Ries, A., & Trout, J. (2001). Positioning: The battle for your mind. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.
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The authors of the book underscore the need for businesses, products, services, and people to use the positioning strategy to get ahead of the competition and deal with a multiplicity of challenges that are known to affect the business and marketing environments. The authors’ description of positioning is revolutionary in approach by virtue of their argument that it precedes the “four Ps” of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion) and should serve as a cornerstone of all marketing initiatives.
The main argument of the book is embedded in the need for marketers and business people to develop a “position” in the minds of prospective customers in order to be seen and heard in the overcrowded and competitive marketplace. In positioning, the central argument is to focus on the prospective customer rather than the products or services being sold as all solutions to our problems and challenges lie inside the mind of the prospective customer.
In communication, the authors decry the approach used by many marketers to bombard the customer with all sorts of messages. Customers should be exposed to targeted and focused communication based on the authors’ assertion that less communication not only achieves more outcomes but is also able to penetrate the prospective customer’s mind. Businesses need to exercise caution on how they position their messages and advertisements to customers to ensure effectiveness.
In penetrating the prospect’s mind, the focus for business people entails aiming to be the first to get the product into the market or to find a way to position their offerings against the first-to-enter products and services. Businesses can also attempt to find an alternative to the market leaders by linking a new product to what is already in the mind of the prospective customer instead of engaging in unnecessary fights for market share. Additionally, businesses should have the capacity to capitalize on whatever positions they have been able to conquer in the minds of their prospective customers to build a new position in that sector, particularly in market situations with a few powerful players and stiff competition.
Another important argument advanced by the book’s authors is that businesses should always aim to position themselves as market leaders in their respective industries by using the power of the product as opposed to the power of the organization. In situations where there are established market leaders, other businesses that want to get a piece of the market share should “look for the hole” by trying to challenge the assumptions held by prospective customers with regard to how they view the market leaders.
In repositioning the competition, the authors argue that businesses must first do away with the old concept or product from the mind of the prospect, before replacing the notion with a new repositioning strategy that is easily internalized by the prospect. The authors remind companies to use strong, generic-like, and descriptive names that will capture the mind of the prospect and separate their products or services from the rest of the competition. Here, the authors underscore the need for companies to develop new names for their products as a single brand name is unable to hold manifold positions in a prospect’s mind.
The authors also advise businesses to be careful with how they deal with line extensions due to their capacity to blur the sharp focus of the brand in the minds of prospective customers, which in turn reinforces a perspective in the minds of customers that the new product is inferior to the regular product. However, the authors agree that line extensions can work in contexts such as crowded markets, small-volume products, and small-budget brands. Other important arguments advanced by the authors include
- how individuals should position themselves for success,
- the importance of having the right mental attitude and an outside-in thinking capability to achieve successful positioning,
- the importance of using words in the most appropriate manner to achieve effective two-way communication patterns and activate the meanings that are hidden in the mind,
- the need for businesses and marketing initiatives to isolate a narrow target for them to succeed in finding an effective position.
The book’s main strength lies in its capacity to use real-life examples to reinforce the importance of positioning in contemporary business and marketing environments. The examples help readers to understand the concepts discussed in the book from a practical perspective. Additionally, the authors of the book are professionally qualified in the domains of marketing and advertising, implying that their arguments and assertions can pass credibility and reputation tests. Third, the authors use free-flowing and simple English which can be easily understood by general readers and business practitioners interested in understanding how effective positioning strategies could affect their business outcomes.
The other strength of the book comes from the use of case studies that elaborate on how actual companies have used the positioning strategy to become market leaders by solidifying their positions in the marketplace. Lastly, the book’s chapters are arranged in a way that allows for the free flow of content and for comparisons to be made among the chapters. However, the examples used are not up-to-date based on the fact that the book was first published over three decades ago. Another weakness of the book is that it does not consult external academic sources to validate facts or compare the arguments of others, meaning that it is based on the authors’ arguments and viewpoints.
At a personal level, I have previously worked for a company that wanted to introduce a new electrical product into the market using a low-cost marketing strategy. The market was already flooded with other products of the same nature, though they were being sold at premium prices. After marketing the new product for six months, the company realized that it was hard to penetrate the market despite its low-cost strategy and hence was forced to pull out to avoid further losses.
After reading this book, I now acknowledge that the company failed to develop a position of the product in the minds of potential customers and instead relied on the low-cost strategy to drive sales. Additionally, I now recognize that the company failed to penetrate the market because it sought to compete with established players rather than developing an alternative positioning strategy that could be used to link the new product to what was already known in the minds of potential customers.
The knowledge gained from this book can be applied to assist businesses in positioning their products and services in the eyes and minds of their prospective customers with the view of developing favorable customer perceptions. The knowledge can also be used to develop communication approaches and strategies that will ensure the message is able to penetrate into the minds of customers without overburdening them.
Additionally, the knowledge gained can be used to develop advertising campaigns that resonate well with customer beliefs and perceptions as opposed to attempting to change the minds of prospective customers. Lastly, the knowledge can be used in assisting businesses to not only search for existing opportunities in the marketplace but also to gain effective penetration through the use of effective positioning strategies.