From Rosser Reeves to Mark Zuckerberg are times really different?

Is history, in fact, repeating it self?

As I mentioned on several occasions, the world of communication is evolving, one can argue revolutionizing with the uptake of social media. Marketing which was formally owed by brand managers is now heavily influenced by the public, birthing what we can now call "participatory marketing."

But, what is really changing? The basis of this blog is about the way we approach product positioning should change. To understand more about the whys, lets touch on the backbone of positioning. A premise that even Jack Trout and Al Ries spoke highly of, the unique selling proposition (USP). Their idea of positioning suggest that a products USP should be set apart from other product's USPs in the mind of the target audience. Makes sense. And, I never argued against owning that special place in the minds of the customer. I simply questioned whether or not it needed to be the same special place in everyones mind.

Lets take a look into some of Reeves fundamental principles for a moment.

Reeves had many beliefs, some of which would be tough to swallow by todays product managers. I can only imagine it was hard to swallow in the 1940's as well. Reeves pointed out that to work, advertising had to be honest. He insisted the product being sold actually be superior, and argued that no amount of advertising could move inferior goods. He also disagreed that advertising was able to create demand where it did not exist. Successful advertising for a flawed product would only increase the number of people who tried the product and became dissatisfied with it. If advertising is effective enough and a product flawed enough, the advertising will accelerate the destruction of the brand. Similarly, Reeves believed it was a waste of money to claim uniqueness that doesn't exist, because consumers will soon find out, and they won't come back to the brand. This is important because historically fortunes are made from repeat business. Money would be better spent building some kind of meaningful advantage into a product before launching a costly advertising campaign to promote it.

Everything I just covered would suggest that Rosser Reeves, if alive today, would embrace social marketing. Giving the power of honesty it's rightful place in marketing, there's an idea.  

Perhaps, product positioning was a deterrent when many companies were struggling to claim a superior, honest and unique selling proposition. At the end of the day, if asked can a brand have a singular positioning I guess I would answer, yes.  But, does it have to, no. 

I'll leave you with one example that suggest brands can be successful and occupy more than one special place in the minds the customer. Duck Tape. Remember if you cant fix it, duck it!

Before this product serviced our homes as the brand we know and love today, it started as a product of the military serving in World War II to fix cracks in windows, seal canisters and resist water. After the war however, was when it took on a new responsibility and became a household brand. After the war the tape was put to the more civilian use of holding ducts together. According to the company's history, the product changed from a nameless army green tape to the familiar gray duct tape. Thirty years later, Jack Kahl, former CEO of Manco, Inc., changed the name of the product to Duck Tape® and put ‘Manco T. Duck’ on the Duck Tape® logo, giving personality to a commodity product. But, the community didn't stop at positioning duct tape as a HVAC brand, not hardly. Duct Tape became the quicker-fixer-upper! Now it's used as a medium for fine art and crafts. It has automotive and RV applications. It's not only used for repairing old things but also for creating new things. Check out some of the amazing things being done with Duck now. Then tell me if these customers think of Duck the way Jack Kahl intended decades ago.

Should we rethink the idea of Positioning?

The idea of positioning dates back to the late 60's early 70's or at least the solidification of the way in which we all talk about it today does. It all started with a couple guys (Al Reis and Jack Trout) writing articles about "mind share" vs. market share which turned into one of the most referenced books in marketing today.

Owning a unique brand proposition made sense for years, in fact, as markets continued to get more crowded, the advertising world seemed to buy into the idea more and more. But, something happened recently that may have shut down the "USP" assembly line. "Stop the press... what happened???" Somewhere along the way, the customer was given a voice. Imagine that, the customer having an opinion on what they want to think about a brand. In this new WIKI-world perhaps positioning is as old as, say, reading the newspaper for news.

I'd like to introduce an idea for a new type of positioning, one that fits todays world. One that is not as rigid as the chrome bumpers of the 60's. I'd like to introduce you to the idea of Personalized Positioning.

