Book: Positioning, Al Ries and Jack Trout

Review

The first edition of this book was published in 1987, but the lessons are as important today as they were 30 years ago. If you can get through the outdated examples, this book gives fantastic advice on how to position a product in an overcrowded market. Highly recommended.

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tl;dr

Positioning the product in the mind of the prospect. Not creating something new and different but manipulating what is already there to retie connections that already exist. Do not try to change the mind of the prospect. Oversimplify your message. Select a position that no one else has a firm grip on. Consistency – keep at it year after year. Name should begin the positioning process by telling the prospect what the product’s major benefit is. Avoid initials. Do not use an existing name for really new products. Keep in mind the line-extension trap.

The first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.

Summary

  • Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position 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’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.
  • But the average person cannot tolerate being told he or she is wrong. Mind-changing is the road to advertising disaster.
  • The best approach to take in our overcommunicated society is the oversimplified message.
  • If you want to be successful in love or in business, you must appreciate the importance of getting into the mind first.
  • It’s 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.
  • They advertise their products in a vacuum and are disappointed when their messages fail to get through.
  • The mind has no room for what’s new and different unless it’s related to the old.
  • More than anything else, successful positioning requires consistency. You must keep at it year after year.
  • The F.W.M.T.S. trap: “Forgot what made them successful.”
  • Leaders should use their short-term flexibility to assure themselves of a stable long-term future.
  • This means a leader should swallow his or her pride and adopt every new product development as soon as it shows signs of promise.
  • Management often sees the new product or service as a competitor rather than as an opportunity.
  • Some brands base almost their entire product message on the high-price concept.
  • Charging high prices is not the way to get rich. Being the first to (1) establish the high-price position (2) with a valid product story (3) in a category where consumers are receptive to a high-priced brand is the secret of success.
  • In positioning a product, there’s no substitute for getting there first.
  • What you must look for is a name that begins the positioning process, a name that tells the prospect what the product’s major benefit is.
  • Stick with common descriptive words (Spray ’n Wash) and avoid the coined words (Qyx).
  • A company must be extremely well known before it can use initials successfully.
  • Which is why not only names but also headlines, slogans, and themes should be examined for their aural qualities. Even if you plan to use them in printed material only.
  • When a really new product comes along, it’s almost always a mistake to hang a well-known name on it.
  • The essence of positioning is to make your brand name stand for the generic. So the prospect freely uses the brand name for the generic.
  • The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product.
  • Your problem is not just one of developing a good strategy. Equally important is the courage you will need to keep hammering at the same theme, year after year.
  • What you must do is to find a way into the mind by hooking your product, service, or concept to what’s already there.
  • Select a position that no one else has a firm grip on.
  • With a given number of dollars, it’s better to overspend in one city than to underspend in several cities.
  • With rare exceptions, a company should almost never change its basic positioning strategy. Only its tactics, those short-term maneuvers that are intended to implement a longterm strategy.
  • The line-extension trap is a good example. What you are really doing when you line-extend is weakening your basic position.
  • As soon as you think you have found that simple idea that is the solution to your problem, you have lost something. You have lost your objectivity. You need the other person to take a fresh look at what you have wrought.
  • The difficulty is finding an open position that’s also effective.
  • You must be willing to give up something in order to establish that unique position.
  • In positioning, smaller may be better. You can’t be all things to all people and still have a powerful position.
  • The first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.

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