Positioning vs. Messaging: Learn the Difference to Catapult Your Brand to Success

Positioning vs messaging header

Positioning is an old marketing concept used to influence how your brand is perceived compared to other businesses in the same category. It’s easy to confuse messaging and positioning since both are influenced by buyer personas and involve communicating your brand’s core value to your customers.

Brand positioning and messaging are two completely different strategies, but it’s easy to get them confused, so let’s unpack them in this article. 

What’s the difference between brand positioning and messaging 

  1. Your brand positioning is the core idea that your customers associate with you. Your message is how you express this idea so people can remember and relate to it. Think of positioning as the territory you mark in your target market’s mind and messaging as the means to get there. Along with your brand’s visual identity, your content and copy reinforce your position in the market. 
  2. Another big difference is that positioning is internal. It serves as a guide for your brand and marketing team. In contrast, the brand message is external or public-facing. 
  3.  Your positioning strategy is the result of market research and actionable buyer persona research. It directly influences your brand messaging guidelines and other messaging pillars. In short, your positioning shapes your brand message.
  4. Brand positioning is the “what” of the brand; it describes its purpose and its audience. Brand messaging is the “how,” because it provides a tangible manifestation of your positioning.

Despite their differences, they complement one another. In order to reap maximum benefits from branding, such as increased brand awareness, your message must reinforce your positioning. The easiest way to convey your positioning is to create a positioning statement.

What is a positioning statement?

A positioning statement is a one-sentence description of your business. It helps you define your target market, niche, category, and promise to your customers. Think of it as a quick way to share your brand’s go-to-market strategy internally. Let’s look at the elements of a brand positioning statement.

Who is your target audience

How do you get someone’s attention when you’re in a crowded room? You call them by their name. We always jolt into the present when someone calls our names, no matter how preoccupied we may be. Though your positioning statement is internal, it reminds you to use it for external communications. For example, you can call out your customers when writing a Facebook ad.

Call out your category

To make sense of all the information we collect, we categorize it into different buckets. Without this step, we would become an overwhelmed mess. Understanding your frame of reference (other products in your category that you’re being compared to) is crucial for positioning your product.

What’s your brand promise

The first step to getting people interested in your product is clearly stating the benefits you will provide. People are generally more responsive when they realize there is something in it for them. So ask yourself: what’s in it for them? Your positioning statement should mention the benefit your customers will receive from your product or service. 

Demonstrate your brand’s uniqueness 

This is your brand’s superpower. The special sauce that goes above and beyond the basic features your competitor can easily copy. It’s usually a distinctive advantage that only your brand can offer. For example, if you’re a software company, your key benefit might be the number of integrations because you’ve been in the market longer than the new guys. Make sure that this is an advantage that your audience values when making a purchasing decision. 

Examples of positioning and using messaging to reinforce it

Mailchimp is a good example of getting the positioning and messaging right. Take a look at their homepage copy when Mailchimp positioned itself as an easy email newsletter solution. 

Mailchimp old positioning example

For several years, their messaging reinforced those positioning. 

Mailchimp old messaging example

As MailChimp grew, it became more than just an email newsletter company, so its positioning also changed. So the company rebranded itself from an email newsletter solution to a marketing platform dedicated to helping small businesses grow.

messaging and positioning working together

The new communication and copy reflected the new mission, but it still maintained the core brand personality, voice, and tone. 

Mailchimp messaging supporting positioning

See how Mural’s communication, target customers, and copy have evolved. It was initially aimed at designers and creative teams. It was marketed as a tool that would simplify the design process when working with remote teams.

Mural evolving positioning

Over the years, they’ve shifted their focus to teamwork to target a wider audience, including agile teams, consultants, and anyone running a strategic meeting.

Mural evolving messaging

Brand messaging vs copy

Copywriting is the art and science of crafting compelling messages by taking advantage of persuasion principles designed to convince consumers to buy your products. Copywriting is about creating a language that will help you sell more effectively. The brand messaging strategy underlies all types of copy; it includes everything from the tone of voice to the writing principles and goals. 

Value proposition vs positioning vs messaging

You can define a value proposition as the specific benefits your product or service delivers to the customer. Think of it as the benefit your customers get when they use your product or service. The positioning gives your business competitive differentiation in the market by occupying a strategic position in the customer’s mind. Businesses communicate their value and connect with their customers through messaging.

Product positioning vs messaging

Product positioning is about figuring out where your product fits within an existing market category. The product position is reinforced in the minds of the customers through messaging. Product positioning is typically done before marketing, whereas messaging should be done throughout the entire customer journey.