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February 29, 2004


Zeeshan Nomani

Well, good article, I must say branding is the promise you make, your brand is the promise you keep.


Rodney Henry

Positioning, what is it and how can it work for your brand. All brands have a position, it is the perception that your customers have in their minds about your brand. That is what you need to form not the many things that most brand managers try. The perpection is what makes the brand's position so important. Its just the tip of the ice burge in the world of branding.

rhonda page

As far as I can see, there doesn't seem to be much consistency out in the branding world as to what is a positioning statement, mission statement, vision statement, brand promise etc. Every company i look has a different view and definition. Does anyone know of one set of guidelines out there to help us guide out clients through this process?


OK, so I've read the debate and still feel that positioning is alive and kicking. There seems to be an oscilliation here though of whether positioning is how YOU (the company) communicate the brand to the market or how the Market perceives the brand. They obviously work together, but it can be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, especially if you don't get the positioning right straight off the bat. (If you fail to communicate effectively or it is a positioning that is not relevant to the consumer, then you start to loose control of the positioning). Therefore, what information should you include in a positioning statement to help ensure that you are effectively and consistently communicating to your organisation, your agencies, your customer?


I think debate was very timely and affective. Positioning could be considered as what others think about or feel about when the brand name is uttered or thought of. However, it is the total marketing effort that makes a good positioning. Although in famous text books there is a chapter always dedicated to "Positioning" I personally feel that it is not necessary. It is a duplication of what we learn under the other topics of marketing. So my view is to take this so called "positioning" out from the marketing text because rest of the marketing is automatically creating it and it has become redundant


Hello Sir, I am doing research on brand positioning. Please Clearify the point that if the unoccupied position identified by you is trapped by your competitor, what will be your positioning strategy? Again in this competitive era it is also poissible that one can't define the unoccupied position in the market.

john edelson

Branding is very different for established than new brands. Most new brands should just try to be memorable and clear to their customers.

Branding is different than product creation. Its positioning and identify. My approach is try and create a coherent memorable brand. Time4Learning featuring Ed Mouse, the Educational Mouse. Now that I think about it, I'll put an Ed Mouse animation on the front of the site...

Greg Balanko-Dickson

Great position, a Telecom with great service. Thank you for the reminder - talk to the customer.

jennifer rice

There are unmet needs everywhere! You simply need to talk to customers to learn what they really care about. For example, I worked with a telecom provider who was selling 'low price' phone service. But customer interviews revealed that they didn't care about price as much as they cared about great customer service... and there wasn't a single telecom provider that provided great service. My client decided, hey, great position. They've been working to revitalize and revamp their service, and customer churn has declined significantly.

Greg Balanko-Dickson

Therein lies the challenge... "what can you do better than anyone else that meets an **unmet need** in the market?"

Part of me wonders how possible that really is... i.e. unmet need. Is there really anything new under the sun? Or have we not looked in the right places?

jennifer rice

The bottom line: "what can you do better than anyone else that meets an unmet need in the market?" That's your position. To arrive there, you need a pretty good understanding of your customer and your competition.

Greg Balanko-Dickson

Great points of clarification. Here is the challenge. Branding, positioning seems like a 'black art' to most people. I do not mean that in a negative way, to clarify, it is mysterious to most small business people.

I am wanting to simplify a complex subject because my book on business planning is about helping people put their thoughts down on paper.

To clarify the points you make.

Using a combination of the right product (that meets the customers' tangible and emotional needs ) *and* communicates what the product does best, is differentiated from the competition *plus* is in step with the overall corporate brand strategy.

Positioning is a multi-dimensional management/marketing/sales strategy .

jennifer rice

Don't forget competition and the overall corporate brand strategy. Positioning is a combination of: what customers need (on tangible and emotional levels), what the product does well, and key points of difference versus competition. Each product's positioning should dovetail with the corporate brand umbrella.

Greg Balanko-Dickson

I am writing a book on business planning and am trying to figure out how to explain to newbie business owners the concept of product positioning.

From where I sit, product positioning involves forming a communication strategy to show how a product/service meets a customers' needs. In other words connecting the dots between their customers' needs and the product.

Would anyone disagree with that wording? Suggestions?

Ravishankar TJ

The basic problem with positioning is that it gets frozen. Plus, Trout and Ries strongly believed that once a market has given you one, it will not give you another. This is quite puzzling. On the one hand, we say that businesses are undergoing fundamental changes, that competition can emerge from anywhere (even completely from the outside) and yet the two authors of positioning would have us stay with one positioning. When whole sets of values change, customer perceptions change, when there is no guarantee of stability, it is difficult to imagine companies staying with frozen positioning.
Both Trout and Ries are so critical of brand extensions; the fact though is that brand extensions have dominated 'new products' over the last two decades. They did not clearly spell out their objections beyond saying that a customer will get confused. How will you understand the various 'classes' of Mercedes? Does it not amaze you that the brand's value has remained strong, notwithstanding all its extensions? Can you envelope all within one positioning? There is still value to good old segmenting and competitive strategy.
It's 20 years since they spoke of it; surely it cannot be immune to change. I can understand them being defencive about their concept, but the challenges of marketing today are quite different.

