Zone 34

Rotary Tool Box

Tool # 3 - Branding Statement


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The following process can be used to develop a branding statement for a Rotary District or a Rotary Club.  In the process, you will begin to articulate what is distinctive about your club or district that justifies the continued support of your members.

The development of a Brand Positioning Statement is a process for defining the organization or its product in graphic and compelling terms while identifying the target customer, positioning the “brand”, and articulating the benefits.  The Positioning Statement produced through this process has the potential to shape all events, communications, facilities, advertising, services, prices, locations and names but the statement itself is not printed in public documents or advertisements; it is for internal use and is not seen by the customer.

Development of the Positioning Statement takes an organization away from the typical internal focus (e.g. resources, operations, organization) and into a concentration on an external focus – who are we as seen by those outside of our organization?  It asks the question, who do we want to become in the future and how would others notice the change?

The value of this tool is better understood by businesses than by non-profits but its use is not limited to business; it can be valuable for any organization that has a need to communicate with and influence others.  A Mission Statement written to evoke a common purpose can take many directions while the Positioning Statement requires answers to certain key questions – questions that are fundamental and important and worth consideration and externally focused.

What is a “brand” and what does it matter?

            A brand is the identity that a product or service or organization has in the mind of those who buy the product or service or support the organization.  The brand identity is created by the name, the package, the formula, the publicity, the advertising and the information conveyed through the media and actual experience.  Well-positioned brands send a clear message; poorly positioned brands send out “mixed messages” and confuse their customers or supporters. A brand is never all things to all people.

            A brand is more than a product; a brand adds dimensions to the actual product that differentiate it from similar products.  The brand may create a sense of connection, belonging, personification, quality or expertise.  A brand distinguishes the product from being a commodity.  Even a product as basic as bottled water can have a brand. 


            In the world of business, the brand is the identity of a product and the ability of that identity to influence customers in their decisions has real value. Coca-Cola, according to Business Week magazine (2003), is the most powerful brand in the world and the value of that brand (not the company) is $70 billion. Coca-Cola’s understanding of branding is probably more important that its “secret formula” locked in a bank in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The value of the Disney brand is $30 billion with McDonalds at $26 billion and Marlboro’s cowboy at $24 billion.  Marlboro does not sell a commodity - nice tobacco leaves wrapped in white paper; they are selling an image, the rugged, outdoor, macho image and has been doing so for over 40 years.    The Nike swish is worth $8 billion and Harley-Davidson, the brand some people even tattoo on their body, is valued at $6 billion. 

            Branding is the centerpiece of the consumer focused economy and is studied carefully by every consumer-oriented business.  If this concept is so powerful for business, should it not also be used for non-profit organizations that depend upon financial support in order to sustain their programs and achieve their purposes?

            Every day each of us makes hundreds of decisions – such as what to eat, what to wear, where to go, where to seek help, how to spend our time and our money.  The information provided by a brand shapes how we make those decisions that ultimately tell us who we are.  We create our identity by the brands that we buy. We also create our identity by what non-profit organizations we support and what political parties and candidates we support.  Branding is all about consciously creating the identity of an organization, business or product in a way to encourage people to connect with that identity based on their own interests. 

            When we refer to a brand, we are talking about the spokes of a wheel that together build the product in the mind of the customer or supporter as shown below.


The Components of a Positioning Statement

            The Positioning Statement has several components that, when added together, make a statement about the essence of the brand’s position based on sound strategic thinking and it will serve as a guiding light for all elements of communications.


  1. The brand lover in the target audience – the person who gets excited or passionate about the brand.  This is the person for whom communications will be designed but it is not the only type of person who will be attracted; others will follow the brand lover; not everyone who buys Marlboro is the rugged outdoor type.  The brand lover must be distinctive; when other consumers see the brand lover, they understand the benefits of the brand.  The brand is “especially for” these people; it does not try to describe all users but only the most ardent fans.


  1. The category frame of reference is position of the product or organization within the grouping of products or organizations that can effectively substitute for the brand, or with whom the brand competes.  This is a statement about the league in which the organization wants to compete – is it a railroad or is it a transportation company? – the conceptualization can be significant.  It makes a statement about where the brand is within its industry or competitors.


  1. The product benefits that the customer associates with the brand and which distinguish the brand from the competition (for time or money or attention).  The benefits must be of value to the customer and they must have credibility in the eyes of the customer.  The benefit is the primary promise that the brand makes to the customer.


The Positioning Statement begins with certain words and proceeds with the components.  The following are examples of what could be the Positioning Statement written by a variety of organizations using the following format:


Especially for the… [brand lover],

the (product, service or organization) 

is the… [category frame of reference]

that provides… [brand benefits].


Michelin Tires

      Especially for drivers who are extremely concerned with their baby’s safety [Brand Lover] Michelin tires are the premium tire and emotional insurance policy [Category Frame of Reference] that provides greater peace of mind [Brand Benefit].

A Public University

      Especially for men and women with strong interests in healthcare, education and technology and who feel that a smaller university best meets their needs [Brand Lover] AASU is the local award-winning comprehensive public university [Category Frame of Reference] that provides personal professor-student interaction of a small private college, at a surprisingly affordable price. [Brand Benefits].

Marlboro Cigarettes

Especially for the rugged macho independent man [Brand Lover], Marlboro is the full flavored cigarette in a flip-top box [Frame of Reference] that stands out as a “badge” of freedom symbolized by the great American West [Brand Benefits].