My goal for this blog is to stimulate a discussion, dialogue, even a debate for all us marketing fanatics. Some of you may be diehard believers in product positioning according to Ries and Trout. Some of you may be advocates of Segmentation, somewhere between personalized positioning and traditional positioning. And, some of you may just say "I'm not buying any of it," much like Larry Light, McDonald's chief global marketing officer, who publicly noted the mega brand no longer subscribes to the belief of positioning.

Lets review all the various options briefly before I share my new idea of Personalized Positioning.

Classic Positioning:
Fairly simple idea, figure out what you want your brand to stand for and "own" that idea in the mind of the customer. This concept relies, thrives actually, on simplicity. What is that "one" idea the brand can own. When Ries and Trout presented the idea, it seemed very logical, customers were being bombarded with continuos streams of advertising. But, the customer can only focus on so much stuff, so as a reaction the logical thing seemed to be make the ownable idea simple and consistent. Overtime, the customer would ascribe to that idea. The main point of positioning was to get the customer to ascribe quickly otherwise they will establish there own idea for your brand and you will have a hard time changing that perception.

There have been several adaptations to positioning over the years. Many marketers and agencies understand and appreciate the thought of simplicity, but at times can not give up on the idea of owning "just a few more things." This lead to a whole host of weird formulas for developing the best position that covered everything you needed to know about a given brand. The simple idea Ries and Trout started with became known as the unique selling proposition or a "key" part of the larger positioning statement. One of the more popular adaptations for product positioning is Segmentation.

I want to first provide a disclaimer. I am not suggesting the origin of segmentation is based out of the ideas from Ries and Trout. I could not find an originator, but I believe it dates back further than positioning as defined by Ries and Trout. What I am suggesting is that many marketers "position" their brands differently for different segments. These segments are typically based on psychographics including, beliefs, lifestyle, interest, even social class. So, essentially a brand can be many different things to many different types of people. But, holding true to classic positioning, at least each of the segments still only have one idea they ascribe to the brand based on this positioning. And, if none of the segments talk to each other, the success of the brand should be smooth sailing...

There is one small flaw in this approach, people DO talk to each other. People have always talked to each other. It is human nature and it's becoming even easier since Tim Berners-Lee introduced us to the worldwide web.

So, what's next? Is positioning completely obsolete? How will we ever function? Well, I'd like to introduce you to a new way to look at positioning. It relates to both classic positioning and segmentation. Perhaps it is just thinner sliced segments. Perhaps it's not positioning at all, but rather an absence of positioning. You be the judge.

Personalized Positioning:
You may have heard the term "Yes Man," well think about personalized positioning as a way to allow your product to be a "Yes Brand." Sounds negative at first, I am sure. But, if a brand says "yes" to the need of any consumer regardless of their beliefs or behaviors it starts to sound pretty intriguing. It's pretty simple, allow your brand to be whatever the individual wants it to be. Why should we care if one person thinks its fast acting and another person thinks it provides them confidence, just as long as they buy the product. Why is this idea practical? Lets look at today's world of communication... it's wikidiculous. Our thoughts about brands are influenced everyday, not by companies but by customer generated content. And, the brands that are succeeding are those who know how to connect at a personal level.

With the shift from mass media marketing to more micro media marketing—blogs, Youtube, Facebook, etc., perhaps the way in which we position a product should also be micro based.

I will continue to add perspectives and support points throughout our discussion, please share your view point of view. But, first, do you support the idea of a YES brand? Do you disagree? Imagine if you were the head of a council determining how advertising should handle positioning moving forward, what would you do? PLease post your comments for the others to review and comment.

Big Mac attacked positioning

Here are some thoughts and perspectives based on comments to an earlier post. Be sure to check out the links below as they will add more details. If you have a similar of different perspective, please share it with everyone by posting you comments.

