Positioning : The Battle for your
Revıew by Vijay Malik
Al Ries and Jack Trout introduced a new concept of positioning in Marketing.
Book was originally published in 1980 and then republished in 2001 to look back
and include comment from the authors on some of their predictions & analysis.
Book talks about concepts of positions in prospect's mind, little
ladders for each category where different brands sit as per
rankings. Authors emphasise that a good product or a big
marketing campaign may not result in the desired outcome
unless the brand is positioned correctly.
Positioning of a leader
Most important position any brand can establish is to be the first. Be first in any field, be it for a category,
segment, regions, country or price range.
First brand into the brain gets twice long term market share of the no 2. By being the first a company can
have significant advantage in terms and sustained growth as compared to the competition.
Once a position is established it is very difficult for competitor displace and occupy that position. A company
like Coca cola isn't able to displace smaller beverage companies in other segments of beverages e.g. Dr
Pepper, Gatorade. A company like IBM was unable to compete with Xerox in copier business. In the absence
of any strong reasons to the contrary, consumers will probably select the same brand for next purchase.
Positioning of a follower
What works for a leader may not work for the follower. Follower should look for a hole and then fill
it. Size Creneau, e.g. all cars were getting bigger, Volkswagen introduced Beetle with a statement
"Think Small". It challenged prospects assumption that bigger is better. Beetle was the first in small
Other holes can be High price/Low price etc. Premium products/brands that command high price are
also and effective positioning strategy.
Common mistake is to try and identify a hole in the product/brand lineup, instead of in the mind.
Appealing to everybody is not an effective position.
Repositioning the competition
You can’t always find a hole, at such time you have to create one. Competitor may
already be in a leading position, in such cases repositioning the competition may be
an effective strategy.
How to reposition your competitor?
You must say something about your competitor's product that causes the prospect to
change his mind. Highlight what is missing/wrong with the competitor’s product
and the present the alternative. E.g. Tylenol repositioned Aspirin, repositioning
And Yes, it is legal. Ethical? That depends on the perspective.
Power of the Name
It's the brand name that sticks in the prospects mind. A strong generic-like
descriptive name will block me-too competitors. Avoid acronyms that don't mean
When naming a product/brand it is important to pay attention to aural aspect of the
name. Slogans, headlines and themes should also be weighed for their aural aspects.
Acronyms don’t connect well with the brain. Only established brands can afford to
have acronyms as brand names. e.g. IBM, P&G, AT&T, RCA GE etc.
Six steps to success
What position do you own?
Position is in the mind of the prospect not what you think. You get the answer to the
question "What position do we own?" from the marketplace not from marketing
What position do you want to own?
Narrow the focus of your expertise. To establish a unique position as a specialist,
not as a jack of all trades generalist.
Six steps to success
Whom must you outgun?
If you proposed position requires a head to head approach against a marketing
leader then it is better to select a different position.
Do you have enough money?
It takes money to build share of mind, establish a position and to hold a position
once established. It's better to overspend in one city than to underspend in several
Six steps to success
Can you stick it out?
Environment keeps changing. It's important to take a long range point of view. To
determine your basic position and then stick to it. A company should almost never
change its basic positioning strategy. Only its tactics and short term maneuver.
Do you match your Position?
Do your campaigns and advertisements match your position? Creativity by itself is
worthless. Only when coordinated with positioning objective can creativity make a
It is 30 years old book and a lot has changed since than but the concepts still hold true.
It is important to understand the customer and his perspective rather than what you and
your team thinks about the product. Research whether there is a hole in prospects mind
for a product. Your product, name, marketing slogans and themes must work together to
reaffirm and strengthen the position. There’s no better substitute to be their first and
establish a position as leader. When there’s no hole work to create one and then fill it by
repositioning the competitor.
I would recommend this book to anybody in marketing or wanting to learn about
marketing. The principles apply to businesses as well as own career.