As Popularized by Al Ries and Jack Trout
In their 1981 book, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Troutdescribe how positioning is used as a communication tool to reach target customers in acrowded marketplace. Regular use of the term dates back to 1972 when the same authors published a series of articles in Advertising Age called "The Positioning Era." Not longthereafter, Madison Avenue advertising executives began to develop positioning slogansfor their clients and positioning became a key aspect of marketing communications.
The Battle for your Mind has become a classic in the field of marketing.The following is a summary of the key points made by Ries and Trout in their book.
Ries and Trout explain that while positioning begins with a product, the concept really isabout positioning that product in the mind of the customer. This approach is needed because consumers are bombarded with a continuous stream of advertising, withadvertisers spending several hundred dollars annually per consumer in the U.S. Theconsumer's mind reacts to this high volume of advertising by accepting only what isconsistent with prior knowledge or experience.It is quite difficult to change a consumer's impression once it is formed. Consumers copewith information overload by oversimplifying and are likely to shut out anythinginconsistent with their knowledge and experience. In an over-communicatedenvironment, the advertiser should present a simplified message and make that messageconsistent with what the consumer already believes by focusing on the perceptions of theconsumer rather than on the reality of the product.
Getting Into the Mind of the Consumer
The easiest way of getting into someone's mind is to be first. It is very easy to remember who is first, and much more difficult to remember who is second. Even if the secondentrant offers a better product, the first mover has a large advantage that can make up for other shortcomings.However, all is not lost for products that are not the first. By being the first to claim aunique position in the mind the consumer, a firm effectively can cut through the noiselevel of other products. For example, Miller Lite was not the first light beer, but it was thefirst to be positioned as a light beer, complete with a name to support that position.Similarly, Lowenbrau was the most popular German beer sold in America, but Beck'sBeer successfully carved a unique position using the advertising,"You've tasted the German beer that's the most popular in America. Nowtaste the German beer that's the most popular in Germany."