About five years ago Larry Light announced that McDonald's is no longer ascribing to the idea of positioning. And, that he believes that brand journalism (later known as brand wikization) is the way to go. In the past decades they focused on positioning the brand as the "families with children choice" unfortunately, their share started to decline in the late nineties. What happens when their market grows up? (They go to Burger King, who targets young adults). Until they walked away from a singular positioning did they see a rise in sales. "Brand journalism allows us to be a witness to the multifaceted aspects of a brand story," Light says. Their "I'm loving it" speaks to each and every person differently and every person speaks about it differently. It still target's children by using Ronald; it targets the young male adults by focusing on the great taste of the Big Mac; it targets the health focused promoting the garden salads and low calorie options; and it even targets the cost conscious with their value menu.

I recently polled a few friends to see why they eat McDonalds and some said for their kids, which suggest that traditional positioning did perhaps work, however others said convenience, some said cost, and some even said it helps with hang-overs. (we all should try that). So what does this all mean? One of your closing comments questioned if varying consumer viewpoints might cause them to abandon the brand, perhaps these variances would in fact build on the reasons to believe in the brand. McDonalds may be on to something. Perhaps simplicity is NOT the answer, in fact, maybe that is what consumers are so resistant to. Perhaps this "brand journalism" that Larry proposed allows every customer to personally position McDonalds in their own mind where it fits most comfortably for them.

Check out:
'I'm lovin' it' helps McDonald's to rebuild customer relevance
The Demise of Positioning
Even McDonald’s Has a Market Position…

"Hardly" Positioning

Here are some thoughts and perspectives based on comments to an earlier post. Be sure to check out the links below as they will add more details. If you have a similar of different perspective, please share it with everyone by posting you comments.

Harley is a good example of a brand that successfully reached the goal of traditional positioning only to find success to be a limitation. In the early days, the brand was positioned as an icon for "American freedom." It was born out of military victory and represented war veterans across the states. This position gave birth to the rough and tough image that dominated the motorcycle industry for decades. But, like many historical milestones, sadly this position faded along with the war stories.

I wouldn't say it was a singular position that helped Harley regain control of the market but rather a host of adaptable and flexible ones. Richard Teerlink called it "community and lifestyle positioning", which is what I call a "Yes Brand" approach. Harley became a variety of things: the affordable American bike–launching Buell, the fast and furious street machine–the V-Rod, and the heritage bike with their flagship bikes. Just to name a few.

More importantly, I believe Harley's success is more based on brand image and personality than product positioning. In fact, Harley at one time measured brand loyalty by the percentage of men and women who tattooed the company's logo on their body.

Personality, like "approachable and fun" which was mentioned regarding McDonalds is an essential element. In fact, personality and brand image may take on a much more important roles in WIKI future. (I'll discuss more in future postings.) For now I just want to make sure we are separating thoughts on positioning from personality and image.

With regards to Government Employees Insurance
Corporation (GEICO), part of their current story links back to their original positioning. Is it simplicity? Nope, sorry caveman. Is it customer service? Nope, sorry little lizard. (But, I love your charm.) It's cost savings. Yes, it's about the money you could be saving with GEICO. They have established their company around affordable insurance.

So, why the other story lines? Is GEICO hurting itself by complicating the simple idea they have owned in the minds of the customer since 1936? I think not. But, what do you think? Perhaps they are appealing to more people and attracting more switches with the variety. Though we cannot say for certain if their success is based solely on their communication approach, but we can say they have risen to become the third largest insurance company in the country.

Here are some references:

Harley-Davidson: Evolution of Marketing Strategy

Broad based positioning misses the target

It appears logical to go broad, and for years this has been the direction for many marketers and advertisers particularly in medicine. Broad seems to almost be needed in situations where the studies vary from market to market and indications make it hard to have a singular brand. Unfortunately, sometimes logic can get in the way of success. Creating a YesBrand can be a very hard concept to grasp at first, because it flies in the face of everything we have been conditioned to believe about positioning thus far. But, when it comes to defining a brand position as "nothing else like it" are we really positioning at all. Or, are we establishing a placeholder to check the box and then later we really define the brand very differently for each target when through messaging? At that point aren’t we personalizing the positioning?

