Positioning Core lessons – capture the market by capturing the customer’s mind

You are in the process of starting a business, or you have been in business for a long time; finding a position for your product or service in the minds of customers is a constant thing; this process takes place not only when your business is small, but even when large scale, this process is always needed.

In this article, AZLifemastery shares core ideas to help position products and services in users’ minds according to the book Positioning The Battle for Your Mind.

The concept of Positioning was first introduced by the American marketing strategist Jack Trout through an article published in Industrial Marketing magazine in 1969.


View On Amazon

Later, Jack Trout and Al Ries developed this concept in the book Positioning – The Battle for the Mind of the Customer, published in 1981. Since then, Positioning has completely changed the traditional marketing method and gone into the lives of businesses.

Who should read this book?

The first is the corporate directors, the true commanders-in-chief in peacetime. Regardless of industry, regardless of size, and regardless of type of business. All of them share a fierce challenge: how to make customers remember their brand/product first, favorite, and buy often.

How many businesses compete in an industry? Tens, hundreds or thousands, tens of thousands. So many. How many brand names do customers remember in an industry? According to the “positioning scale” theory of Al Ries & Jack Trout, there are usually only three brand names mentioned. Too little.

No wonder the authors have named the book “The battle for the mind of the customer”. The word “war” itself speaks of fierceness. The battle of perception is even more difficult. You know it. Today’s customers are sensitive, selective, and fastidious.

To help businesses gain a foothold in their cramped memory compartments, the authors have compiled a series of beneficial cognitive and psychological behavioral laws. I believe that if business owners spend some of their precious time reading the success and failure examples in the book, they will understand and share more with their closest generals, marketing executives, and brand director.

For these marketing warriors, this is the “bible” in many ways.

They will understand that reality is not necessarily reality. Customer perception is the reality. That is why Lexus cars surpass a series of famous German luxury car names to be considered the most luxurious car.

They will understand that positioning is not about creating new things but optimizing what is already in the mind of the customer. That’s why New Coke failed miserably.

And they will understand that there are seemingly simple things like naming a brand or product that can determine the success of a business so much. That is one of the reasons why Heineken beer has captured and maintained its leading position as the imported beer with the largest market share in the US.

Another good reason to read this book is from Al Ries & Jack Trout themselves. The two men are famous for a series of other favorite books such as 22 Laws of Marketing, 22 Laws of Branding and, The War of the Boardroom (Al Ries with his daughter Laura Ries), Be Different or Die (Jackson). Trout), Focus on being different (Al Ries).

I don’t mean their profound knowledge of brand strategy, which is well known to marketers around the world. I like the short and concise writing style of the two authors. You will mostly come across simple sentences. Even complex two-clause sentences always have only one idea.

Direct and clear about ideas. Readers hardly have to raise their eyebrows, wondering if they understand the author’s point or not. They have the ability to simplify academic problems to suit a wide range of readers with very different marketing knowledge. These things help you feel excited to read to the end of the book from the very first question page.

Notable content of the book Positioning

What is the nature of positioning? The message is minimalistic. In modern life, people are almost overloaded with information. The number of ads is flooded, so it is increasingly difficult to make customers remember the business or brand. The most effective coping strategy in an information-overloaded society is message minimization.

The concept of minimalist message positioning was developed into the theory of “Own a word in the mind,” and once you have a word in the customer’s mind, you need to take advantage of it, or you will lose it. Examples include Volvo owning the word “Safe”, BMW possessing the word “intense”, and FedEx owning the word “Overnight”.

Advertising is applied psychology, so it is necessary to understand the target customer, understand the customer, to be able to restructure the perception and position in the customer’s mind.

The general attack on the mind. In this section, the author outlines the rapid development of advertising over the past 20 years. In the past, the US accounted for most of the advertising, but now only accounts for a quarter of all global advertising. People are overloaded with information; the more information transmission methods develop, the higher the overload increases.

In, the Internet will be the largest and most influential communication channel for people. People are not only overloaded with information, but the explosion in the number of products also increases the pressure; the growth rate can be from 5-10 to several hundred percent.

Penetrate the mind of the customer. The paradox in today’s media-overloaded society is this: Nothing is more important than the media. If supported by the media, nothing is impossible.

Positioning is an organized system of finding digital doors in mind built on the concept that communication can only happen at the right time and under the right circumstances. Say the right thing to the right person at the right time.

