When marketing your creative practice, your messaging must always be clear and to the point. That’s why PinPoint Positioning must be the foundation of all your marketing efforts. A PinPoint Positioning statement answers three main questions: what you do, who you do it for, and the value your services provide. As you wordsmith your positioning statement you’ll be choosing terms that describe your services, your audience, and your value prop. Which terms you choose will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of every marketing effort you make. So choose your terms carefully!
Crafting the Perfect PinPoint Positioning Statement
In order to help you craft the perfect positioning statement, we need to review some technical aspects of the subject of terminology. When we speak of “terms” we’re really just talking about words, but in a more technical, and hopefully more precise way. “Terms” are words with either explicit or implicit definitions. For example, what’s a “record?” If all you have is that word, without a context, what could it mean? It could refer to public records, like birth certificates, or world records such as most hotdogs eaten in 10 minutes (which is 75 by the way, ouch), or it could refer to vinyl albums, or items in a database. The fundamental meaning of the word “record,” without context or definition can be ambiguous. In order to utilize terms properly, we need definition. Usually, this definition comes with context, but it’s essential that the terms we use in positioning are unambiguous.
Avoiding Vague Terms
Assuming we use unambiguous terms, terms without a range of unrelated definitions, we also need to consider the potential vagueness of our terminology. Some words are inherently vague. The adjective “tall,” for example, is relative to whatever we happen to be comparing. Tall for a shrubbery might be ten feet, but compared to a tree that would be small. Or compared to a grande, or venti—nevermind, bad example.
As we select terms to fill in the blanks of our positioning statement, we need to avoid both ambiguity and vague terms.
Terms that Cast a Wide Net
Another technical aspect of terminology is extension and intension. In order to understand extension and intension let’s recall the taxonomies of the animal kingdom we learned in high school biology: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. At the highest level, kingdom, all living things fall into broad categories of animal, plant, fungi, etc. But as you begin to analyze patterns in the animal kingdom we can break animals down into classes such as mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and so forth. When we get to specific species and subspecies we literally find millions and millions of distinct kinds of creatures.
Applying this to the study of terminology (rather than biology) the categories at the top of a taxonomy chart have high extension—kingdom and phylum contain many orders, families, and species. These high category terms extend themselves over a large group of particulars. As we move down a taxonomy, into species and subspecies, each level increases the intension of terms—each member of a species has so many unique characteristics that distinguish it from others, that these subcategories become quite exclusive. Extension decreases as you move down the taxonomy chart, and intension increases.
For example “people” is a term with very high extension. Whereas millennial American southern males who play professional rugby is a sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-species of people and therefore has very high intension.
Let’s consider another example from school. At school you take “classes.” “Classes” is a genus term with high extension. You also took classes when you went to art school. “Art school classes” is a species of “classes” with a higher degree of intension. We might also have taken a “painting class.” “Painting class” is a subspecies of art school class. Each time we move down from a genus term to a species of that term we increase the intension of that term and decrease its extension. “Watercolor painting class” adds yet one more level of intension.
PinPoint Positioning Requires the Use of High Intension Terms
Increasing the intension of terms decrees ambiguity and vagueness. Terms with high extension increases their ambiguity and vagueness. Since we always want our marketing messages to be clear and concrete, we need to avoid high extension terms and adopt high intension terms instead.
But this is hard to do, in part because the higher the intension of a term, the more it necessarily becomes exclusive. And our untrained marketing instincts make us think that we need to describe our services as broadly as possible, to capture as many opportunities as we can. Our undisciplined instincts lead us to choose high extension terms—ambiguous and vague terms that lack specificity and concreteness. They speak to everyone, and the net marketing effect is that they speak to no one.
Consider the difference between a typical creative positioning statement and a one with higher intension.
High Extension Positioning Statement: Creative Design Group provides branding and design services for small and mid-sized B2B and B2C businesses.
The terms “branding” and “design” are very high extension terms that are both vague and ambiguous. What’s not covered under branding and design? And while small and mid-size might be considered a species, small and mid-size are vauge terms—mid-sized compared to what? And B2B and B2C covers just about any business.
And when you have high extension terms defining a positioning statement you almost never find a “why it benefits them” value proposition. That’s because there’s nothing concrete to say when you’re speaking so vaguely and ambiguously, and so it’s left off.
Now consider an alternative.
High Intension Positioning Statement: Bright Orange Jacket provides point-of-purchase display design for outdoor brands so that their products don’t get camouflaged in the outdoor retail forest.
“Point of purchase display” is a subspecies of print design, which falls into the broader genus of graphic design. Outdoor brands is a clear species of product brands, which is itself one species of a kind of business. And when you have high intension terms defining the what and who, the value prop becomes highly tuned to the needs of those kinds of clients.
Just imagine the contrast of impact between a random business reading the high extension statement of Creative Design Group to that of a product manager at The North Face reading the positioning statement of Bright Orange Jacket. High intension marketing messages deliver high impact results.
What terms are you using in your positioning? And where do they fall on the extension intension scale?