Brand Positioning vs. Messaging

Clients often ask about the difference between brand positioning and messaging. The answer may seem obvious, but it can get confusing when it’s time to execute tactics. The reason for this confusion is the traditional understanding of the respective functions brand positioning and messaging serve for our brands.

As most brand-builders know, creating and implementing a differentiated brand positioning includes everything the brand stands for, not merely about what the brand says.

For example, the main reason that Volvo continues to own the global positioning of “family safety” among all other car brands (even if it is technically no longer the world’s safest family sedan) ties first and foremost to the many pioneering activities which Volvo undertook in surrounding Volvo drivers with the safety of air bags.  Moreover, Volvo consistently reminded their target audiences of their distinctive safety positioning.  That dialogue is the purpose of messaging.

Messaging across all advertising channels from print and televised advertising, their website, and even in their showrooms resulted in rock-solid brand positioning.  Their singular focus: what it is Volvo does better than anyone else; bringing that focus to life with reinforcing actions in the marketplace; and repeating the focus time and again in all brand communications.

In contrast, brand positioning is somewhat static. Messages allow our brand positioning to engage in a continual dialogue with our customers through many channels of communication. The effectiveness of messages in driving our positioning is directly related to message relevance for customers and its strength in supporting the brand positioning.  

Just because your brand does many things, does not mean they all are equal in value to support your brand positioning. That’s why it is critical to test your message’s importance with your targets and understand the dialogue necessary to build your rock-solid brand positioning.  Avoid “multiple sales messaging” and drive a singular, strategic messaging platform meant to maintain a dialogue with your customers and continually remind them of your brand positioning.

In conclusion, a brand positioning is the “soul” of your brand. It is the singular representation of what your brand stands for.  Messaging is your way to communicate your brand’s position and drive perceptions through constant dialogue with your customers. 

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