Penetrating into people’s minds, the easy way is to be the first. By far, the best idea in that positioning is “Better to be the first than to be the better”. Examples are mentioned, such as Kodak movies, Coca-Cola soft drinks, IBM computers, Xerox copiers, Hertz car rental services… If you want to be successful, you need to understand the importance of the first entering the mind of the customer.

The hard way to penetrate the human mind. Being the second will make it difficult for you to get into other people’s minds. In advertising, the best strategy is to have the best product, but it’s even better if it’s the first. However, 2nd place can still be successful, but it is the one that dares to challenge the leading position, such as Crest vs. Colgate, Fuji vs. Kodak, Avis vs. Hertz, and Pepsi vs. Coke.

“Better be a big fish in a small pond (Then gradually increase the size of the pond) than a small fish in a big pond.”

The lesson on the advertising industry mentioned the need to look at the reality of the market so chaotic about information. Therefore, the old ways of advertising are no longer effective; it is necessary to understand the nature of the market to have new, more effective ways.

In the 1950s, advertisers often found the benefits of a product and then delved into it, relying on mass advertising to push into the minds of customers. However, when a series of nearly identical products are born, new and improved elements are needed to compete.

In the 1960s, reputation or image was more important than any product feature. However, the companies that succeeded in this period were due to the achievement of spectacular technical achievements, such as Xerox and Polaroid.

In the era of positioning in the 1980s, in order to succeed, businesses need to create a position in the customer’s mind. This position contains both strengths and weaknesses of themselves and competitors. IBM wasn’t the first company to create computers, but it was the first to create computers in the minds of consumers.

“Creativity is no longer enough. Proper positioning of your product in the mind of the customer is an effective starting point for successful advertising in this day and age.” Some examples mentioned in this section are the first innovator/manufacturer with the first person to locate in the mind of a potential customer:

Amerigo’s Discovery: Christopher Columbus vs. Amerigo Vespucci’s Discovery of the Americas

Michelob’s discovery: high-priced domestic beer with the slogan “Premium is Michelob”

Miller’s discovery: “Hovering in fine light yeast” “Lite” beer or Beck vs Lowenbrau beer, check out TWA.

The advertising industry is becoming less and less romantic but more effective.

Tiny ladders in the mind of the connection between the human brain and computer memory. In order to bring a new brand to mind, it is necessary to remove or replace the old brand that has taken its place in this product line. Unlike computers, the human brain is selective and has mechanisms to refuse to receive inappropriate information.

In this section, there will be some examples of You seeing what you want to see and you taste what you want to taste. Test Coca-Cola vs New Coke tastes preference ratio is 1:3 when seeing brand change ratio 4:1. Advertising loses its role if a consumer acts on reason rather than feeling. The main goal of advertising is to raise positive expectations.

Insufficient containers have proven that the human brain has a limited memory capacity; the brain of a normal person cannot process more than 7 units. So the list to remember usually has 7 categories, such as phone numbers in the US with 7 digits, 7 wonders, or a deck of 7 cards… Normally, the human brain is better able to remember locating concepts than names.

A product ladder is what customers often set for products, usually 3 steps, maximum 7 steps. There are some products that have ladders but don’t have ladders, such as coffin vendors.

In the product boom, people learned to rank products and brands in mind, similar to the ladder. Climbing the new ladder when the old product has already taken over the minds of customers is very difficult. Therefore, some products have positioned the new concept next to the old concept, such as the first car being a horse-drawn cart, unleaded gasoline, or tubeless tires.

The opposite position takes the example of Avis car rental company (2nd locator) “Why do you still choose us? Because we work harder.” Hertz is at the top and also succeeds in positioning the ladder “There are Hertz, and there are firms that cannot replace Hertz”. Avis’ strategy goes down in advertising history as a classic case of how to forge a position against a leading brand. The key to Avis’s success is that it associates its brand with Hertz.

The best ad headline is an incomplete sentence in which readers can add their own ideas to improve the element that makes the ad touch the lives of the public.

Setting the opposite position is a typical positioning trick to keep your number two similar to Burger King or Honeywell in the computer industry.

The “non-Cola” position speaks to 7Up’s successful “non-Cola” positioning strategy, which dates back to 1968 when non-Cola products were made public 7Up’s after-tax revenue increased from 87.7 million to 190 million USD. Today, 7Up is the world’s third largest supplier of non-alcoholic soft drinks. To have a successful positioning strategy need to look into the mind of the potential customer; to find a unique position in the mind of the customer needs to ignore the conventional logic.

