A positioning statement is an expression of how a given product, service or brand fills a particular consumer need in a way that its competitors don’t. Positioning is the process of identifying an appropriate market niche for a product (or service or brand) and getting it established in that area.
In his book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore offers the following template for a positioning statement:
For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competitive alternative), our product (statement of primary differentiation).
In this context, a statement of differentiation – an expression of what sets a brand, product or service apart from that of competitors – is sometimes referred to as a unique selling proposition or a unique selling point (USP).
One famous example of a positioning statement is Avis’ “Avis is only number 2. We try harder.” In the early 1960s, when the ad campaign was developed, admitting to being anything less than number 1 was antithetical to most marketing efforts. However, that very fact caught consumers’ attention, raising awareness of the brand and also fostering trust. At the same time, the suggestion was that the number one car rental company at the time, Hertz, didn’t try as hard and so might deliver a lower level of service. The practice of trying to erode a competitor’s position relative to your own is sometimes known as depositioning.