Positioning vs. Messaging vs. Value Propositions: What's the Difference?

by | Apr 4, 2022 10:23:00 AM | Sales and Marketing Alignment, Strategy

Before you invest in any marketing or advertising, you need to solidify your positioning, messaging, and value propositions to have the best chance of success. Why? Because in business, it’s not always the best companies or products that succeed — it’s the brands that communicate their value the clearest. 

But what is the difference between your positioning statement and your value proposition? Is messaging really that necessary? These are questions that even experienced marketers have difficulty answering. 

In this quick guide, you’ll discover why each of these brand elements is important and how they help you build a brand identity that will supercharge your marketing efforts.

Why People Buy (Hint: It’s probably not what you think.)

One of the biggest mistakes business owners can make is believing that people generally make rational, informed decisions based on fact and logic. This is a common marketing myth. 

People make decisions based on whether something will make their lives better or help them avoid a potential problem.

At TedX Athens, Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman at Ogilvy (the ad agency many consider to be the Mecca of marketing), said creating a perceived value of what you offer is just as important as creating real value. He argues that in a world where almost every market seems oversaturated, reframing what you do can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. That’s why brand elements like positioning, messaging, and value propositions are so important. 

You can watch the rest of Sutherland’s presentation here: 

Rory Sutherland: Perspective is everything

Language learning app Duolingo is a great example of Sutherland’s perceived value premise. At a time when language learning was dominated by Rosetta Stone and traditional education, Duolingo grew from a simple mobile app to the most popular way to learn a language. 

That is largely because it built its brand on the premise that anyone can become conversational in a different language if it was free, easy, and fun. This changed the perception people had of language learning and as a result, Duolingo went from 300,000 users when it launched its beta platform in 2011 to 36.7 million in 2020

That’s how much impact positioning and perceived brand value can bring to your business. 


Brand Positioning: The Foundation of Perceived Value

People won’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are. Brand positioning is about connecting with your target audience and showing them that what you do is valuable, credible, and different. 

If you can’t stand out from the competition, you’ll quickly find that scaling your business becomes increasingly difficult.

So, how do you connect with your target audience and create a solid positioning statement? You prove that your brand understands their problems and what you offer maps to a goal they have.

This can be hard for new or unique products, but not impossible. Your positioning just needs to leverage context and products they are already familiar with to paint the right idea in your customer’s mind.


The Positioning Statement Formula

The generic positioning formula is a great starting point for crafting your positioning statement. But you should continue to update it as your product evolves and the needs of your market change. 

Here is the generic positioning statement formula:

For [your target market] who [target market need], [your brand name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target market should believe your differentiation statement.]


Positioning Statement Example

Here is a great example of a contemporary positioning statement from HubSpot:

“Since 2006, HubSpot has been on a mission to make the world more inbound. Today, over 100,000 total customers in more than 100 countries use HubSpot's award-winning software, services, and support to transform the way they attract, engage, and delight customers. Composed of HubSpot's CRM, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub, HubSpot gives companies the tools they need to Grow Better.”

It might be a bit of a mouthful and considered more of an external mission statement, but you can clearly see HubSpot’s value, credibility, and where it fits in the market. 

But for more of a direct positioning statement, it could simply be summarized like this: “HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing platform that gives companies the tools they need to grow better.”

What is great about the shortened version is how it summarizes the positioning statement to a single solution that maps to a single motivation. 


Brand Messaging: The Key to Effective Communication

Your messaging gives life to all your marketing efforts, from taglines to commercials to your website copy. It helps you effectively communicate your positioning to your target audience. Your brand messaging should be impactful, memorable, and personal. 

The biggest challenge with messaging is trying to write it for everyone. But you can’t be all things to all people. You need to focus on your ideal customer profile and speak to them. 

One of the best ways to do this is to craft your message into a story. That’s because ideas wrapped in stories are significantly more memorable. 

Take the old Mac guy vs PC guy commercials in the early 2000s. Instead of just saying, “Mac laptops offer a more user-friendly experience with a sleeker design, and don’t require an IT pro to troubleshoot,” it used the juxtaposition of an average joe alongside a boring corporate suit to make its audience feel like Mac was the more approachable option. And it worked too. 

MAC vs PC - Box


3 Essential Elements of Your Brand Story

There are many different storytelling formulas you can use to build your brand story, from the Pixar framework to the Hero’s Journey. But all of them have the same story elements:

  1. The Set-Up: This is where you invite customers into your story. 
  2. The Transformation: Empathize with their emotional and psychological problems and demonstrate how your offer is perfectly positioned to solve them.
  3. The Pay Off: Give them a taste of what life could be if they chose your brand.

What is a Unique Value Proposition (UVP)? 

Your value proposition is the reason someone should buy from you instead of your competitors. It’s the overarching promise or guarantee you make to your ideal customer about your product or service.

The worst value propositions try to be clever and artsy. But it’s short, punchy, and clear UVP that makes the biggest impact. 

You can use it as a snappy elevator pitch, one-liner, or even the headline for your website. 

Take Ahrefs’ value proposition: “You don’t have to be an SEO pro to rank higher and get more traffic.”

It clearly demonstrates its value, it’s very specific, and highly targeted toward its audience.


How to Find Your Unique Value Proposition

Your UVP isn’t the same as your positioning statement. Your audience isn’t trying to figure out what you are. They want to know how you are going to change their lives. 

With your ideal customer profile in mind, list all your best features and map them to a benefit they provide. Then you need to narrow it down to the one thing you do better than anyone (or if you don’t have any competitors, think of the one thing only you can do). That’s your unique value proposition. 

Trade Coffee’s value proposition does a great job of highlighting its main benefit as the leading delivery service of fresh coffee. But it actually goes a step further. 

It knows its ideal buyer persona so well, it talks about where they get their beans from because they know their customers care deeply about sustainability. As a result, it’s front and center on its website: “Incredible, sustainably sourced coffee delivered fresh from the best roasters in the nation.”


Why Bother with Building Your Brand?

Your positioning, messaging, and value proposition are instrumental to building your brand. They help you connect with your customers, make it easier to trust you, and answer all of the questions that go through someone's head when they discover your company.

Your positioning should explain who and what you are. Your messaging should hook them in and explain why they should care about your brand. Finally, your value proposition explains how you’re different from other companies and why they should buy now. 

It’s the combination of these three brand-building principles that help you personify your business and make it easy for people to understand the true value you bring. 

About 1 Bold Step

At 1 Bold Step we believe that everything can be more efficient, but especially marketing. Acting as an extension of a client’s marketing department (onsite or virtually), we help create systems, order, and accountability. With a focus on increasing sales and proving return on marketing investment, we’re determined to change marketing from overhead to value add. 


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