To have a successful positioning strategy needs to be consistent, front and back as one. Avoid forgetful traps, can’t ignore the opponent’s position, and can’t leave your battle position. This part is clarified with the two failures of the campaign “America is turning to 7Up” and “Avis will become number 1”, after the success of the positioning campaign in the minds of customers, many businesses have forgotten that success to go into the fatal pitfalls.

From here, you can’t get there.

There are things that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t get it. In the battle to win the customer’s mind, if the product is too old or only carries the personal will of the business without looking into the customer’s mind, it will also fail. In this section, there is also a lesson that is not to bring truth against perception because perception always wins.

You can’t be successful with money alone. Using fire to put out a fire is a cliché, old-fashioned, but it is necessary to “put water to put out a fire”. A typical example is a competition for the top position of a computer company with IBM, but there is no winner. Only able to find new points of difference can get the 2nd place like Digital Equipment Corp (DEC).

Get the top position; anything is possible. If you don’t get to the top, everything becomes difficult. Eskimo saying: The guide dog is the only dog ​​that enjoys the scenery along the way.

Leading brand positioning. In 1923, a list of brands topped 25 different categories. 77 years later, only three brands have lost their leading position. This demonstrates the power of leadership, taking first place as the most effective marketing strategy.

To be a leader, you need to be the first to get there and be fully equipped. History has shown that the leading brand has twice as much long-term market share as the second and four times the third.

Despite being the leading brand, when launching new products to compete with leading brands in other areas, the advantage still belongs to the leading brands in specialized fields. Both consumers and stores prioritize buying/storing from the top brand. The leading brands should also not try to eliminate their competitors but need industry and brand leaders to create a category for the product/industry. That’s what guarantees brand success.

Leaders should take advantage of short-term flexibility to secure a solid long-term future.

What to avoid when at the top of the customer’s mind.

  • Don’t run ads to brag that we’re number 1. Instead, strengthen the product category in the customer’s mind.
  • Two basic strategies need to be applied simultaneously:
  • Reminder: Every product that enters the user’s mind first is recognized as “real”. A prerequisite for brands to maintain their leading position is to further strengthen the original concept, the standard by which other brands are judged. Instead of saying “We are number one,” it can be replaced with “We made this product” behind Xerox copiers, Polaroid cameras, and Zippo lighters.
  • Cover all: Leading brands need to focus on developing new products as soon as that product shows signs of potential.
  • Power comes from the product: The strength of the organization comes from the power of the product, from the position that the product has in the customer’s mind. Coca-Cola is a product of power, and the Coca-Cola Corporation is a reflection of that power. When they start with a new product, they struggle to stay in the lead and sometimes receive catastrophic failure.
  • Quick response: For effective encirclement, time is crucial. It is necessary to stop the competition by rushing to surround the new product before it takes first place in the customer’s mind.
  • Multi-brand siege: Most leading companies should surround the competitive move by launching another brand. Multi-brand captures a larger overall market share than single-brand. (Gillette has a 60% market share with multiple brands.) A Multi-Brand Strategy is a Single Brand Positioning Strategy: one and the same, each brand is positioned to monopolize a certain position in the customer’s mind. For example, Toyota’s Lexus gives different names to Toyota’s expensive cars. Or Ivory has been successful for 99 years with Tide, Cascade …
  • Broader brand encirclement: Change is needed to maintain leadership in the minds of customers. The brand name goes into the heart, is easy to remember, and recalls the right thing to associate with.
  • The benefit of leadership: The company with the largest market share will typically have a profit-to-revenue ratio in that market. The position in the customer’s mind is what helps the company’s market share increase. “When you want to be everything, you end up being nothing” is the example of Chevrolet. The ultimate goal of positioning is to gain a leading position in a certain field.

Brand positioning later in this section will talk about positioning strategies for companies that are late. The tactics of the leading company will not be suitable for the company that follows.

A latecomer does not benefit from using the encirclement strategy when imitating the leader is often seen as a follow-up (Beat the Times). Sometimes a follow-up can be successful in cases where the leading company is not fast enough to establish a leadership position in the minds of customers.

