Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind

By Al Ries

Notes

  • Positioning is placing the product in the mind of the prospect.

  • The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what is already up there in the mind.

  • In general, the mind accepts only that which matches prior knowledge or experience.

  • The easy way into a person’s mind is to be first.

  • It is better to be a big fish in a small pond (and then increase the size of the pond) than to be a small fish in a big pond.

  • "Every advertisement is a long-term investment in the image of a brand" – David Ogilvy

  • One roadway to success is to look at what your competitors are doing and then subtract the poetry or creativity, which has become a barrier to getting the message into the mind. With a purified and simplified message, it is easier to penetrate the prospect’s mind.

  • Were the average consumer rational instead of emotional, there would be no advertising.

  • It is very difficult to dislodge a higher ranked product in the prospect’s mind – this is why it can be beneficial to relate your product with the competition as opposed to trying to ignore its existence. This way you can at least be on the “product ladder” in the prospect’s mind. Sometimes advertising as an alternative is effective (7up as the “uncola”).

  • Do not advertise your aspirations.

  • A company stuck with a losing position is not going to benefit much from hard work.

  • Consumers are like chickens – they are much more comfortable with a pecking order that everybody knows about and accepts.

  • If your product is in the number one spot, do not advertise so – prospects see insecurity. However, it is important to reinforce the original concept that led to the number one position. Ex. “The real thing”, “We invented the product”, etc.

  • It is not size that makes a company strong. It is mental position that contributes to market share that makes a company strong.

  • "Look for the hole" as opposed to “Bigger and better” when marketing products similar to existing products. Time is often spent on “better” when “speed” if often what should be the goal.

  • Positioning strategies: sex, age, time of day, distribution, heavy-user.

  • Advertising is not a debate, it is a seduction.

  • There are too many competitors out there. You cannot win by not making enemies, by being everything to everybody. You must carve a niche, do not fall into the “everybody” trap.

  • Never be afraid of conflict, the crux of a repositioning program is undercutting an existing concept, product or person. People like to watch the bubble burst.

  • For a repositioning strategy to work, you must say something about your competitor’s product that causes the prospect to change his or her mind, not about your product, but about the competitor’s.

  • Reposition in truth and realize people like to see the high and mighty exposed.

  • "We’re better than our competitors" is not repositioning, it is comparative advertising and ineffective.

  • The single most important marketing decision you can make is what to name the product. Ideally, the name tells the prospect what the product’s major benefit is.

  • Only when you are the first in the mind with an absolutely new product that millions of people are certain to want can you afford the luxury of a mean-nothing name.

  • When you want to change a strongly held opinion, the first step to take is usually to change the name.

  • Along with a bad name comes a bad perception.

  • New ladder, new name, it is as simple as that. (Do not use existing names if the mind space they occupy conflicts with a new product). One name cannot stand for two distinctly separate products.

  • What it means to own a position in the mind – the brand name becomes a surrogate/substitute for the generic name. Ex. “Get me a Coke”, Where is the Bayer?", “Hand me the Dial”, etc.

  • What actually is driven into the mind is not the product at all but the “name” of the product that the prospect uses as a hook to hang attributes on.

  • The essence of positioning is to make your brand name stand for the generic.

  • Do not fall for the “Line-Extension Trap”, it is often best to have a brand new name as opposed to a name that is affiliated with an existing product. Again, what actually is driven into the mind is not the product at all but the “name” of the product that the prospect uses as a hook to hang attributes on.

  • When Line-Extension is OK

    • Expected volume –Small-volume products should.
    • Competition – In a crowded field, it should.
    • Advertising support – Small budget brands should.
    • Significance – Commodity products such as chemicals should.
    • Distribution – Items sold by sales reps should.
  • If you are not on top and you tell the prospect you have the better people… they will not believe you. “If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?”

  • When your customers are impressed, you will always do better than your competitors will.

  • Out of mind. Out of business.

  • The perceptions of people living in a place are often different from those visiting it.

  • Positioning may require you to oversimplify your communications. So be it. There is no other way. Confusion is the enemy. Simplicity is the Holy Grail.

  • The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product. (milk duds as the “long lasting” alternative to candy bars).

  • What counts is how your company compares with your competitors. (semantic differential research is very helpful here)

  • Experience has shown that a positioning exercise is a search for the obvious.

  • The secret of success is to keep your nose to the grindstone; do your job better than the next person, and fame and fortune will come your way, right? Wrong. Trying harder is rarely the pathway to success. Trying smarter is the better way.

  • Success in life is based more on what others can do for you than on what you can do for yourself.

  • If you want to take maximum advantage of the opportunities that your career has to offer, you must keep your eyes open and find yourself a horse to do the job for you.

    • 1st horse is your company – Where are they going? No matter how brilliant you are, it never pays to cast your lot with a loser.
    • 2nd horse is your boss – Always try to work for the smartest, brightest, most competent person you can find.
    • 3rd horse is a friend – business friend recommendations are huge. It is wise to keep in touch with all your business friends vs. only when it is beneficial to you.
    • 4th horse is an idea – you must be able to expose yourself to ridicule and controversy, you must be willing to go against the tide.
    • 5th horse is faith – in others and their ideas
    • 6th horse is yourself – work smart and find a horse to ride
  • How to get a positioning program started

    • What position do you own? Instead of asking what you are, you ask what position you already own in the mind of the prospect/marketplace. Changing someone’s mind in an over communicated society is very difficult, it is much easier to work with what is already there. You must find a way into the mind by hooking your product, service or concept to what is already there.
    • What position do you want to own? Do not fall into the “everybody trap”. If you are trying to be everything to all people, you wind up with nothing. Better to narrow the focus of your expertise, to establish a unique position as a specialist not a generalist.
    • Whom must you outgun? Coming to grips with the competition is also the main problem in most marketing situations.
    • Do you have enough money?
    • Can you stick it out? It is important to take a long-range point of view, to determine your basic position and then stick to it.
    • Do you match your position? Creativity by itself is worthless. Only when it is subordinated to the positioning objective can creativity contribute.
  • Leadership positions are established by seizing the initiative before the competitor has a chance to get established.

  • You need others/someone to bounce ideas off; only in a give and take atmosphere, can ideas be refined and perfected.

  • The secret to establishing a successful position is to keep two things in balance: 1) a unique position with 2) broad appeal.

  • To win the battle for the mind, you cannot compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but not head-to-head.