|The Missing Link
In Marketing: Differentiation And Positioning
Your customers must have a reason to buy from you and that reasoning comes
from positioning and differentiation.
In order to better understand the purpose of positioning and
differentiation, which, in my opinion, are the most crucial parts of
marketing strategy, I thought it would be a good idea to refer to The
American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition and find the
definition offered for differentiation and positioning. Although they do
not have a direct definition for differentiation and positioning in
marketing, if you look at the definitions for differentiate and position,
one will arrive at the same conclusion, as follows:
American Heritage defines differentiate as follows:
- To constitute the distinction between.
- To perceive or show difference in or between; and discriminate.
Position is described as follows:
- The right or appropriate place.
- The way in which something or someone is placed.
- The act or process of positioning.
- To place in proper position. Last but not least,
- An advantageous place or location.
Having stated the above definitions, one can clearly conclude that to
effectively market, any product or service must be differentiated from its
competition, thereby giving the potential buyer a reason to purchase the
product or service in question.
As for positioning, the definition clearly points out that it is
crucial for any product to be positioned in an appropriate place or,
preferably, advantageous location.
Over the years, I have learned that if you dont position yourself
advantageously, your competition will position you and your product in the
most disadvantageous way. Having said that, one must clearly explain that
positioning is not a part-time job by any stretch of the imagination.
Positioning and differentiation, like marketing itself, are not part-time
jobs. In fact, to do it right, they are more than full-time jobs. That
means you must market every day, you must position every day and you must
differentiate every day, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In short, marketing, positioning and differentiation are 24/7 jobs,
period, end of story.
An example can be cited by describing the success and failure of
company X and the ultimate success of company Y.
In the mid to late 80s, company X took advantage of the inbound
telemarketing boom by using a toll-free number and advertising it heavily
as the preferred source to buy its products around-the-clock. In the early
development stages of the company, the firm marketed heavily and
practically all day long, every day, until they positioned themselves as
THE source for the product in question and thus enjoyed the number 1
position in market share. A few years later, the company was sold. All
advertising, positioning and differentiation was stopped by the new
owners. Company Y came along and did what company X used to do and started
to heavily market, advertise, differentiate and position themselves as the
new leaders. Guess what? Company Y is the unquestionable leader in the
marketplace and next to nothing is heard about company X. This is a true
story. The idea is not to bad-mouth any company, but to simply point out
that great marketing, positioning and differentiating made company X
successful, but when all of these marketing activities stopped, they lost
market share and their leadership position to someone else who did a
better job of marketing, advertising, positioning and differentiating.
Why Positioning And Differentiating Are Vital To The Success Of Any
Marketing Campaign For Any Product Or Service
Here is some food for thought:
With so much global competition, customers need a reason to buy from
you and that reason comes from your positioning and differentiation, which
explains to your customer or potential customer what sets you apart or
what sets your product or service apart. Without that, no one has any
reason to buy your product or service as opposed to your competitors.
I was reading a book entitled The New Positioning; The Latest on the
Worlds #1 Business Strategy by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin,
published by McGraw Hill. I highly recommend this book and here are a few
testimonials found in this book:
A firm in a highly attractive industry may still not earn
satisfactory profits if it has chosen a poor competitive positioning.
-- Michael E. Porter
The Competitive Advantage of Nations
The key to any marketing plan is positioning.
-- Ron Zarrella
Vice President, General Motors Brandweek
The global marketing imperative: Positioning your company for the
new world of business.
More than anything else the success of soft drinks depends on
taste and positioning, rather than on presentation and design.
Food Magazine (Holland)
Rolls-Royce to buy Allison, positioning U.K. firm in the U.S.
The Wall Street Journal, Europe Edition
Influencing The Mind
In his book, Mr. Trout defines positioning as follows:
We have always defined positioning, not as what you do to the
product, but what you do to the mind.
Mr. Trout further believes that the ultimate marketing battleground
is the mind, and the better you understand how the mind works, the better
you will understand how positioning works.
Positioning Must Be Adjusted To The Rapidly Changing Market
In todays ultra-fast-moving and rapidly changing environment, one can
practically assume that market conditions also change month to month,
maybe even day to day as opposed to 25 years ago when things changed more
slowly. Consequently, one must always remain 100 percent focused on the
marketplace as well as on the validity of positioning vis vis the
current conditions of the marketplace. It would be a disaster if one were
to lose sight of adjusting ones positioning to reflect the changing
marketplace requirements. The next important item is that when companies
fail to change their positioning, they lose market share and lose
considerable revenue. In fact, such companies may not even survive when
markets change so rapidly.
What Then Is The Proper Course Of Action?
Obviously, as I have stated in many of these Publishers Outlooks, in
all cases one must remain extremely flexible and change as rapidly as the
marketplace changes. This process is called repositioning, which is
crucial to the survival of any successful and progressive organization.
Mr. Trouts book spends considerable time explaining this process.
How To Cope With Information Explosion
In todays extremely complex, information-jammed world, we are exposed
to thousands of advertisements, promotions of various kinds and in short,
are inundated with information explosion. It has been said that in the
last 30 years, more information has been produced than in the previous
5,000 years. The emergence of the Internet has added ultrasonic speed to
the growth of information available. Therefore, to make your products and
services stand out in the marketplace, you must do a superb job of
positioning, differentiation, marketing and advertising.
You Dont Want To Be A Penguin, You Want To Position Yourself As A
a look at the picture to the right. What stands out? Obviously, the
peacock. What sets it apart? The magnificent colorful feathers and its
artistic design versus the bland black-and-white feathers of the penguin.
If you were to buy one of them, which one would you buy, the peacock or
the penguin? Those who would buy the penguin would need to see a
psychiatrist. The bottom line is, the peacock is different from the rest
of the crowd; it stands above the rest with magnificent and attractive
colors in the bland land of the penguins. If you truly want success in
your positioning or the position of your company or product, you dont
want to be a me-too or a penguin. You want to be unique and position
yourself as such. In short, you want to position yourself as a peacock in
the land of penguins. That is how you gain market share, penetrate the
minds of the buyers and become a leader.
The First Law Of Positioning
The first law of positioning states that it is better to be first than to
be better. And I will prove it to you in less than one minute. Who was the
first man who flew over the Atlantic? Obviously, Charles Lindbergh. Who
was the second person to fly over the Atlantic? Answer: nobody knows and
nobody cares about number 2. What was the name of the horse who won the
Triple Crown in 1973 and broke practically all racetrack speed records?
The answer: Secretariat. What was the name of the horse that always came
in the number 2 position right behind Secretariat in all three races? The
answer, no one remembers and no one cares about number 2. Only horse
racing fans, such as myself, would remember the name of the second-place
horse, which was Sham. The bottom line: the first law is true and if you
really want to be a market leader, you must position yourself as such
every minute, every hour, every day, every month, 365 days a year and
The Second Law Of Positioning
If you are unable to be first in your field, then find a niche in which
you can be number 1. I think you can find a way of justifying the validity
of this law also by looking at the first law.
Finally, dont forget repositioning as the markets continue to
As always, I welcome your valued comments.
TMC Chairman, CEO and
Executive Group Publisher
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