Your “Onliness” Statement

Onliness Statement graphic from Matchstic

Onliness Statement from Mary Neumeier (image from Matchstic)

One exercise *every* small business needs to do: Develop Your Onliness Statement.

It’s a branding device I learned from Marty Neumeier  while working at NEUTRON, his design think tank in San Francisco.

Fill in these blanks: “My brand is the only _______ that ________.”

For example: Cirque du Soleil is the only circus that combines acrobatics with theatre.

To create an “onliness statement,” six components must be defined:

  • What: the only (category)
  • How: that (differentiation characteristic)
  • Who: for (customer)
  • Where: in (market geography)
  • Why: who (customer need statement)
  • When: during (underlying trend)

An example of a completed “onliness statement” for the Harley Davidson company is:

  • 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

Here’s a wild stab at an onliness statement I took with a new client, Bodywork by James Girard

[what] James Girard Massage is the only [what] bodyworker that [how] combines brains
& brawn for [customer] men & women in [market geography] San Francisco who
[customer need statement] want more than your average rub down during
[underlying trend] this era of quick fixes and short attention spans.


Resources for creating your onliness statement:

Great ad-lib-like graphic to help you craft your statement from Matchstic

ZAG: Where the “onliness statement” came from

Defining Your Non-profit’s Onliness Statement

Idea Sandbox’s How to Be Different: Zag


Take a few stabs of your own for your business and send me what you come up with.

Want some help? Contact me. I love creating onliness statements.