If the catch cry of real estate is ‘location, location, location’, then the catch cry of marketing must be ‘position, position, position’.
The process of positioning in marketing is really a battle for the mind. It’s the communication process of establishing a concept in a consumers mind. In simple terms it’s how people see you against others.
The concept of positioning was made popular by Al Ries and Jack Trout, firstly in an article published by the pair in the late 60’s and then in their book “Positioning – the battle for the mind.” This book is one of the standards. It’s like Shakespeare to the literary world and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ to a pub band.
Positioning is often the most forgotten part of a brand strategy.
Branding is understanding who you are and what people think of you.
Positioning is ensuring your brand holds a point of difference.
Good brands are aspirational, they match consumer desires and people aspire to interact with them.
A good positioning strategy ensures that your brand holds a clear and tangibly different idea in the mind of the consumer that is also aspirational.
Positioning is owning brain real estate in the minds of people.
More often than not, positioning is creating a battle of two.
Here are some examples.
1. Avis were always no. 2 and couldn’t beat Hertz, the industry leader. So they said what’s the best thing about being second? We work harder. The Avis ‘We try harder’ positioning process began. Why did people choose Avis? Because the Avis people are perceived to work harder than anyone else (including the market leader) to help you get the right car and the best service.
2. Apple brought personality to the computer world through the “I’m a Mac” and “I’m a PC” campaign. Apple said if you’re a PC user you wear brown suits, are slightly overweight and rather boring. If you’re a Mac user your fun, casual, smart and hip. Apple actually positioned themselves in the brain space of creative, whilst ‘de-positioned’ the rest of the personal computing industry into the brain space of boring.
3. Woolworths asked what do people look for in groceries and the answer was clean, fresh and quality. Woolworths set about owning the idea of ‘fresh’ in the market place with the ‘fresh food people’. What were Coles left with? Coles have gone after price and positioned around the best value with ‘…it all counts’.
4. When Optus launched into the Australian market they learnt consumers regarded Telstra as the only choice in and considered them difficult to deal with. So Optus positioned as the ‘Yes’ choice and automatically ‘de-positioned’ Tesltra to the negative ‘No’ in the market.
5. When New Zealand looked to establish a clear and tangible point of difference to Australia in the international tourism market they went and owned the image of fresh, fun and rejuvenating. The 100% Pure NZ idea was plastered across images of snow capped mountains, running waterfalls, lush plains and people outdoors being fit and healthy. Of course, Australia has all those things but New Zealand went and owned them in the mind of the world – even in the minds of Australians. Where did that leave Australian promoting themselves? Look at the last ‘Australia’ campaign and compare the idea and the imagery; dry, dusty deserts vs lush snow capped mountains.
All of these companies or places have successfully used positioning strategies to carve market share by owning an idea in the mind of the consumer.
There are many aspirational brands in the market place, yours might be one of them.
But, why are you different?
And, how then do you reinforce that difference across your brand strategy?
Positioning is where art meets science.
You can’t know what people want or what they think about you without talking to them, hence, the need for research. The numbers on the spreadsheet might identify a gap, but unless you can mix that opportunity with a creative idea to drive a wedge into the market place, all the research in world won’t help you cut through to a market.
Once a position is held in the mind of consumers it’s the job of the marketer to hold that ground.
Good brand positioning is clear, tangible and single minded.
Many brands do things because they make money in the short term but they can equally be digging out the ground beneath their feet.
Even good brands can make mistakes and in time these will hurt the long term positioning of that brand. For example, why would the ‘fresh food people’ put their brand on a dirty, grubby petrol station? I’ve never desired ‘fresh’ petrol and I don’t think many people will….?
When your positioning is known, and established, hold on to it with desperation. Some good brands have successfully held their position for decades.
Understanding your brand’s clear and simple positioning strategy can stop a host of short term attractive actions that become long term expensive mistakes.
Where is your brand positioned? Do you know the ‘brain space’ that you need to hold? Do you have a plan to go and get that position?
Just like in any real estate market where properties in bad locations are always the first to be overlooked, so to brands that are in a bad position.
Isn’t it time to start moving to a better position?