Friday Book in a Page: Positioning

In the summer of 1993, I was a young marketing communications student eager to enter the world of advertising agencies. I had worked as a production assistant (PA) the summer before (shoutout to Bruce Dowad if you are still around shooting commercials and downing several cans of Coke a day, and thanks for my first non-waitressing job). As the lowest PA on the ladder, my job was attending to the every need of the ad agency executives who were attending to the every need of their clients at “video village,” which was the comfortable and shady if it was hot weather shoot and cozy warm if it was a cold weather shoot, camp where the ad agency executives and their clients could watch the playbacks of the shots that were being set up. In my job of lurking closely yet trying to make myself invisible, I got to listen in on a lot of conversations between the agency folk. After two weeks on the job, I knew I wanted nothing more than to be an agency person myself. I could feel it in the deep swirls of my DNA. These were my people. 

Fast forward to a year later, and I was one year into the two-year marketing communications program at BCIT and walking through a bookstore in Portland, Oregon, on a summer road trip. Perusing the business section, I stopped at a book that said: The Must Read Classic for Anyone in Marketing. I didn’t need to know anything further and quickly hustled to the cash register with my new must read and likely annoyed my road trip travel companions as I had my nose in the book for the rest of the trip. The book was the classic, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. 

I read the book a few more times after that initial reading in 1993 and have moved it with my ever present stack of books from office to office over the past 30 years (filed with the red books). Still, I hadn’t read it in the past 15 to 20 years, and I’ll admit, I mentally pushed it to the place where other books like Marketing on the Internet lived. So I was sort of shocked and pleasantly thrilled to find upon my latest re-reading how relevant and maybe even more applicable its messages are today. For example, one of my favourite quotes from the book (first underlined in 1993) is: “Positioning is an organized system for finding windows in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances”. 

That sign at Powell’s Books wasn’t wrong. Positioning is a Must Read Classic for Anyone in Marketing. Here is my Book in Page on Positioning

Positioning explores the importance of creating a unique position in the minds of consumers. The authors argue that the most successful brands are those that can differentiate themselves from their competitors and establish a clear and compelling position in the minds of their target audience.

Key Messages:

  1. The most important factor in marketing is not what you say, but what the customer hears. Consumers are bombarded with a vast amount of advertising and marketing messages daily, so they filter out most of what they hear. Therefore, it is critical for marketers to focus on creating a message that resonates with their target audience and captures their attention.
  2. To succeed, you must be first in the customer's mind. The first brand to establish a clear and compelling position in consumers’ minds is often the most successful - think of pioneering brands like Coca-Cola and Xerox.
  3. A successful positioning strategy requires sacrifice. In order to create a unique position in the minds of customers, companies must be willing to make trade-offs and focus on a specific niche - think Avis, which successfully positioned itself as the number two rental car company by focusing on superior customer service. (We Try Harder)
  4. Effective positioning comes through consistent communication - the key to successful positioning is to communicate a clear and consistent message that resonates with consumers. Think Volvo, which owns the word ‘safety’ in consumers’ minds and comes through in every piece of marketing communications from Volvo. 
  5. Positioning isn’t set it and forget it; it is an ongoing process. Successful positioning requires continuous effort and adaptation to changing market conditions. 

Lasting Message: Brand positioning requires a clear understanding of consumers’ needs and desires and a willingness to make trade-offs to establish a specific niche. Additionally, the authors emphasize the importance of ongoing effort and adaptation to changing market conditions to maintain a strong position in customers' minds.

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