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Rezo Bragin
Rezo Bragin

Learn the Secrets of Positioning from Al Ries and Jack Trout: A Free Download

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout: A Summary and Review

Positioning is one of the most influential marketing concepts of all time. It was introduced by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their bestselling book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, published in 1981. In this article, we will summarize and review the main ideas of the book, and show you how to apply them in your own marketing strategy.

positioning by al ries and jack trout free 12

What is positioning and why is it important?

Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. It's how you differentiate yourself in the mind of your potential customer. It's not about creating something new and different, but about manipulating what's already in the mind.

Positioning is essential for communicating in an overcommunicated society. We live in a world where we are bombarded with information from all directions. The human mind cannot cope with this overload, so it screens and rejects most of the messages it receives. The only way to get through this mental barrier is to find a window in the mind that is open and available for your message.

Positioning is also a competitive strategy. You cannot position yourself in isolation, but in relation to your competitors. You have to take into account their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their positions in the mind of the market. You have to find a way to occupy a unique and favorable place in the mind of your target audience, so that they choose you over your competitors.

The key principles of positioning

Be the first in the mind

The easiest way to get into someone's mind is to be the first one there. Being first gives you a tremendous advantage over later entrants, because you can establish yourself as the leader, the original, or the standard in your category. People tend to remember the first better than the second or third, and they tend to prefer it over others.

Examples of successful firsts are Coca-Cola (the first cola), Kleenex (the first tissue), Xerox (the first copier), IBM (the first computer), Apple (the first personal computer), Google (the first search engine), Amazon (the first online bookstore), Netflix (the first online streaming service), etc.

Create a new category if you can't be the first

If you can't be the first in an existing category, then create a new category that you can be the first in. This way, you can avoid competing with the established leader, and instead create your own market niche. You can do this by focusing on a specific segment, a specific benefit, a specific problem, or a specific attribute that differentiates you from the rest.

Examples of successful new categories are Red Bull (the first energy drink), Starbucks (the first premium coffee shop), Uber (the first ride-sharing service), Airbnb (the first home-sharing service), Spotify (the first music streaming service), etc.

Use an oversimplified message

To cut through the clutter and noise of the market, you have to use a simple and clear message that communicates your position. You have to jettison the ambiguities, complexities, and details, and focus on the essence of your product or service. You have to use a word or phrase that captures your position in the mind of the prospect.

Examples of successful oversimplified messages are Volvo (safety), BMW (driving), FedEx (overnight), Domino's (30 minutes), L'Oréal (worth it), Nike (just do it), Apple (think different), etc.

Leverage the power of the name

The name of your product or service is the most important element of your positioning strategy. It's the first thing that people hear or see when they encounter your brand. It's the hook that grabs their attention and triggers their associations. It's the shorthand for your position in their mind.

The best names are those that are suggestive, descriptive, or associative of your position. They should be easy to remember, pronounce, and spell. They should also be distinctive, unique, and protectable.

Examples of powerful names are Crest (toothpaste), Tide (laundry detergent), Snickers (candy bar), Visa (credit card), Rolex (watch), Mercedes-Benz (car), etc.

Avoid line extension

Line extension is the practice of using an existing brand name to launch new products or services in different categories or segments. It's a common strategy that many companies use to leverage their brand equity and expand their market share. However, it's also a dangerous strategy that can dilute your position and confuse your customers.

The problem with line extension is that it weakens your original position by spreading it too thin. It also creates confusion in the mind of the prospect, who may not know what your brand stands for anymore. It also opens the door for new competitors to enter your category and challenge your leadership.

Examples of failed line extensions are Coca-Cola Blak (coffee-flavored cola), Colgate Kitchen Entrees (frozen meals), Harley-Davidson Cake Decorating Kit (baking product), etc.

Focus on the leader

If you are not the leader in your category, then you have to position yourself against the leader. You have to find a way to contrast yourself with the leader, and show how you are different or better. You have to exploit the weaknesses or vulnerabilities of the leader, and emphasize your strengths or advantages.

Examples of successful challenger positions are Avis (we try harder), Pepsi (the choice of a new generation), Apple (1984 commercial), Burger King (have it your way), etc.

Reposition the competition

Another way to position yourself against the leader is to reposition them in the mind of the prospect. This means changing or altering the perception of the leader, so that they appear less attractive or desirable. You can do this by exposing their flaws, exaggerating their negatives, or creating doubts about their claims.

Examples of successful repositioning campaigns are Tylenol (acetaminophen vs aspirin), Miller Lite (tastes great vs less filling), Listerine (kills germs vs causes bad breath), etc.

Fill a hole in the mind

The final principle of positioning is to fill a hole in the mind of the prospect. This means finding a gap or an opportunity in the market that is not yet occupied by any competitor, and filling it with your product or service. You can do this by identifying an unmet need, a latent desire, or a emerging trend that you can satisfy or capitalize on.

Examples of successful hole-fillers are Southwest Airlines (low-cost airline), Netflix (DVD-by-mail service), Google (search engine with relevant results), etc.

Conclusion and key takeaways

Positioning is a powerful marketing concept that can help you stand out in a crowded and noisy market. It's not about creating something new and different, but about manipulating what's already in the mind of the prospect. It's about finding a window in the mind that is open and available for your message.

To position yourself effectively, you need to follow these steps:

  • Analyze your current position and your competitors' positions

  • Define your desired position and your unique selling proposition

  • Implement your positioning across all your marketing channels

  • Monitor and adjust your position as needed

By applying these steps, you can create a position that is unique, favorable, and memorable in the mind of your target audience. You can also avoid the pitfalls of line extension, me-too products, and confusing messages.

If you want to learn more about positioning, we recommend you to read the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It's a classic marketing book that will teach you everything you need to know about this topic.


What is the difference between positioning and branding?

Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect, while branding is what you do to the product or service. Positioning is the strategy behind branding, while branding is the execution of positioning. Positioning is the foundation of branding, while branding is the expression of positioning.

What are some examples of bad positioning?

Some examples of bad positioning are:

  • Trying to be everything to everyone (e.g., Sears)

  • Using a name that is generic, confusing, or misleading (e.g., ABC)

  • Changing your position too often or too drastically (e.g., New Coke)

  • Copying or imitating your competitors (e.g., Microsoft Zune)

  • Using a message that is vague, complex, or boring (e.g., most B2B ads)

How can I test my positioning?

You can test your positioning by asking yourself these questions:

  • Does it reflect the reality of the market and the mind of the prospect?

  • Does it differentiate me from my competitors?

  • Does it communicate a clear and compelling benefit or value?

  • Does it resonate with my target audience?

  • Does it support my marketing objectives and goals?

How long does it take to establish a position?

It depends on several factors, such as the size of your market, the intensity of your competition, the frequency of your communication, and the quality of your product or service. Generally speaking, it takes longer to establish a position in a large and crowded market than in a small and niche market. It also takes longer to establish a position if you have many competitors who are also trying to position themselves. It also takes longer to establish a position if you communicate infrequently or inconsistently. And it also takes longer to establish a position if your product or service is inferior or mediocre.

How can I improve my positioning?

You can improve your positioning by doing these things:

  • Conduct regular research on your market, your customers, and your competitors

  • Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and identify your opportunities and threats

  • Craft a simple and catchy slogan that summarizes your position

  • Create a consistent and distinctive visual identity for your brand

  • Demonstrate your position through testimonials, case studies, or social proof

  • Innovate and improve your product or service to deliver on your promise



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