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expert perspectives amas 75 years in marketing history

By JaCK TrOuT
editor@ama.org

Positioning Myopia
Editors note: In 1969, noted marketing outruns the slow horse of meaning. knew exactly what was being served.
strategist Jack Trout wrote an article in which Complicated answers dont help anybody. But in the past decade, Budweiserand
he introduced the industry-changing Every executive wants information because Miller and Coorshave flooded the market
concept of positioning and subsequently the difference between a decision and a with regulars, lights, drafts, clears, cold-
co-authored a book with Al Ries on the topic. guess often comes down to information, but brewed, dry-brewed and ice-brewed beers.
Jack trout speaking at a recent
Forty years later, Trout released a book that todays executives dont want to be buried Now the statement This Buds for you can
seminar in beijing
moves the ball forward, called Repositioning: alive in printouts and reports. So it is with only elicit the question, Which one do you
Marketing in an Era of Competition, your marketing. have in mind?
JaCK TrOuT is president of Change and Crisis. Extending brand equity has become
trout & partners ltd., an In this exclusive column for Marketing 3. minds are insecure. all the rage, as companies like Coca-Cola
international marketing News, Trout distills some of his insights down Minds tend to be emotional, not rational. talk about concepts such as megabrands.
consultancy based in old to demonstrate positionings continued Why do people buy what they buy? Why do But such line extensions just exacerbate
greenwich, conn. he has importance to the marketing discipline. people act the way they do in the market- consumers loss of focus.
consulted for companies such place? According to psychologists Robert In our 1972 Advertising Age articles, Al

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as hewlett-packard, southwest ver the years, positioning has Settle and Pamela Alreck in their book Why Ries and I cautioned companies not to fall into
airlines, merck, procter & become a highly used word in market- They Buy, customers dont know, or they what we called the line extension trap. For
gamble, and papa Johns, ing, but as I watch what companies wont say. When you ask people why they years, we were the lone voices railing against
among many others. say, I wonder if anyone understands what made a particular purchase, the responses line extensions. Even the Journal of Consumer
Ive been writing about these many years. they give are often not very accurate or Marketing noticed this: Ries and Trout stand
trout has authored and That said, maybe its time to clarify things: useful. That may mean that they really do alone as the only outright critics of the prac-
co-authored several books, Positioning is how you differentiate your- know, but theyre reluctant to tell you the tice of brand extension. (Our minds dont
including Positioning: The Battle self in the mind of your prospect. Its also a right reason. More often, they really dont change.) Thats until the Harvard Business
for Your Mind; The 22 Immutable body of work on how the mind works in the know precisely what their own motives are. Review rendered their verdict: Unchecked
Laws of Marketing; Dierentiate process of communications. My experience is that people dont know product-line extension can weaken a brands
or Die; and Big Brands. Big The first words on this subject go what they want. (So why ask them?) More image, disturb trade relations and disguise cost
Trouble. his most recent book, back to 1969 when I wrote an article in times than not, people buy what they think increases. Keep it up, guys.
Repositioning: Marketing in an Industrial Marketing magazine entitled they should have. Do most people really
Era of Competition, Change and Positioning is a game people play in todays need a four-wheel-drive vehicle? (No.) If stand for something: Be a
Crisis, was published in 2009. me-too marketplace. (Heres an untold they did, why didnt they become popular well-focused specialist.
secret: I chose the word positioning years ago? (Not fashionable.) In an increasingly competitive world, the
because of a dictionarys definition of well-focused competitor is usually the
strategy: Finding the most advantageous 4. minds dont change. winner. The specialist can focus on one
position against the enemy.) Since then, Ive A general feeling in the marketing industry product, one benefit, one message, which
written a number of books on the subject, but has always been that new-product adver- enables the marketer to put a sharp point
let me boil it down to the five most important tising should generate higher interest than on the message that quickly drives it into
elements in the positioning process. advertising for established brands. But it the mind. Castrol can focus on its oil for
turns out that were actually more impressed high-performance small engines. Pennzoil
1. minds are limited. by what we already know (or buy) than by and Quaker State are marketed for all types
Like the memory bank of a computer, the mind whats new. of engines.
has a slot or position for each bit of information With thousands of different commercials Another weapon of the specialist is the
that it has chosen to retain. In operation, the across hundreds of different brands, you ability to be perceived as the expert or the
mind is a lot like a computer, but there is one can pretty much rule out creativity as the best. Philadelphia is the best cream cheese.
important difference: A computer has to accept difference in persuasion. A book entitled (The original, so to speak.)
what you put into it; the mind does not. The Attitudes and Persuasion, by Richard Petty Finally, the specialist can become the
human mind rejects information that does not and John Cacioppo, spends some time on generic for the category. Xerox became the
match its prior knowledge or experience, but it why minds are so hard to change: The generic word for copying. 3Ms Scotch tape
doesnt have much prior knowledge or nature and structure of belief systems became the generic word for cellophane
experience to work with. is important from the perspective of an tape. And now an online search comes
In our over-communicated society, informational theorist because beliefs are down to, Google it.
the human mind is a totally inadequate thought to provide the cognitive founda- Even though the lawyers hate it, making
container, so you must be very careful with tion of an attitude. In order to change an the brand name a generic is the ultimate
your message and be aware of what is already attitude, then, it is presumably necessary to weapon in the marketing wars, but its
in the mind about you and your competitors. modify the information on which that atti- something only a specialist can do. The
tude rests. It is generally necessary, there- generalist cant become a generic. Nobody
2. minds hate confusion. fore, to change a persons beliefs, eliminate ever says, Get me a beer from the GE.
Whats the secret to being remembered? To old beliefs or introduce new beliefs. While America has to re-learn position-
keep it simple. And youre going to do all that with a ing, China has decided to learn it. Recently,
We tend to think of boredom as arising 30-second commercial? Peking University in China has put my
from a lack of stimuli, a sort of information positioning strategy material into its busi-
underload. But more and more commonly, 5. minds can lose focus. ness school curriculum. China is moving
boredom is arising from excessive stimula- In days gone by, most big brands were from manufacturing to marketing with a
tion or information overload. Its a problem clearly perceived by their customers. The vengeance. Look out, world. m
of complexity. Information, like energy, mind, like a camera, had a very clear picture
tends to degrade into entropy, into just of what its favorite brands were all about.
noise, redundancy and banality. To put it When Anheuser-Busch proudly proclaimed
another way, the fast horse of information that This Buds For You! the customer
34 marketing news | march 15, 2012

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