Company and brand positioning statements: Some laudable … some lousy … many just lame.

Positioning: The Battle for your Mind Al RiesAbout 15 years ago a book was published titled Positioning:  The Battle for Your Mind, authored by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

Although the examples cited by the writers are a little outdated by now, the book remains an important contribution to the literature on the subject of brand positioning and what it takes for a company to build, strengthen and protect it.

Unfortunately, too few companies are paying heed to some of the basic tenets of proper positioning.

Indeed, based on the way many businesses approach their positioning — and the typical positioning statements one encounters — it seems less like a battle for someone’s mind and an exercise in mind-numbing irrelevance, instead.

Here’s a positioning statement I came across recently, from a firm my own industry (MarComm).  I’m shielding the name of the company to be charitable.  But tell me if this isn’t just dreadful:

“[Company X] is a creative marketing communications firm that delivers fresh ideas and authentic solutions that drive measurable business results. 

Our strategic, problem-solving approach generates marketing and communications programs that increase brand awareness, improve sales productivity, increase marketing response, drive revenues and support business goals. 

We plan and implement creative solutions that leverage our clear insight, strategic business skills, team building, proven process, distinctive design and measurement methodology.

… and so on.  (It continues for another two paragraphs.)

The big problem is that there’s little being said that’s either informative or differentiating.

Worse yet, enveloping a wholly indistinctive positioning statement with a bunch of forgettable adjectives, mealy-mouthed platitudes and other “weasel words” just makes things worse.

To my view, when it comes to company positioning, directness and simplicity is always the better route.

For starters, go for facts.  If a company offers what many others also do, that’s no indictment of the business.  It’s fruitless to try to communicate “uniqueness” where there is none, because people won’t be fooled for long anyway.

brand positioningCut the “marketing buzz-speak,” too.  People hear those overused terms as mere noise.  And noise is irritating.

If there is demonstrated singular competence in one or more areas, it’s OK to tout that, of course.  But throttle back on the hype and leave it to the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Speaking personally, when I read a company’s positioning statement, I’m looking for the quintessential “elevator speech” that covers the “Five Ws” as succinctly as possible.

And spare the marketing fluff, please.

More than anything, going beyond “just the facts” is insulting to the readers’ intelligence.  If they want to learn more, they’ll do it on their own terms, thank you very much.

Do you know of any company positioning statements that are particularly effective?  If so, please share them here.  (On the other hand, if the ones you know are dreadful, perhaps keep those ones to yourself!)

Marketing clichés are all around us.

no buzzwordsMarketing can be many things.  But marketing without originality isn’t much of anything.

That’s why there’s a desire among marketers to avoid clichés and buzz terminology in sales and marketing content whenever possible.

Still, it’s easy to fall into the cliché trap – and it happens to the best of us.

This is particularly true when the “next new thing” in business comes along every few months and people grasp for shorthand ways to communicate those concepts.

[There:  Perhaps “next new thing” qualifies as a marketing cliché itself!]

Brian Morrissey
Brian Morrissey

Recently, communications specialist and editor-in-chief of vertical media company Digiday, Brian Morrissey, came up with a list of 25 marketing clichés which he feels should be avoided if at all possible.

I’ve gone through Morrissey’s list and have selected ten that I think are particularly baneful – especially in the world of B-to-B marketing.  See if you agree:

Putting the customer at the center.  Isn’t it obvious that companies and brands would be committed to this?  And if not … where was the customer located before?

Having an “authentic” conversation with customers.  Inauthenticity isn’t cool.  Inauthenticity is also what we’ve been trying to avoid for years – or should have been.  There’s really no news in this statement, is there?

We fail fast.  Perhaps it comes from reading too many issues of Fast Company … but what companies do you know that want to slowly jettison a failed strategy?

Blue-sky thinking.  The “sky’s the limit” when it comes to “out-of-the-box thinking.”  Ugh.

Nab the low-hanging fruit.  This cliché has been around so long, there can’t be any low-hanging fruit left!

Dipping our toe in the water.  Trying to put a positive spin on a lack of depth or heft isn’t fooling anyone.

Open the kimono.  Any buzz phrase that conjures mental imageries of a flasher can’t be what we want to communicate.

Curated experiences.  A fancy way of admitting that content isn’t ours.  Besides, the term “curator” hardly sounds contemporary.  Instead, it connotes images of museums, galleries and other places that deal with the dusty past.

Surprising and delighting our customers.  Morrissey contends that this whopper makes brands come off like clowns … and that clowns are silly, scary or creepy – take your pick.

Tentpole idea.  Continuing with the clown analogy, no doubt … but whether it’s a circus or a tent revival, the mental imagery this elicits isn’t particularly apropos.

… And these are just ten terms on Morrissey’s list of 25 marketing clichés.

What about you?  Do you have any buzz phrases that you find particularly annoying – perhaps “thought leadership” or maybe “exceeding our customers’ expectations”?

Please share your nominations with other readers here.