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.

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.

19 comments:

  1. You raise a great point earlier on -- what if people talk to each other -- and UCG means they will be talking to more and more of each other. I just wonder what would happen when one micro-branded customer meets another -- the guy who Mr. Bubble said "yes" to regarding "Yes, I will keep his kids in the bathtub longer" encounters the guy who Mr Bubble said "Yes" to regarding "Yes, Mr. Bubble is bathtime fun for all ages" are on the same blog, or in the same chatroom -- what do you think their reaction will be? That's my curiousity. Will they be confused by each other's brand story? And if so -- then what? Will they "troll" each other -- or will they abandon the brand? It may not be any of those outcomes, but I am really curious to know what others out there think... when micro-personalized Yes Brands collide?

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  2. Ok, one more thing -- I love the idea of a YES BRAND, but I think it can be done with a unifying theme to hold it all together. Harley says "Yes" to Urban Riches, Mom and Pops, Outlaws and Lesbians all at the same time -- but does so by linking them all through their desire for Freedom in Travel. It's an elevated idea, I admit -- but it is a singular idea that would allow all those very different customers to have something in common when they meet -- be it in Sturgis for the annual round up, or more likely on a Harley blog or webpage. So I pose the question -- what is Harley doing with its positioning? Is it a YESBrand? Or just segmenting its message? Or media-targeting its message? I'd love to hear what others think -- Harley has done a really good job of being relevant to such diverse groups of people. without diluting their overall brand. And I bet if all those groups did get together at a roadside diner, they would feel unified in proud way. But... is this a true YESBrand??

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  3. Yes, but how do we harness this tidal wave? I support the YES BRAND; the concept is unstoppable. We Google or Sermo or Wiki for a highly specific thing we need, and use THAT. But how do we apply this inevitable reality to induce the prosumer to think that our drug is the specific thing they want? I know (and use) some of the tactics available, but still don't don't see how to strategize, how to position, in this flood of new media outlets. Help?

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  4. Hi SUZANNEGOSS,

    I'd like to share a perspective regarding your "Mr Bubble" scenario. I have been following some trends within various blogs regarding traditional positioning and an actual example arose similar to your theoretical. As I mentioned in the original post, "McDonalds walks away from positioning". About five years ago Larry Light announced that they are 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.

    Here are some links to check out:
    http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/news/219474/World-Analysis---Im-lovin-it-helps-McDonalds-rebuild-customer-relevance

    http://www.brandingasia.com/columns/011.htm

    http://www.marketingyoursmallbusiness.com/MarketPositioning2.htm

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  5. Hi SUZANNEGOSS,
    With regards to your Harley comment. I love your questions. I will continue to dig into this case. It may be all of the above regarding segmenting, media targeting, etc. They are also targeting the younger male who likes fast performance bikes as well. The V-Rod is very atypical for Harley and is attracting many "non-Harley" types. Is this perhaps, because they want to say YES more often. Lastly, I think your idea of a unifying theme is a sound idea. And, this is where this gets a bit complicated. I do not wish to challenge the need to a brand voice (push communication, big-idea, leveraging media, etc.). I am only suggesting that perhaps personalized positioning may be more relevant than traditional positioning in todays market where you not only have mass media, but you have virtual conversations, and customer driven promotion leading the way. Imagine, within a facebook site Harley is the "American Made" bike; within a blog perhaps it's the "Performance" brand. These are just a few examples. Another thing I will do is poll an audience of Harley owners and ask what they think the Harley brand represents. Lets see how much variance there is. Stay tuned.

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  6. Great topic.