I recently did some research on micro-targeting and micro-marketing, two terms that have become popular over the last five years or so within the world of politics. You may have heard these terms surface during the 2008 campaign election.
Many attribute Obama's win to his message tailoring (micro-targeting) and connectivity through social media (micro-marketing).

While reading various sources (links provided below), I keep coming back to the same point—everybody is different. Therefore a brand needs to serve differently, whether the brand is a presidential candidate or a medicine treating skin cancer. For example, how can a singular positioning for a beverage possibly cater to an urban rap artist and southern country star? Unless of course the positioning is “taste great.” But, is that what positioning has come to todays, a statement so simplified, that it means very little, if anything at all, to a customer on a personal level.

Today’s markets are demanding YesBrands. When Time magazine placed “You” as person of the year, expressing that you control the information age, they were saying the consumer is in control. Which in turn means brands need to start serving up tailored/relevant information and stop pushing idealization.

Here is a great quote from an article by Charlene Goh:
[The standardization versus adaptation debate in advertising theory…debate indicates that, in many cases, standardization is a risky communication strategy because of the deeply entrenched cultural meanings…the challenge for advertisers is to determine sets of local, institutionalized meanings relevant to their brands to effectively persuade and communicate with consumers (Duncan and Moriarty 1998) by developing creative executions that inform, resonate, convince, and even entertain. However, contemporary culture is no longer a monolithic, shared way of life among a majority of people (if it ever was). A more advanced view of culture is that it is a complex melange of symbols, diverse practices, and hybrids (Geertz 1973; Thompson and Haytko 1997).]

That last line really struck a core with me. We need to evolve our approach to brand communication. Broad based campaigns are fading away, consumers now buy based on personal research and peer influenced value, not how we seek to "position" our products.

Here are some interesting perspectives on relative topics:
The Death of "Positioning" & The Birth of Brand Wikification

Yes Brands says "NO" to traditional positioning

You are not alone when thinking, “if a brand stands for everything, it stands for nothing.” We have all been trained to think that very thing, it’s traditional positioning at its purest—curving out a space in the customers mind and owning it. Yes, the premise of a Yes brand challenges the basic belief of singularity in positioning, but all is not lost. Building a brand is more important now than it has ever been. To your other point, the reason for this discussion was not driven by speed of communication as you put it, “instantaneous communication,” but rather on the basis of participatory marketing. Allowing the customer to have a role in the positioning of the product. A product has many elements that go into making it a brand. Positioning is only one factor, and perhaps the weakest link when comparing it to brand image, and personality as previously mentioned. Also, you noted data and doctors, I would say, yes, data is a critical factor that ensures the success or failure of a drug’s brand success. It would be very presumptuous of anyone to think that because pharmaceutical company spends endless hours developing a traditional positioning statement that it will ensure success without many other factors being considered.

I realize a Yes brand says “NO” to traditional thinking about positioning. However, up until now we have also emphasized a "push" approach to communication. Brand communication has been mostly about what the company wanted to say and how the company wanted to say it. But, we are now seeing more and more resistance to that way of thinking, at least from our customer. The customer is asking, "what about what I think, don’t I have a say in what I think?" And, in this new “pull” era of participatory marketing, the customer is gaining control. According to a recent Trust survey by, consumer-generated reviews of products were considered 99% credible. Furthermore, they showed that emails from people you know were trusted 77% of the time where as emails from brands were only trusted 28% of the time. So, my question to you is, if positioning is what we own in the minds of our customer, isn’t the information from the consumer’s peers dominating that mind space more so than the brands driven positioning regardless of how simple as it may be?

