This term is used in three ways; the first way is the de facto definition of positioning:
- Perception. How an audience perceives your brand, as opposed to its alternatives. Perception includes how people think about it, feel about it, talk about it, and even engage with it, financially or otherwise. This is the actual positioning of your brand vs the desired positioning.
- Strategy. The strategic activity of deciding on the desired audience(s) and positioning of your brand. This is an iterative and nonlinear process since desirable positioning frequently changes in response to market changes, including audience changes. It is a semi-objective decision-making process to the extent that it hinges on basic market economics.
- Creative Expression. Orchestrating the transition from actual to desired positioning with creative output – ideas, words, images, sounds, or even experience. This is related to, if not identical to in many cases, Messaging, Thought Leadership, and Design Thinking.
The relationship between #2 and #3 is circular and there is overlap. Instead of messaging proceeding from "the activity of deciding what positioning should be", it is actually influenced by it.
In other words, messaging work influences and alters positioning decisions and vice-versa.