Martin Silcock

I agree with Jennifer

I have felt for some time that long lasting brands that are based on a strong releveant idea actually use their products simply as vehicles to express their purpose. This enables them to evolve.

David St Lawrence

I understand where you are coming from.
All confusions stem from misunderstood words.
That's why I used the terms Jennifer had defined earlier on her website.

Imprecise use of words like brand and positioning lead to long discussions without closure.

As you accurately pointed out, many senior executives think branding is a bunch of consultant babble.

Tom Asacker

With all due respect David, you've lost me. Perhaps that's why many senior executives think branding is a bunch of consultant babble.


I question the muddying of the water by the use of insufficient nomenclature. If brand is used to mean brand promise and brand identity, etc., fuzzy thinking results.

Brand identity can, and should evoke positive emotions. Brand promise has zip to do with the wordcrafting required to make a brand name appropriate for several languages. The brand as a promise requires all of the many actions that develop trust on the part of customers and prospects.

Similarly, when you discuss positioning of the brand, are you discussing positioning of the brand experience, the brand promise, or the brand identity? IMHO, you can only position the brand identity. Use of the general term brand clouds the issues surrounding such positioning.

Positioning defines a brand identity as close to or apart from some other brand identity. If the brand promise and the brand experience do not align with this positioning, you get short shrift from customers and a PR nightmare.

Tom Asacker

Okay. Now we're cookin'!

Here is how Ries and Trout define positioning in there seminal book of the same name: "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."

With all due respect, I don't believe that Apple owns fun and easy to use. Nor do I believe that IBM owns the safety/security position. It was Job's leadership and Apple's creation of new and different stuff that keeps them going. And it was Gerstner's ability to transform the organization into a learning and cooperative service provider (new and different), that pulled IBM back from the brink.

Cayenne is a brand extension that the concept of "positioning" would tell you is ill advised. And what emotion does the brand "Madonna" evoke? Whatever she decides it should, apparently. Or you could answer with a non-answer by saying that she evokes the feeling of change itself. Ha!


I agree with Marc's post that the nurturing of a brand is both an internal and external venture. I’d like to add to this that marketing is less and less a top down management exercise. I hope I don’t drive too far off topic to make this point. Company images today are not under anyone’s control, although courts and public relations exercises can induce some level of necessary maintenance.

Cluetrain’s observation that “market” is a place again, and not a verb, is useful one; the significant displacement of mass media by interactive media has changed things. Pralahad and Ramaswamy in “The Future of Competition: Co-creating unique value” point out that with the proliferation of interactive media the web and the rise of the atomized staffer and customer, the best companies need to provide tools and policies that empower staff members – and customers - to create new things and new qualities. This observation has a profound impact on what marketing is. They say that one new challenge with the co-creation model is to asses the risk that the end product or service is not undesirable.

You need marketing planners, sure. But in a sense we have to take seriously the marketing manager's role in creating meta-information and enabling marketing meta-tools, and avoid perpetuating the top-down campaign approach. Companies can be brands, in the case of Intel and IBM and HP and GE the brand is not chips or computers or radios any more. These companies own intellectual capital within a broad “electronic” category. The first three are positioned within the category of quality electronics and electronic services. People marketing these companies can’t disregard positioning, but marketing is still dependent on the value of product offerings, and is also initiated from all positions in the organization, and even in some cases by the customer.

Marc Orchant

Jennifer - great thread. In your last paragraph you write:

"In summary, I don't think positioning is dead. Your brand position is whatever you've staked the company's reputation on. And believe me, every company has a reputation -- good or bad -- whether you've consciously 'managed your brand position' or not."

I think there's danger in presuming one can actually "manage" a brand. I suggest that companies need to focus on nurturing their brand by instilling awareness in every member of their organization that every action has consequences. And that negative actions have a more significant impact on their brand than positive ones.

So, where Tom thinks *positioning* is a "dated concept" I'd counter that it's the active verb form that is dated. It's virtually impossible for a company with any significant history to practice positioning as an activity. Rather, marketing and customer interaction *moves* your brand's position to the positive or negative depending on how well you meet (and exceed) customer expectations.

You're spot on when you reiterate that every company has a position... whether they know it or not. It's defined by customers and accepted by prospects who place a higher value on what your customers say about your company than what you say.

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