My response to all of these questions toward our role and the customer’s role is simple but different from popular belief. I believe there is still a critical role for brand communication, and the brand will always have a voice. The brand will also always have personality and an image. The only real difference is how the customer chooses to think the brand (positioning). The mind space our brand occupies is their decision and may vary from person to person. There is no true benefit in having everyone thinking the same thing. Subsequently, we can have an influence over his or her thinking. I know many "experts" will say we must keep it simple and focus on one thing. But, how many brands are you aware of that are truly one dimensional. Brands are as complicated as you and I. Keeping it simple was a strategy for yesterday when mass dialogue was next to impossible, when your brand couldn't reach everyone on a personal level. Marketing has changed. Customers are saying NO to the push, it’s time our brands say YES.

When it comes to brand consistency, how important is positioning?

Consistency seems to be the biggest discrepancy throughout our discussions thus far when comparing traditional positioning to personalized positioning. Some common themes include: the potential for schizophrenia; a fear that if two individuals think differently about the product their response would be to abandon to brand as a result; the belief that without a singular positioning the brand will stand for nothing and as a result. I believe that all these feelings are based sound ideas and deeply rooted in your experiences and professional learnings. What I wonder, however, is how much of these worries are truly solved though traditional positioning. Are we giving positioning too much credit?
Something I have always found very interesting when polling a group about what a specific brand stands for (it’s positioning), very rarely, if ever, will you receive a consistent response. Just recently I asked a group of guys who liked to golf, what clubs they used, three in particular used Callaway, Ping, and Titleist. It wasn’t that I was an expert on any of the brands; I was most interested in what they thought about the brands. So I picked on them. After asking a series of questions: What does the company want you to know about the brand? Have you ever seen promotion, if so what? What made you decide on that brand specific? Here is what they said, distilled down. One based his decision on the experience of his father, which was Ping. He said “it’s all about keeping it pure.” He was explaining that his clubs are not the more trendy hybrid clubs that “fix” your swing. (Traditional vs. Innovation) The Callaway user based his decision on perfection, suggesting that Callaway was the most innovative. I mentioned Nike, since they have recently suggested superior innovation. His response was Callaway is focused on Golf not “the next big thing.” I guess there is a bit of brand loyalty there. The Titleist user, was not as sure, he said when he was shopping they seemed like the right set at the time and have served him well. Now, what does all this mean? First, none of them purchased based on the current product positioning. But, were they any less of a brand loyalist, because they didn’t know the products positioning? No. By the looks of it, they could have passed for company billboards, hats, bags, even towels all matching. They simply had a unique belief in there mind that drove their brand loyalty. As for the current product positioning, they all were easy to find on the companies’ website. Turns out they all suggest their products are superior (no surprise). But when it came to innovation, Ping was actually the brand that makes that claim. In fact, the name comes from the noise the founder (an engineer) heard from a putter he created to improve his game. So, actually their position was very different from the loyalist’s belief. Callaway positions itself as the brand that “makes golfers better by producing better products.” Interestingly enough, Ely Callaway became a millionaire by selling a Vineyard and bought into a golf club company as a business opportunity in the 1980’s, not sure if the purchase was driven by a desire to make “every golfer a better golfer.” And, lastly, Titleist who “satisfies golfers through superior products.” Perhaps the shelf presence was superior which cause the loyalist to buy. Thankfully traditional positioning helped those brands differentiate. (I am joking of course.)
Here’s the struggle I am having as the discussion grows: as marketers, ad guys, and communication experts we elevate the importance of positioning, but does the success or failure of a brand really depend on it? Lets step away from the “sacred cow” for just a moment and look at other factors that enable our brand to live in the minds of the customer wherever they decide to place it.
Personality: A personality is something that is rightfully owned by the brand. The product, company or service owner determines the personality. It drives first impressions, creates lasting bonds with human beings. And, most importantly personality will drive the tone presented by the brand as it’s intended by the developer NOT the consumer. Personality truly becomes the key driver of consistency. In the new era of WIKI-Communication, a great brand, a YesBrand must evoke a dynamic personality in order to attract passionate customers to speak on its behalf.

