Prosper Agency
September 24, 2021

The difference between a positioning statement, a strapline and a USP

Positioning statements, mission statements, value propositions and straplines. What do they all mean? There's a lot of different things your company 'says' as part of its communication with its customers and sometimes the various statements can become confusing. In this article, we break them down and explain the differences.

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ositioning statements, mission statements, value propositions and straplines. What do they all mean? There's a lot of different things your company 'says' as part of its communication with its customers and sometimes the various statements can become confusing. In this article, we break them down and explain the differences. 

Straplines

After your company name, and logo, the most common brand element your customers will likely recall is your strapline or tag line. 

A strapline is the short (often three or four-word) sentence that sometimes accompanies a company's logo. For example, fast-food chain McDonald's' Golden Arches' are ofter accompanied by the strapline 'I'm loving it'. The Nike 'Swoosh' is often accompanied by the strapline 'Just Do It'.

Several years ago, meat snack Pepperami capitalised on a simple yet clever dual meaning strapline 'Perpperami: It's a bit of an animal' which featured an animated advertising campaign showing a crazy, angry and destructive animated Pepperami character subjecting itself to all manner of nastiness. By using the strapline 'It's a bit of an animal' the company manage to simultaneously reference the advertising campaign, the taste of the product (spicy meat) and the fact that a Pepperami was, at one time, quite literally 'a bit of an animal'. 

Perhaps easier said than done for big-budget spicy meat snacks, but regardless, the strapline is designed to communicate the most simple essence of your brand to your audience in as few words as possible. 

Creating a memorable strapline can be challenging, and often companies will simply distil the essence of their positioning statement into a basic strapline. This can work quite well if you're a niche company (like Prosper; The branding agency for Accountants) but can prove challenging to get right. Although at the start of our list, the strapline will actually be developed towards the end of your brand strategy. 

After your company name, and logo, the most common brand element your customers will likely recall is your strapline or tag line. 

Positioning statement

At its basic core, the positioning statement simply states what you do and who you do it for, e.g We deliver Product X for market Y. However your positioning statement, whilst not designed to accompany your logo, (rather, see it as a fifteen-second description of your company and services), can expand beyond this core information. It explains your point of difference, what you help your audience with, and in what way you alleviate their specific pain points. 

You can use this template as a basic guide to constructing a positioning statement. 

1 We

2 help target audience

3 who suffer these pain points

4 Achieve / experience these benefits

5 To achieve these outcomes

Here is a fictitious example of an accountancy firm that specialises in working with hair salons. We'll call them Smartheadz Accountants 

Smartheadz Accountants

help 2 busy hairdressing salons

make better 3 financial and business management decisions

allowing them to 4 spend more time working on their hairdressing

businesses instead of time-consuming administration,

helping them to achieve 5 better business growth and improve their work/life balance.

Your positioning statement should essentially tell the broader story of why your brand should be remembered, in a sentence that distils your audience, your offering and your point of difference as an accountancy firm.  

At its basic core, the positioning statement simply states what you do and who you do it for, e.g We deliver Product X for market Y.

Value Proposition

The value proposition is the actual benefits your customer gets from using your company. Try to avoid words that lack any real substance, like 'integrity, 'honesty' or 'respect' as these are overused words that don't really allude to a direct tangible benefit. Your company values will likely come from your leadership team and they should begin as single words, and then you should develop them into sentences. 

Unique Selling Proposition 

What is the stand-alone reason your audience would consider using your firm? For example, are you an accountancy firm that specialises in working with a particular target market (like hairdressers or restaurants for example) or do you offer a very specific service within the Accounting or CPA landscape? 

Your Unique Selling Proposition will be born from your key point or points of differentiation. These points of differentiation can include: 

  • Audience niche (you only work with a certain industry)
  • Specialism (you are the experts at providing a certain solution, or advising on a certain deeper area of expertise) 
  • Price (you attract clients because you are extremely competitive on price when compared to others in your industry
  • Thought leadership (your write and publish a lot of helpful content that differentiates your firm as active thought leaders in your field)
Develop your Unique Selling Proposition around the single reason your clients should choose your firm over your competition.

Brand Purpose

To articulate your brand purpose, ask the question 'aside from commercial intent why do we do what we do? ' or 'what cause can our brand contribute to that can positively impact someone or something? 

This may be a difficult question but the answer does not have to sit on an unnecessarily high or complex moral plane. You're not a large charity for example, so let us understand your impact may be on individuals, not entire communities or regions. So to break it down, look at how you, as an accountancy firm have a positive impact on your client. How do you help them? How does your expertise improve their day-to-day business, and, ultimately their lives? This answer can form the foundation to the question 'aside from commercial intent why do we do what we do?'.  


Brand Promise

The Brand Promise is often confused with Brand Purpose, Brand Vision and a brands' positioning statement. 

Your Brand Promise is an extension of your positioning statement, but talks of the experience your audience can expect when they work with you. Although a brand promise is a customer-facing statement, often this promise is implied in your brand behaviour, messaging and strapline. Not every brand articulates a brand promise to their audience, although they should deliver on the principles of that promise through their everyday actions and the service they provide. 


Brand Mission and Brand Vision

The difference between Brand Mission and Brand Vision can be confusing if you are new to these terminologies. Brand Mission is related to the now and every day and is the answer to the question 'What are we committed to today in order to achieve our vision for the future?' Your brand mission focuses on the everyday commitments you make to your audience and how you deliver the services you promise to them. 

Brand Vision is about the future commitments of your brand and its ambition. It is the answer to the question 'Where does my brand aspire to go, what does it aspire to be, and/or what impact does it aspire to have?' Your Brand Vision should be the documented ambition that you have for your brand, and your Brand Mission is the thing you do every day to build a bridge to get arrive at that future (vision) state. 

Another way to understand this is your Brand Mission is the everyday Committed Action. Your Brand Vision is the future result achieved by repeatedly delivering on said Committed Action over months and years. Remember; Mission is now and Vision is future. Here are some examples for context: 

Brand Mission is related to the question 'What are we committed to today in order to achieve our vision for the future?' Brand Vision is related to the question 'Where does my brand aspire to go, what does it aspire to be, and/or what impact does it aspire to have?'

Examples of Mission and Vision Statements

Tesla

Mission statement: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
Vision statement: 
To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Ikea

Mission statement: Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
Vision statement:
 To create a better everyday life for the many people.

Amazon

Mission statement: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.
Vision statement:
 To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

So what do Prosper's mission and vision statements look like? 

Mission statement: To create memorable and differentiated brand identity designs for Accountants and CPAs in the UK and beyond, helping them stand out in the marketplace and communicate their point of difference to their customers.
Vision statement: 
To be the worlds go-to branding agency for Accountants and CPAs.

Remember, telling your website visitors you are 'pro-active', 'approachable', 'professional' and 'experienced' is not a differentiator, this is simply what anyone would expect of an accountancy firm in 2021.

Interested in finding out more about how Prosper help accountants and CPAs communicate to their customers? Get in touch with us here.

Further reading:

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