4. Positioning

The Onliness Statment

Building on the work or thinking you’ve done up to this point try to finish this sentence:

Our Brand is the only ____________ that ____________.

In the first blank put your category (furniture design, computer repair service, etc).
In the second, describe what makes you different (that sells sustainably manufactured furniture, that makes house calls, etc.)

If you can’t keep it that short and use the word “only”, then you need to work on “2. Business Strategy: the landscape” in your brand brief. One way to move forward in this case is to make a list of all the competitors who could make the same claim, and then start to shift your strategy away from theirs.

If you can fill in that sentence pretty well here’s a more detailed exercise to help you pinpoint “your onliness”. It borrows from the journalistic model of storytelling: WHAT, HOW, WHO, WHERE, WHEN, WHY?

WHAT is your category?
HOW are you different?
WHO are your customers?
WHERE are they located?
WHEN do they need you?
WHY are you important?

The best way to get a sense of how this works is to look at some examples.


For Harley-Davidson

  • WHAT : The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
  • HOW : that makes big, loud motorcycles
  • WHO : for macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
  • WHERE : mostly in the United States
  • WHY : who want to join a gang of cowboys
  • WHEN : in an era of decreasing personal freedom

For Wheat Montana Farms

  • WHAT : The ONLY wheat distributor
  • HOW : that sells grind-it-yourself wheat in stores
  • WHO : for serious home bakers
  • WHERE : in the United States
  • WHY : who want fresh-ground flour for baking
  • WHEN : in an era of growing interest in “slow food”

For The White Stripes (band)

  • WHAT : The ONLY pop music duo
  • HOW : that records crude yet hip rock songs
  • WHO : for young urbanites
  • WHERE : in the U.S. and other first-world countries
  • WHY : who long for authenticity
  • WHEN : in an era of overproduced, me-too music

Notice the extra detail you get in this format. You not only get the category (WHAT) and the point of differentiation (HOW), but you also segment the audience (WHO), narrow your market geography (WHERE), focus on a need state (WHY), and define the underlying trend (WHEN).


If you have distinctly different customers or distinctly different offerings try making an onliness statement for each.