As a mere male, I marvel at the patience of a women preparing herself for a night to remember. As a marketer I know exactly what she’s attempting to do – she’s ‘positioning’ herself and it’s not just about competing with the rest of the females. I’m sure by now most females will be heading toward my office while reaching for their 9mm side arms to take me out. So prior to my likely assassination I want to square things up a little. Men do it too! They’re less obvious in their preparation, but they’re engaged in the same
process – ‘positioning’.

At a cocktail party the woman in jeans is likely to be perceived differently than the ‘glam’ in the little black number. In the case of the ‘peacock’ the white tux. on Jed. will create a very different perception than Ed. in the bomber jacket. So how we look creates a ‘positioning’.

‘Positioning’ in marketing terms is exactly the same and it isn’t just about looks. Recently I had occasion to discuss the subject of ‘positioning’ with a female colleague of mine. She agreed that it was a vital part of the marketing discipline but she pointed out that all a consumers’ senses are involved in building that perception. As an example she can’t stand the smell of baking bread which emanates from a certain famous fast food chain. It makes her feel ill and as a consequence she ‘positions’ that company as ‘unhygienic’ She agrees it’s unfair but that’s the way it is.

‘Positioning’ is mighty powerful and it’s neglected by clients and subsequently abused. I know of clients who have sacrificed their long term ‘positioning’ for a quick, desperate quid. I know of one consumer who has completely abandoned her favourite store, because they look cheap – they had a sale and she believed that many of her friends thought they were in trouble. “Who wants to buy a fashion item from a place that’s going broke?” She asked. To her it was about appearance and making sure she looked good in front of her friends. That may sound shallow, but it is a reality. ‘Positioning’ counts!!!!

Understanding it is far from easy – in forty years I’ve struggled with it too many times to underestimate its complexity or its potency. Don’t ignore it; it’s part of the genes that make up the marketing mix and it’s a bloody powerful gene. Ignore it and you could be committing suicide.

Some years ago I watched a really interesting ‘positioning’ battle take place and followed it to its bitter end. Hertz were market leaders in the hire car market. They battled with Avis for the first five years and won hands down. Avis made loss after loss telling people that they were better, bigger, brighter. But Hertz were always number 1. After four years the Avis strategic brain kicked in and realising they had always tried to ‘position’ themselves as number 1 – even when they were not – they decided to get honest. They built a brilliant campaign which said, ” Avis is number 2 – why buy from us? – because we try harder”.

In six months Avis were back in profit and soon they were number one, but they didn’t change the campaign. For three long years Avis told the consumer market they were “number 2” and they “tried harder” –
that’s ‘positioning’.

I just wish I could find a way to get the message across, sadly I’ll probably spend the next five years fixing the problems the misuse of
‘positioning’ creates.

You see ladies, that wasn’t so bad now – was it?