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.
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.
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.