    A "Yes" brand. I like the idea, however the dynamics at work to effectively position, create and manage brands are becoming more and more complex. Brands are no longer just colors, type, design and emotion. They are everything that comes with. they are the warranty, the customer service, the aftertaste, the insurance, the weather, the location... not enough room to list them all but you get the idea. Success lies in synergizing every aspect of a products existence, from R&D, through manufacturing, distribution, pricing, consumer education, the purchase experience, use, and service. If any item along the way fails, the customer experience fails. To be a "yes" brand, can you still play on price, or maintain a premium position? "Yes, I would like that Aston Martin for the price of a ford Focus please." Or, "Yes, hook me up with a cellular phone plan that NEVER drops calls." (BTW, the only industry where consumers willingly pay to have their service routinely interrupted.) The trend has started some time ago for brands to adapt to various demographics, some even running multiple campaigns at the same time. Look at GEICO. what would their "Brand image" be? A gecko or a caveman? We've all read how McDonald's is venturing away from classic positioning, but it will be interesting to see if they abandon their stronghold on "approachable and fun." Let's not mistake evolving a strategy to include a greater selection of products for abandoning positioning all together. They have introduced a Cafe Latte. More sophisticated for their portfolio of offerings, but they've done a good job against positioning to lure the "trendy Starbucks customers" towards their menu of cheaper cappuccinos, lattes, iced coffees and hot chocolate, most of which -- judging by the first TV commercials -- will be smothered in a foot of whipped cream. Let's not loose sight of the fact that Starbucks lost it's hold on the appeal of a sophisticated venue for affluent and progressive latte liberals to relax on their way home form work when they started hawking branded merchandise and serving food. Enter McDonlads.

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  8. Hi Rich D'Ginto,

    You bring up good points and good examples. While I was researching Harley this evening, I couldn't help but continue to go back to your comments on GEICO, a brand case I use often in conversations about leveraging a multi-campaign strategy. I'd like to try to address your comment as well as touch on an earlier comment regarding Harley Davidson. I believe both brands help support the idea of personalized positioning.

    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 you 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 the next posting.) 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 links I references:
    http://www.icmrindia.org/casestudies/catalogue/Marketing1/Harley%20Davidson.htm
    http://www.echeat.com/essay.php?t=27170
    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/444179.html
    http://profchristy.typepad.com/24_hour_blend/2009/02/geico-the-serious-side-of-the-gecko-campaign-1.html

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  9. I am very intrigued with the comment that brand personality and brand image will play a bigger role in today's world over traditional positioning. I am reminded of when I worked on Premarin -- the USP was "Nothing else is Premarin" which always made me comment -- "And nothing else is cyanide, either..." -- yet the brand image and personality of a empathetic, intuitive authoritarian resource rang truer than the positioning ever did, and drove more of the branding and communication. I wonder if the common theme that unites a Yes Brand across all its micro audiences could be personality, where the desired expectation of the brand (the positioning) could be made relevant for each of them differently? I think your GEICO case fits this paradigm -- the personality of "irreverent, untraditional, understanding" comes through throughout the different executions and messaging. Many brands that have been successful transferring their image from print to radio have done so through personality more than positioning, in my estimation.

    Here is a link to an article that addresses the concept of Brand Morphing, very aligned with the YesBrand approach, but from a global perspective. Brand Morphing addresses the need for a brand to "morph" and allow its audience to "co-create" the meaning of the brand. Yet it does speak to the ability of a unifying brand image/personality to be morphed to be relevant to changing/different customers:

    http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing-advertising/product-positioning/531271-1.html





    Here's a quote:
    "
    Yahoo!, for example, attempted to portray a differentiated positioning of being "cool" (Rindova and Kotha 2001, p. 1269). Such an abstract meaning has the advantage of being malleable and open to brand morphing efforts in conjunction with consumers' cocreative involvement. During the advent of the Internet's commercialization, "cool" may have referred to being technologically adept and been a good fit with early technophile adopters. Currently, Yahoo!'s "cool" might have morphed into meanings of interesting and useful content, free e-m ail, modestly priced entertainment, and ever-evolving benefits to otherwise technophobic but regular Web users. Ad practitioners might focus their efforts on ensuring that the dominant meanings among markets evolve in positive, diverse directions"

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  10. Interesting article, Suzanne. In it, brand morphing is described as a means of accommodating culturally heterogeneous consumers, as in global campaign development across social and international boundaries. True, the principles of brand morphing can be applied to accommodate the heterogeneous needs of a relatively homogeneous community (e.g., US-based prescribing physicians). It is likely, though, that US physicians who want economical therapy will lunch with physicians who want highly effective therapy and those who want fast-acting therapy, or well-tolerated therapy, and all will see the same ads. I imagine the position would have to be broad, such as “Brand X: for success by all standards in MDS (or whatever).”

