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Mind Position Matters!

Date posted: 29 May 2012   |   Posted in: Marketing Research

In 1981 Al Ries and Jack Trout published a landmark book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.  It seems to me that the lessons they taught are being ignored more and more in these days of emphasizing new media, email campaigns, Facebook, Twitter, etc.   Here’s the highlights of what they said:

In our over communicated society (even more so in 2012), very little communication actually takes place.  There’s just too much noise in the market to expect you can just say something and expect it to be heard.   To communicate, a company or other entity must create a “position” in the prospect’s mind.  The position must take into consideration not only the company’s own strengths and weaknesses, but those of its competitors as well.  The easy way to get into a person’s mind is to be first.  If you can’t be first, then you must find a way to position yourself against the product, the politician, the person who did get there first.  To cope with our over communicated society, people have learned to rank products on mental ladders.  Before you can position anything, you must know where it is on the product ladder in the mind as measured by top-of-mind awareness.  Then you have to recognize you must do the positioning in an entirely different way depending upon where you are on that mental ladder.  If you are not first, you lack the communication advantages available to whoever is first.

Ries and Trout had a lot more to say, including the importance of your name in communicating a definition of what you do and, if possible, even creating interest and intrigue.  They also offer some sage advice on the perils of line extension.

So what does this have to do with the fortunes of your business or your non-profit?  First of all, understand that the following is the backbone of Adoption/Diffusion Theory and the Purchase Funnel.  There are lots of ways to present this.  I’m going to take the approach of dealing with Nirvana, painting a picture of the ideal situation for an entity.  Here’s what perfection looks like, followed by an increasingly more realistic picture.

In a marketing research study, 100% of people in your target market say your name first when asked what names they think of for your product/service category.  You can’t do better than that, but it’s very unlikely to happen.  More likely and a second best result is that the majority of people name you first, but some name you second, third, fourth, etc.  That’s still very good.  However, memories being what they are, it is more likely that there will be some people who can’t name you at all, but recognize your name when the interviewer reads it to them.  Now things are going downhill.  Unfortunately, there may be some people who don’t even recognize your name when it’s read to them.  And if a lot of people don’t recognize your name, you have a real problem.  As a marketing analyst I’d tell you that you’d better improve this before anything else and make people familiar with your name.

You may think you know where you stand on awareness, but understand you are dealing with peoples’ perceptions and their perceptions are what matters, no matter how far from correct you may think they are.   You must care what the folks who have the money (or whatever) you want think.  Even if you do no advertising and only do cold-call selling, awareness is critical.  Your sales people will have much more success calling people who have heard of you and, more importantly, have at least some interest in what you might be able to do for them.  Your good name can be almost as helpful to a sale as a reference from a friend of your prospect.

Along with awareness, the marketing research that forms the blueprint for your marketing plan includes:

  • A measure of interest in your product category
  • How important it is perceived to be by your target audience
  • Their level of knowledge about you and your product category
  • How square their knowledge is with reality
  • The degree to which they’ve considered using or buying you
  • And their take on that consideration

If you’d like to know more or have any questions, please just let me know.  I’d be very pleased to help you manage your mind position and improve your business.


Source: research

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