The ultimate proposition: The Onliness Statement

Having worked in branding for some years now I’ve found it very helpful to work with my clients on their positioning statements - also known as Value Proposition Statements. They bring clarity. They align. They communicate powerfully.




value proposition statementS

Value propositions are basically handy little statements which help audiences to understand why they should do business with you. The statement should convince a potential customer why your brand is the brand they should join or buy from. It should be crisp and concise in order to communicate your value swiftly. It needs to be able to be digested in seconds. Good value propositions position brands, products or services effectively helping them highlight a point of difference from their competition.


Companies need these statements in order to stand out and help customers make decisions. They also need them to align behind.


To create a powerful proposition you need to know two things. Firstly who is your customer and what goal, challenge or need do they have. Secondly, you need to know how your brand fulfils it. Next, you have to put together a statement which articulates your value to the customer. Sounds simple right? It's not. But it's worth putting the effort into.


Typical Value Proposition Examples:

  • Apple Watch "You’ve never seen a watch like this.”

  • Zoom "Simplified video conferencing and messaging across any device”

  • Lexus “Self-charging Hybrid Cars”

  • Tide "Open a business account in minutes”

  • Air BnB "Book homes, hotels, and more on Airbnb”

  • Vimeo "Make an impact with video.”

  • Xero "Manage your business accounts the easy way”

  • Salesforce "The Customer Success Platform.”

  • Evernote "Your notes. Organized. Effortless.”

  • Spotify “Music for everyone”


The above are standard examples of value proposition and positioning statements. They help to explain how the brand will help the customer with their need. They give the customer a reason to buy.


They also ensure the company stays true to its proposition giving internal teams focus and purpose.


But are they enough? Could they be improved?



The ultimate proposition: The Onliness Statement

I am sometimes asked, “what is the best positioning statement a brand could have”? To this, I will always answer “the Onliness statement”. As in "only". The 'Onliness Statement' was originally conceived by my friend and mentor, Marty Neumeier in his brand strategy book, 'Zag’. I have not found a more powerful way of communicating difference. It is the pinnacle of brand positioning. It's the ultimate branding exercise because it focuses people's minds and challenges them to recognise that they may need to change in order to be truly different. Radically different.


And that’s what brands really need to strive for. To be different for the right reasons. To attract the raving loyalty of the audience they seek to serve. To be the only ones that can do what they do.


I hear a lot about USPs (Unique Selling Points) but it is rare that I come across businesses who create a whole strategy around being different. That's what an Onliness strategy can do and that's what creating a meaningful brand is all about.


How does it work? It's simple. Fill in the brackets in the below statement structure:

Our [Offering] is the only [Category] that [Benefit].

For example:

  • Our bar is the only venue in the city that does not serve alcohol

  • Our event is the only brand strategy conference that is located in the midlands

  • Our drinks are the only commercial refreshments that contain milk from native aberdeen angus cows

  • Our 'Life Matters' course is the only online learning course which teaches a blend of mindfulness and practical life coaching methods

  • Our software is the only technological platform that connects the world to the premiuim hospitality packages of world-class venues

  • Our company is the only specialised tax accountancy firm operating within Lincoln



For thses statements to be truthful the brands need to have something that no other brands in their categories have to offer. If it does not, that's ok. It means we need to innovate. We need to really find out what the customer needs in order that we can create a genuine and authentic position in their minds.


A super test of the Onliness statement is to put a competitor’s name in and see if it is still true. If it is then you don't have an Onliness. You have no point of difference.


So what makes you the “only” choice for a customer? If you don't have one fix it. Don't just use fancy words, innovate a customer-centric solution.



How to create an Onliness statement

I like to work with leadership teams to discover what sets them apart (or what we will work towards that will set them apart). This is something best done with a multi-disciplined leadership team via a workshop or series of strategy workshops. In these workshops I would use the Onliness statement as one of a series of exercises I’d do with them. Initially, I’d get each delegate to work on an Onliness statement on their own. I’d then create groups of delegates who share and refine their statements. Then we’d share with the whole group, write them all up on a whiteboard and discuss and challenge each one before breaking back out to refine. I’d then call the group back and we’d write up the final three selections. To finish it's fun to give the group stickers and for them to place a single sticker by their favourite one. The statement with the most "votes" can then be tested with customers and staff to see if it resonates and attracts them to the brand.



So - good luck crafting your Onliness statement and positioning your brand as the only choice for your audience.



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