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  11. Hi SUZANNEGOSS,
    I want to talk more about personality and brand identity in later postings, but I will say I think both should unify the brand. Both are less about the message (positioning) and more about delivery. I think of them as the genetic coding of the brand. Much like you or me, we have things about us we can not change, such as the way we talk and the way we look. But, our families know us different than our clients know us, and different than our colleagues know us. Our position is personalized in each of those setting. However, our personality and image remain the same. More to come on this topic later. BTW, I loved the article you posted pertaining to brand-morphing. You will see some common themes in my response to Crankowski.

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  12. Crankowski,
    I your response, you touched on something that was an "ah-ha" moment for me. 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:
    http://fusionbrand.blogs.com/fusionbrand/2005/05/the_death_of_po.html
    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/obamas_social_media_advantage.php
    www.wpp.com/NR/rdonlyres/.../PSB_SilentMarketing_Mar07.pdf

    Free webinar taking place on August 4, 2009:
    http://www.spss.com/events/event.cfm?E_ID=3059

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  13. Christine DonnellanJuly 19, 2009 at 9:40 PM

    I've spent this evening reading these posts and links. I find it all very interesting. I've spent my career in advertising thinking if a brand stands for everything, it stands for nothing. That if you don't keep your message consistant, you will confuse your audience. That you must carve out your space in the market and own it. Now what I am hearing seems to be just the opposit. We live in an age of instantaneous communication. How do we keep our messages straight? How do we prevent a misinterpretation of what our brand stands for, if it stands for many things. Is it all about the data now. If your data is weak, so are you chances of making an impact? As doctors get quicker at posting there opinions about brands, do we get quicker at posting data to support that opinion, or to change there opinion. As you see, I have more questions than answers and look forward to following this discussion.

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  14. This is an interesting and timely idea. Our industry has been slow to recognize the increasingly shared power customers are assuming. My struggle with the Yes approach is that the brand gives too much power away. At some point, the brand still has assume some control of its own image and its own actions. I think it is true that your brand can and should have many messages and identify the messages that are most relevant to the audience, based on the audience's narrative and not its own. A brand has to integrate its narrative with the customers' but it needs to have a narrative. In the midst of always saying, "Yes," is the brand saying anything else?

    This is a wonderfully creative expression of an idea. I think it is marketable, saleable, and novel (at least in its deliberateness). I fear that it accomplishes by design what brands currently accomplish by accident--diffusion through silo. If the brand can be anything at any time, then what actually defines the brand. Is it ever defined? And if the customer decides who or what the brand is, then you risk paper doll branding. Further, if someone dresses you up in a halter top and a tuxedo, you run the risk of being seen that way by a broader audience, not just the outlier. So, again, can the customer share power without being in control? I wonder also what the threshold for diminishing return is for a Yes approach. Being all things to all people obviously costs money. So, how do you predict buying behavior if you allow the customer to decide who you are? And, ultimately, when do you stop saying "Yes?"

    I'm sure that this approach isn't intended to be passive, but by waking up in the morning and not picking your own wardrobe (to further belabor the paper doll analogy), how does the brand dress for success? Not to decide is to decide. And don't we, as brands, have to take the initiative to be ourselves and confidently walk up to customers and introduce ourselves. Otherwise, you might go home the poor little wallflower who never got asked to dance. Not only is that not fun, it doesn't make you a better dancer. And isn't the point of all of this that we want to dance with as many people as possible and get them to take us home? And once they take us home, once a "relationship" has been engaged, we want to own that relationship; because without loyalty, the brand is constantly throwing its money toward a limited return.

    Bravo for thinking differently and forcing the conversation and acknowledging the power of the customer. Good luck with whatever this becomes.

