning line is, here are a few examples:

  • Just do it.
  • We do chicken right.
  • Moving at the speed of business.
  • Changing entertainment. Again.
  • You deserve a break today.
  • Give yourself the edge.
  • The way to make e-business flow.
  • We bring good things to life.
  • Our energies go to serving you.

These lines by themselves are very strong statements. They are declarations backed by promise. Now let’s attach the company names to these positioning lines for the full impact and meaning:

  • Nike—Just do it.
  • KFC—We do chicken right.
  • UPS—Moving at the speed of business.
  • RCA—Changing entertainment. Again.
  • McDonald’s—You deserve a break today.
  • Bellarmine College—Give yourself the edge.
  • Confluent Networks—The way to make e-business flow.
  • GE—We bring good things to life.
  • Louisville Gas & Electric—Our energies go to serving you.

Your battle cry and mantra
When you add the name, the positioning line becomes an even stronger statement. This is because these declarations backed by a promise now also have meaning towards differentiating themselves from their competition.

KFC’s positioning line, for example, says that if you’re hungry and thinking about going to a quick-service restaurant, we offer chicken, and nobody does chicken better than we do.

RCA is getting ready to battle in the high-definition TV market, so they are relying on their heritage in developing products for the entertainment industry.

Bellarmine College, a private university in Louisville, KY, is competing against public universities for students. Because it is a private university, it is more expensive than its public counterparts. Beyond the obvious plusses of a private university, Bellarmine has a very unique and positive characteristic. Ninety-three percent of the graduating students of Bellarmine find a job in their chosen field within six months of graduating, and that‘s what the brighter students choosing a college want to know—that they will have the career they want after four years of dedicated effort. No other university in the region can come close to those results.

Why is a positioning line important? It immediately lets the viewer know what your company prides itself in doing. It is a battle cry and a mantra. It speaks specifically to the company’s target audience and in the language that the target audience wants to hear. Sounds complicated, but it really is not. It all falls back to your brand identity. It goes back to the things you must know about your business in order to compete effectively in your marketplace.

You must know:

  • Who you are.
  • What you are.
  • What you offer.
  • Who’s buying what you offer.
  • Who‘s competing for the same dollar.
  • What truly separates you from your competition.

Pulling it all together
Understanding these simple things will go a long way towards your marketing efforts. They will also guide you to a very solid positioning line. I will delve into the other “must knows” in future articles. In the marketing world, they’re called demographics, USPs (Unique Selling Propositions), and so forth, but all of these fancy words only go to cloud the obvious. If we give things fancy names, they must be complicated in nature, right?

So what do you do with your positioning line once you have decided on one? Most times it is used in conjunction with your logo, either below it or off to the side of it. Sometimes it is used as a headline for an ad. In radio, you would hear it usually right after the company’s name, like this: “And remember, at GE (pause) we bring good things to life.” This may even be followed by a signature sound that reinforces the tag line. In the case of GE, can you remember the sound that goes with “We bring good things to life”? I bet you can. This goes back to branding and how we humans relate to things. Their marketing people know you have identified with that sound and what it means, so they only have to play that signature sound and the meaning is already in your brain—much like Pavlov’s dog hearing the bell and drooling over meat powder that is no longer there.

Always be consistent
So what is to be learned from all of this? Everything you do with your marketing relates back to your brand identity. Once you fully understand the “must knows,” the easier everything else starts to become. Consistency is big, and letting your potential customers know what you offer is big. What’s even bigger is showing potential customers that you’re different from your competition. Your positioning line will do that for you. You must make sure, however, that you deliver on the promise made by the line. Nothing will kill a bad business quicker than good marketing, and it’s plain bad business to tell somebody you’re something you’re not.

So be honest with your positioning line. Make it strong by saying what you do, adding what you do better than your competition, and delivering it in the form of a promise. Make it short and sweet. Good luck. You are now in the world of marketing. In my next column, I’ll go deeper into the “must knows” to prepare you to communicate in different forms with your marketing message.

Wes Burgiss has been involved in marketing for 22 years. He founded his own ad agency, Creative Alliance, in 1987. He sold the agency in 1996 after growing it to the largest in the region. He is senior vice president of marketing for Confluent Networks, an application service provider based in Louisville, KY. He is also director of marketing for Bellarmine College, the region’s premier private university with colleges specializing in education, business, health sciences, and arts and sciences. Bellarmine is currently developing a center for e-business and e-commerce education that will be located in Louisville’s newly planned technological region, e-Main USA.

What’s your positioning line? Has it helped you win new customers? Are you marketing your business in unique ways? Give us your thoughts by posting a comment below or sending us a note.

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