A Tourist Destination City

Especially for affluent, inquisitive, well traveled adults who what to immerse themselves in natural beauty, charm, architecture and the history of the Old South [Brand Lover] Savannah is the beautifully preserved, historic and sultry “Belle of the South” [Category Frame of Reference] that captivates, intrigues, surprises and romances visitors year round with her gracious hospitality and subtle eccentricities [Product Benefit].

Cherry Coke

Especially for irreverent, non-conformist, uninhibited and maverick teenagers bored with the status quo [Brand Lover], Cherry Cola is the cola soft drink [Category Frame of Reference] that is their expression of doing something different [Brand Benefit].

A Public Library

Especially for the person who is passionate about learning [Brand Lover], Live Oak is the local multi-location public library [Category Frame of Reference] that provides access to a wide variety of resources and programs, intellectual stimulation, accurate information and a safe place to be with others [Brand Benefits].


A Process: Begin to Think About Brands That You Know

Think about the brands we all have experienced: such as cars, places to eat, beverages, and personal care products.  Begin by asking yourself or a group to name brands (not just products) that they know and consider to be strong brands, and also brands that are weak, confusing, or even negative.  What makes a brand strong or weak?  Name some brands that you consider strong, weak, confusing, negative? Explain why. 

Identify a product or service experienced by those participating.  It could be hotel, beer, restaurant, automobile, personal care product, or whatever.  Ask the group to define a quality version of that product or service.  What are the components?  How do you know? What are the signals or indicators you get before you use it?  What expectations do you have?  How does a higher price affect you expectations?  Who are the people that we associate with each of these brands?  Who is the lover of the brand

Begin to think about the specific product or organization that needs a Positioning Statement.  How may various kinds of customers see your existing brand?  Is it clear or confusing; is it consistent or inconsistent?  Is it effective and attractive or ineffective and mixed?  How is the brand experienced now?  What are the “moments of truth” that create the experience (answer the phone, open the product, ask for assistance, use the product, etc)?


The Process for Developing a Positioning Statement for an Organization or Product

Have the group make a list of the meaningful differences – key words or phrases – about the organization or product:

Who are the significant Users?

What are most valued Products and Services that are delivered?

What is the Content (quality, character, value) provided?

How can the organization or product distinguish itself?

What are the special areas of value or expertise of the organization or service?

What does the organization or product “own” (it’s uniqueness not available elsewhere)?

Construct a draft Brand Positioning Statement (using the 3 part format) that you want to exist in the future to communicate a meaningful difference (from competing products or organizations)

  1. Brand Lover – the passionate fan

  2. Category Frame of Reference – the territory and position in it.

  3. Brand Benefits – 1. functional and 2.emotional (e.g. belonging)


Share the drafts and dialogue about what is recognized in each.  Select a “straw man” and begin to refine the wording.  Keep this as a working draft that will continue to be refined for a while.  Is there a draft that has a clear personality – one that could even sound like a person?  Which drafts create a difference that would be meaningful to the customer?


Begin to Examine the gap between the new Positioning Statement and the existing “spokes” that communicate and define the brand:


    1. Events

    2. Signage

    3. Names

    4. Advertising

    5. Packaging

    6. Price & Value

    7. Content: formula, design, products, services

    8. Community Relations

    9. Locations and Convenience

    10. Customer Service & Experiences


Identify which existing components or spokes of the wheel are most supportive of the Positioning Statement and which are the least supportive.  Be sure that these evaluations are done only from the eye of the customer or supporter and NOT from the eye of the staff or employees of the organization.  This will often require meeting or focus groups with customers to understand how they currently see your brand.  The Tool Kit includes a Focus Group tool for soliciting customer perceptions and candid feedback.


Review the draft of the Positioning Statement against the format and requirements.  Consider the real implications of creating the brand and begin to prioritize the alignment effort.  Where is the quickest payback?  What will be most powerful?  These are strategic, long-term decisions and should be shaped by this process of developing the Positioning Statement.


The Positioning statement, as it evolves, should not be widely distributed because it is not appropriate for the public; it purpose and intent could well be misunderstood (seeming to be exclusive).  It is to be used to shape the way customers experience the company.  Its wording does not appear in letters or advertisements.  The brand lover identified in the Positioning Statement is not intended to exclude any customers or supporters, it just names the most passionate customer; all others are always welcome.


Review and Evaluate the Statement and Its Fit

            After the process has been completed and time has passed to allow reflection, questions should be asked to review the result:

1.      Is the Brand Lover attractive and interesting and exciting to others?

2.      Is the market position in the Frame of Reference, relative to competitors (or competing uses of time or competing recipients of funding), attainable; is the organization capable of effectively occupying that space?

3.      Can the Brand Benefits be real and have credibility in the minds of the customers?

4.      Have the spokes of the wheel been converted into action plans to close the gap between existing reality and the creation of a clear and compelling brand?

5.      Have the participants become more aware of branding, target customers, competitive position, benefits and the collective effect of organization actions on the creation of a brand?

And the final essential question is – can we create this brand in a way that will distinguish us from our competitors in the mind of our customers (or supporters)?  And, if we can, will it create a tangible advantage for the organization in its market place and a return on the investment?

Here is a draft of what some Rotarians might see as an effective branding statement.  How would you change this?

[brand lover] Especially for business and professional men and women who want to make a difference in the world,

Rotary International is [frame of reference] the one global civic organization crossing all boundaries of nationality, religion, politics, age, race and sex to

[benefits] promote principles of conduct and build personal relationships. At its well-respected weekly meetings members are encouraged to be effective, informed, active, compassionate and ethical leaders who do important good works in their community and around the world.