In his latest book, Personality not Included, Rohit Bhargava states, “Personality is the macro trend. The three hottest topics in business today are doing more with social media (blogs, social networks, etc.), using word-of-mouth marketing (the No. 1 source of influence according to just about every international
study) and interacting more authentically with customers. Personality is the theme that incorporates all of these topics.
Authenticity: The ability to be honest with the customer and not push idealism over facts. Customers are looking for marketing to be brought closer to truth. UNfortunatly, trust is something that has been slipping away for years in product promotion, in fact, according to an ongoing study by Y&R, (Brand Asset Valuator USA 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007) trust in brands has eroded from +60% to less than 20%. Part of the benefit of personalized positioning is that it allows for brand evangelist (authentic peers) to promote their beliefs on behalf of the brand influencing far more brand purchases than company driven push-promotion ever could. In this case, of course, I am referring to someone who freely believes in the product, not someone paid to support the brand.
Uniqueness: What are the “wow” factors that make up the products offerings. What about a product is news worthy and worth talking about. These are the messages a brand needs to push. As long as it is rooted in authenticity and backed by a “real” voice, a brand should explain it’s story for people to relate and identify with. This is an opportunity to explain why the product is different than the others, what was the intent for development. How the audience leverages these messages in word-of-mouth promotion is truly left in the hands of the brand evangelist.
Lets take a look at a product example from a well-established company, P&G.
Originally Dawn was positioned as the detergent that takes grease out of your way. The product development was based on a real market desire; to encapsulate grease in the water so it would not stick to dishes (or anything else). This unique feature even lead to use in animal rescue during large oil spills. Dawn had an authentic message, “takes grease out of your way.” And, it’s branding, the vivid blue with the droplet suggested the product was refreshing, clean and efficient. So, now I ask, was it positioning that made the brand consistent or was it personality, authenticity and uniqueness?
Now the twist…
For those of you who are P&G branding fanatics (which I am), you may or may not know that they are walking away from “takes grease out of your way” and are now focusing on improving hand beauty. According to The Portnoy Group ( [As part of a corporate brand shift, Proctor and Gamble is repositioning more of its brands from product efficacy to beauty. The latest brand to change is Dawn dishwashing detergent. The market leader over Palmolive's dishwashing brands is now promoting its product as a beauty product for women's hands. The new ad campaign shows a product that is more creamy beauty lotion than gel like cleaner promising to "improve the look and feel of hands in five uses."]
Are you wondering if they are going to loose ground, or if Dawn will become a schizophrenic brand? Or, is it possible to have multiple positions out in the market? I am not sure if “taking grease out of our way” will ever truly be displaced in MY mind. But, perhaps a woman may find the skin care to be more meaningful and therefore be a new adopter of the brand (check out: Elizabette). And, if I ever discuss the product with her in the aisles of the supermarket, I may find her reason to buy a bit strange. But, at the end of the day, I will still buy the product because I want to cut through the grease. To each his own, I always say.
Surely a company like P&G, which brand success dates back to the 1800’s before Ries and Trout were even a twinkle in their mother’s eye, is familiar with brand building and would not risk compromising a market leader like Dawn. Is it possible that Dawn is becoming a YesBrand? Yes, it has a personality. Yes it’s unique (in more ways than one). And, yes it’s authentic, leveraging statistical proof that it not only take grease out of our way, but it will also improve your skin in just five uses. Tell us what you think.

Consumers are now producers making media more personal.

Social media makes every consumer of media a producer of media at the same time. As Clay Shirky puts it, "it's as if when you buy a book they throw the printing press in for free." If you haven't seen his video, please do so now, it will be the most enlightening 15 minutes you spend on social media.

The main inspirations for my blog was not the advancements of communication technologies, but rather the enabling factors that come along with them. Social media is becoming the great enabler. Enabling people to connect like never before. Neighborhoods now have no borders, having a conversation on your front stoop can involve friends from across the country not just from the building next door.

