How express positioning as copy

It’s one thing to craft a positioning statement. But they usually read like cardboard tastes. So how do you express positioning in a way that’s effective and readable?

“Drayton Bird knows more about Direct Marketing than anyone in the world.”
– David Ogilvy

Drayton Bird is still alive, well, and working, too. He runs his own lean marketing practice after selling his original agency to Ogilvy 45 years ago, then serving as the global chairman of Ogilvy Direct((Like Young & Rubicam, Ogilvy was eventually was acquired by WPP, along with 700 other creative agencies and counting. WPP’s founder Martin Sorrel has also praised Drayton Bird’s wiles)). You can tell he’s brilliant if you read his books or watch his videos; you’d never guess he’s 82.

Checklists are systems. Surgeons use them as a way of injecting care and quality into repetitive tasks ((The book to read is Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto)). Airline pilots use them. And so does Drayton Bird.

I’ve read Drayton’s newsletter and books for enough years to know this isn’t the only copywriting checklist he uses, but this one’s useful for you – for  how to think about express your positioning to the world:

  1. Lead with the biggest benefit
  2. Immediately expand with the other benefits
  3. Give specifics, facts and figures
  4. Give proofs and testimonials
  5. What may happen if you don’t act
  6. Recap / summary
  7. Ask for action

This is an effective formula – for direct marketing. Because it relies on tacit psychological triggers that influence our behavior every moment of every day. ((The book to read is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini. Seriously, read it. Even if you hate the idea of doing your own marketing, read this book to understand just how pervasive psychological manipulation is in our daily lives. Not to say it’s all evil, but it acts on us regardless and by understanding that you’ll know how to deal with it and make better decisions. Also, it’s just an interesting book.))

Therefore it may be more applicable to positioning your products, as opposed to positioning the brand of your business.

If there’s a spectrum of psychological pressure in marketing copy, direct marketing is on the high end. On the low end is what we call “brand marketing” nowadays (David Ogily called it “image marketing” 40 years ago).

If you removed checklist items #4, #5, #6 and #7, you have a checklist much better suited to brand marketing. Although the facts, figures, and proofs (the results) – those should be part of brand marketing too, once you read deep enough.

Which approach should you use to express your positioning as web copy? 

  • It depends
  • Both
  • Direct marketing, in the near term
  • Brand marketing, in the long term

It depends on your business goals, the nature of your products and services, and frankly, on your personal taste.

Have a great weekend,