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  15. Hi Christine Donnellan et al,

    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 eMarketers.com, 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. (http://www.marketingwords.com/blog/?p=269) 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.

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  16. The post from RODNEYSEXTON was so thought provoking, that I decided to post the next topic regarding a Yes Brand. Be on the look out over the next few days for the next post as it will discuss "You... yes, you are a YesBrand." Stay tuned, and thanks RODNEYSEXTON.

    PS, to all the followers of this discussion, please feel free to continue to comment and I will continue to try to answer questions and provide examples.

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  17. I realize I'm jumping into the middle of your discussion so if i misinterpreted some of your important preamble forgive me. Before we get too far along the road I'd like to offer three positioning related thoughts for your consideration:

    1. There is a valuable assurance of constancy that positioning (done well) gives a brand. As a species we tend to derive more comfort from and affection for people (and brands) that are , at their core, the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. If a brand or neighbor appears schizophrenic or unpredictable we find that interesting, maybe even exciting, but not suitable for a long term relationship.

    2. Marketers don't create needs. Great copy doesn't create needs. Brands don't create needs. We're born with them. Don't think so? Check out Maslow's hierarchy of needs (http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/ intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/maslow.htm) and then try to name a need that your brand satisfies that isn't covered. The delusion that we genius marketers somehow create a need that can only be met by our Brand leads us away from the discipline of positioning toward a belief that "saying the right thing" is at the core of connecting deeply with a customer. "saying the right thing" can only happen when the customer's problem is laid bare with no room for doubt or misinterpretation. I endorse Roxbury's comments about our complexity but believe "complexity" has become an excuse for not painstakingly understanding the problem our brands must solve.

    3. Before we seek to correct or dispose of positioning in light of some new market reality (in this case CRM), let's be sure what we're criticizing is the appropriate application of positioning. Positioning has as much to do with market opportunity and razor sharp targeting as it does to do with getting copy right.

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  18. Matt -- I agree with your perspective on the value of consistency and the risk of a schizophrenic brand. When I communicated the concept of personalized positioning to Jack Trout via email, that was the exact term he used (not surprisingly...). And the fear of schizophrenia is that customer A will somehow be exposed to the position meant for customer B, and disappointment and disengagement will ensue. As Dr. Don Schultz states in "Integrated Marketing Communication, the Next Generation" -“…the customer will eventually integrate the organization’s communication whether the company does or not." (IMC: The Next Generation; McGraw-Hill, 2004, pg 56.) It's hard enough with push-only channels to integrate; imagine the difficulty when customers have more opportunities to discuss and dialogue, in the face of personalized positioning? Instead of an orchestrated message, I foresee a cacophony of confusion...


    Something that strikes me as I review communications on "personalized medicine" is that the concept of "personalized" here is very similar to the marketing concept of segmentation: using information from the end user to determine what approach will be most successful. In the field of medicine, genetic screening is used to determine which therapeutic approach is most likely to work. In the field of marketing, customer insight gathering and profiling are used to discover which messages will be most effective. Yet in both cases, the use of the same approach is not ruled out across audiences. What is really being debated here is Idiopathic Positioning, a parallel to Personalized Active Immunotherapy-- using the customer's own "DNA" to determine the right approach. In Personalized Active Immunotherapy like MyVAX(R), the therapy is never the same twice -- it is made individually and specifically for each patient. Is that the case of a YesBrand -- never the same twice? If so, a recommendation for a YesBrand approach will require a totally new methodology for media and tactical planning -- can it be done, from a practical, go to business, point of view?

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  19. Hi, Suzanne. Can it be done? Anything's possible, and we better figure out how to do it before social media does to advertising what the internet did to the newspaper industry. The agency is no longer the priest-like keeper of the sacred brand; the brand, in the words of Li and Bernoff in Groundswell "is whatever the consumer says it is." Social media is not a fad and there's no going back to monolithic positioning. We will find a way to harness/involve the prosumer in our positioning, a way to guide the conversation, or will literally die trying.

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