So, what does all this mean for brand promotion, specifically product positioning? Well, one thing is for certain, everything that relates to communication has the potential to change. Shirky highlights how there have only been four major revolutions that transformed media over the last 500 years. And, the internet, particularly how people are now using it to socialize, is the 5th and possibly the most amazing revolution of all. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, these are just the beginning, now there are offerings like Glue from AdaptiveBlue, Inc. which will turn your entire web browsing experience social. What does this mean? Soon, we will never look at another online product promotion, company website, or service without seeing what our friend and peers think.

One closing thought for consideration, if product positioning was conceived when all we had were medias that allowed for one to one, or one to many communication but not many to many communication, how can we say that traditional positioning still fits? At a minimum it may need an upgrade. Perhaps making it more personal? Yes?

Volvo can teach us all something about positioning.

Volvo wasn't positioned as a "safe car" it was born that way!
Fairly recently, a comment was added regarding my post on
"consumers as producers" which used Volvo to illustrate a
point. I love case studies about Volvo because the brand has
been a consistent brand over the years. Volvo is probably
most referenced for it's positioning, safety.
My number one goal is not to show how the company
established this wonderful positioning, but rather how the
customer positioned Volvo. For example, research showed
that women were driving Volvos because of safety long before
ad campaigns told them Volvos were safe. Safety was part
of the brand's DNA from birth.
According to Linda Kaplan Thaler
in her book Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World:
Volvo's actual positioning was "a high-quality, well-built,
last-forever kind of car."
Within her book, the case references
Bob Schmetterer's "wisdom of intuition" saying he had a gut instinct
that safety might be a better way for Volvo to promote to buyers.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this case is that it highlights
that over 25 years ago, customers were positioning
brands regardless of what the company wanted to say.
And, it took a smart marketer to realize that perhaps the
customer was right and we better change our positioning.
Here is an excerpt from the book Bang:
[The change Volvo made in its advertising approach is another
example of the wisdom of intuition. In the early 1980s,
Bob Schmetterer, now CEO of global advertising agency
Euro RSCG Worldwide, was the partner in charge of Volvo
at Scali, McCabe, Sloves. At the time, says Schmetterer,
Volvo was positioned as "a high-quality, well-built, last-forever
kind of car." But Schmetterer, after doing some exploratory
research, had a gut instinct that safety might be a better way
for Volvo to appeal to its potential buyers. "We discovered a
hidden reality. Most Volvos at that time were being bought by
men, but they were being driven by women. We figured that
women are very interested in safety, particularly if they have
young children on board."

The conventional wisdom at the time, however, was that people
don't buy cars based on safety. Instead, they choose cars based
on sex appeal, power, or reliability. "Ford had tried back in the
1960s to sell cars on safety, by focusing on seatbelts, and it was
a disaster," remembers Schmetterer... "The result was great for
Volvo in terms of sales, but more important," says Schmetterer,
"they now own the position of arguably the safest car in
the world."]
The fact of the matter, brands need to be authentic. Positioning
a brand cannot mean that we as "brand stewards" can claim any
position we want. The consumer, who doesn't have a marketing
degree will simply say in response "your ads are cute, but I buy
the brand based on [fill-in-the-blank]."

If you are wondering how this relates to personalized positioning
when this post appears to support traditional positioning.
Remember I never said personalized positioning needed to be
inconsistent. Personalized positioning simply needs to be decided
by the consumer and not the company. The most the company
can do is build a good product with a purpose. Whether, the
marketers realized it or not, Volvo's engineers were working on
safety for decades before the promotion of safety in the 80's
and they never stopped. I will argue that Volvo's "personalized
positioning" is more consistent than most brands' because of
Volvo's dedication to that one attribute, safety.

