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How Harley-Davidson Mastered Product Positioning

The motorcycle manufacturer has no doubts about its identity. Here's how you can crystalize yours.
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To be able to tell the world about your new product, you first need to be able to talk about it internally

This is what it means to position your product. To find a great example of strong product positioning, take a look at Harley-Davidson. This is the company's internal positioning statement: 

The only motorcycle manufacturer
That makes big, loud motorcycles
For macho guys (and "macho wannabes")
Mostly in the United States
Who want to join a gang of cowboys
In an era of decreasing personal freedom.

It's rather poetic. But you don't have to be a poet to draft a similarly effective statement. Developing this kind of mantra is formulaic, startup advisor Arielle Jackson recently told First Round Review. Jackson is a former product marketing manager for Google and Square.

She recommended using the following structure to come up with your own positioning statement: 

For (target customer)
Who (statement of need or opportunity),
(Product name) is a (product category)
That (statement of key benefit).
Unlike (competing alternative)
(Product name)(statement of primary differentiation).

Note that the end result is different from a tagline, Jackson said. Taglines are consumer-facing catch phrases that summarize your positioning statement extremely concisely. For example, one of Harley-Davidson's tag lines is "American by birth. Rebel by choice."  

Internally, positioning statements are crucial because they set the stage for all that will follow--including finding the right people as you expand, further developing the product and, of course, marketing it to your audience.

"It all starts with nailing down your positioning. Everything stems from that." Jackson said. "If you've done it right, you'll be able to tell everyone why what you’re doing matters in a way that will make them listen and respond."

Last updated: Aug 20, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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