What Is Positioning?

positioning-applesIf there’s a marketing term that gets thrown around more than any other, it’s “positioning.” I can’t imagine a marketing plan out there that doesn’t include it, multiple times. But it’s been used and abused so widely, by so many, for so long that it’s likely many people can’t really articulate what it means or why it’s important. But it is very important indeed.

Where did such a term come from in the first place, you may ask? Well, let me tell you. It began more than 45 years ago with the publication of an obscure little book that went on to become what is arguably the best-selling marketing book of all time, over multiple printings. It was never intended to become a textbook — and was certainly not written in that style! (thank God) — but it became one anyway.

You get the point — the book, and the concept of positioning, was groundbreaking back then… and its impact lives on, bigtime. That book is “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” Herewith the gist of what this concept of positioning is all about:


1) It is a marketing concept that arose out of the need to deal with the problems of communicating in an over-communicated society.

2) It is based on the notion that people rank products in a given category on little “ladders” in their mind, and that the farther yours is down the ladder, the more difficult it is for people to remember it.

3) Thus, the battle is to get into the buyer’s mind, to occupy a rung at or near the top of the ladder.

4) An easy way to get into the prospect’s mind is to be first in a product category. But leaders must have strategies to stay there.

5) A follower must find a “hole in the mind” not occupied by another. If no holes are left, it must create one by repositioning the competition.

6) The most important marketing decision you make relating to positioning is naming your product or service. The name has enormous power today in our over-communicated society. It is the first point of contact between the message and the mind. It begins the positioning process, ideally by communicating the major benefit. Even if your product isn’t sold in a box, the name becomes the box.

7) Positioning requires simplicity; confusion and complexity are its enemies. Only obvious, simple ideas work in our over-communicated world.

8) A common thread in successful positioning efforts: seizing the initiative, acting before competitors have a chance to get established. Many in leadership positions got that way by pouring on the marketing money while the situation was still fluid … while the others sit back and wait.

9) A few other thoughts: positioning is a long-term proposition, requires patience … also requires objectivity, brutal frankness … and that you sacrifice something, not be too broad … look for smaller targets you can own exclusively rather than sharing markets with many others.

10) Six questions to begin process of positioning:

• What position do you own?

• What position do you want to own?

• Whom must you outgun?

• Do you have enough money?

• Can you stick it out?

• Do your communications match your position?


Source: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout.


What does the concept of positioning mean to you? What impact has it had in your experience?

Leave a Comment