Business week writes:
Volvo's advertising in the 1970s and '80s was nearly as iconic
as Volkswagen's ads in the 1960s. The ads, which were often
studied in business schools, showed often outlandish
demonstrations of Volvo's strength: One showed an elephant
standing on a Volvo. Another showed Volvos stacked on top
of one another. Another showed a tractor-trailer planted on
one. But that demonstration-style advertising came to an end
in 1991, when the ad agency staged a demonstration of a
monster truck driving over a lineup of cars, crushing each one
except the Volvo. Though the Volvo had withstood one pass
of the truck, the car had to be reinforced to withstand the
multiple passes required by the video shoot. The Texas Attorney
General went after Volvo for fraudulent advertising in a highly
publicized case.
Full Article

Do to the fraudulent claim, Scali, McCabe, Sloves resigned after
a 23-year relationship. The irony is that they lost the $40 million
account by creating an inauthentic ad after working so
hard to develop one of the most authentic brand campaigns ever.
Another reason we need to continue to keep it real!

All in all, many purchase Volvo because it's safe. But, do you
believe Volvo own's that idea because Schmetterer and his group
sat in a room and "claimed" it before anyone else could?
(Now remember, earlier I mentioned how Ford tried and failed
in the 60's) Or, do you believe regardless of whether or not
Schmetterer argued for safety, consumers would have continued
to buy based on the cars remarkable innovations in safety,
even if the brand wanted to be know for "high-quality"?

Here is a list of Volvo Safety Achievements Year by Year.
Perhaps these will influence your decision.

1944 Safety cage
1944 Laminated windscreen
1959 Three-point safety belts in the front as standard
1960 Padded instrument panel
1964 Prototype of the first rear-facing child seat is tested in a Volvo
1966 Twin-circuit triangular (three-wheel) backup braking system
1966 Crumple zones
1967 Seat belts in the rear
1968 Head restraints front
1969 Three-point inertia-reel safety belts in the front
1972 Three-point safety belts in the rear
1972 Rear-facing child seat and child-proof door locks
1972 Volvo Experimental Safety Car (VESC)
1973 Energy-absorbing steering column
1974 Energy-absorbing bumpers
1974 Petrol tank relocated for enhanced safety
1978 Child booster cushion for children
1982 Under-run protection
1982 Door mirrors of wide-angle type
1984 ABS, anti-locking brakes
1986 Brake lights at eye level
1986 Three-point safety belt in the middle of the rear seat
1987 Safety belt pre-tensioner
1987 Driver's airbag
1990 Integrated booster cushion for children
1991 SIPS, side impact collision protection
1991 Automatic height adjustment of front safety belts
1993 Three-point inertia-reel safety belt in all seats
1994 SIPS, side-impact airbags
1997 ROPS, Roll-Over Protection System convertible
1998 WHIPS, protection against whiplash injuries
1998 IC, inflatable curtain,
1998 DSTC, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control
2000 Volvo Cars Safety Centre inaugurated in
Göteborg on 29 March
2000 ISOFIX attachments for child seats
2000 Two-stage airbag
2000 Volvo On Call safety system
2001 Volvo Safety Concept Car (SCC)
2002 RSC, Roll Stability Control
2002 ROPS, Roll-Over Protection System SUV (XC90)
2002 Lower cross-member at the front - protection system
for oncoming cars

2002 Development of virtual "pregnant" crash-test dummy
2003 PACOS - Passenger Airbag Cut-Off Switch
2003 IDIS, intelligent system for driver information
2003 Patented new structure at the front reduces
collision forces
2003 Bangkok's Traffic Accident Research Centre
is inaugurated
2004 BLIS, system for information about the offset
rear blind spot
2004 DMIC, door-mounted side airbag for convertibles
2005 Presentation of Volvo's co-driver system
2005 Multi Lock, combined alcolock and lock for the
safety belt and key for speed restriction
2006 ACC, Adaptive Cruise Control
2006 Personal Car Communicator (PCC)
2006 Collision warning with brake support
2006 Active Bending Lights (ABL)
2007 Integrated two-stage child booster cushion
2007 CWAB, Collision Warning with Auto Brake
2007 Driver Alert Control
2007 Lane Departure Warning
2008 Alcoguard
2008 Pre-Prepared Restraints
2008 City Safety, low speed collision avoidance
2009 Adaptive Cruise control with queue assist
2009 Collision Warning with full auto-brake and
pedestrian detection