  • The Danger Behind Copying: Most copycat companies spend too much time improving their products, paying little attention to marketing and communication. They don’t attack as soon as things change with great names and big campaigns, but often with a delay, letting the companies leading the way with higher costs prevail. Instead, find your opponent’s weaknesses as a starting point.
  • Cherchez le Créneau: Find the space and take it. This is one of the best marketing strategies. Rolex was the first expensive watch; the Orville Redenbacher was the first expensive popcorn. That vacancy is not necessarily beneficial to the customer as long as it fills the first position in the customer’s mind.
  • Size vacancy: Volkswagen Beetle, with its “Think Small” ad went against the thinking of large cars at the time and, more importantly, captured this position first in mind client.
  • Vacancy in the high-end segment: Need to occupy the high-end position when other high-end segments are eroded in the minds of customers. The high price must create outstanding commensurate value. High valuation is not the way to get rich. The secret to success is for the first brand to establish a high valuation position, a valuable media story, and be in that high-priced consumer category. The place for high pricing is in advertising, not in stores.
  • Popular product vacancies: Instead of high prices, the strategy of going in the opposite direction also brings profits. Low price product positioning is suitable for new products; high price positioning is suitable for older products such as cars, watches, televisions, and products that are having problems with current repair services.

When you combine all three strategies of high, middle, and low price, you will have a solid marketing tactic. For example: Anheuser-Busch did with Michelob, Budweiser, Busch. We need to consider naming to avoid failures like Ford with Lincoln, Mercury, and Ford.

  • Other effective vacancies: In the gender gap, Marlboro is the first national brand to capture the first masculine position in the tobacco category. Or Calvin Klein is also gender positioning. Virginia slim brand of cigarettes for women. In terms of fragrances, there’s Revlon’s Charlie, the first brand to try out a masculine name with ads featuring models in women’s suits. “Fashion” product lines need to change and adapt, taking advantage of their leadership position or losing it.
  • Age vacancies: Geritol energy drink for adults and Aim toothpaste for kids are two successful examples of age gaps.
  • Time distribution is also a way of positioning.

Repositioning the competition in this section, the author emphasizes that in order to get a new idea into the mind of the customer, it is first necessary to push the old idea or product out.

When an old idea is toppled, it will be easier to bring the new idea into the mind of the customer. The crux of a repositioning program is to attack an existing concept, product, or person. Conflict or controversy can also create a reputation quickly. Repositioning examples: Aspirin, Lenox, American Vodka, Pringles, Listerine.

Repositioning is not comparative advertising. Mentioning competitors in your ads do not leave an impression but is also considered a lousy tactic. To climb the ladder in the mind of customers need to connect your brand with the names already on it. Repositioning requires acting with integrity, playing well, and being wary of all opponents.

The strength of the name of this section clearly indicates that the name is the hook that hangs the brand up the product ladder in the mind of the customer. The most important marketing decision is to name your product. Finding a name no one has ever used is the most important issue in brand choice. A solid name, quite common and descriptive, not easy to follow, is a good guarantee of long-term success.

Things to keep in mind: a brand that is too generic is unlikely to sell. Names also have a time, and when the time is up, competitors can come in to fill that void. Paying close attention to the name will bring opportunities. Products are less and less differentiated in each category, but a good name can bring in revenue.

Glossy names should only be given when they have gained a foothold in the customer’s mind. When naming a person or product, do not let competitors blatantly win the words to use to describe their products. The repetition of the first syllable makes the name easier to remember. A beautiful name is not as important as the fit; this is the first point of contact between the message and the mind.

Bad perceptions often come from bad names. It is impossible to create an identity on a meaningless name. Overly relevant names that create too many associations or images are sometimes inappropriate (Diet Coke and Tab are examples).

Several types of traps

Anonymous Trap This section notes the abuse of abbreviations in branding. Abbreviations will obscure the brand. Positioning is a long-term process; deciding to name a brand can be effective after a very long process.

The mind works by listening, so when you want to put an image in your head, you need first to put it into words. The purpose of the image is to help the idea be expressed in words and make it easier to enter the customer’s mind. Names or messages are often pre-verified by sound, even if only used in printed material.

The follow-up trap in this section should keep in mind that a new name needs to be created if the previous name has already established itself in the mind of the customer in another area. When you put your name on everything, you will destroy your advantage in the long run.

The new product needs a new name because the names already have a reputation because it stands for something else. New products need a new ladder to success.

Product line expansion traps refer to mistakes in improper product line expansion that cause confusion and erase the positioning ladder in the customer’s mind. This section deals with inside-out thinking and outside-in thinking.

When a competitor launches an extended product line, this is often an opportunity for another company to jump into that extended product line with a product with a different name. The battle belongs to who has a better position in the customer’s mind.

When the product line strategy is successful, the key to this is to separate the short-term effects from the long-term ones.

When to use a local name:

  • Estimated stock. The product has a small reserve, so it has the same domestic name, and companies with large winning capacities should not use it.
  • Compete. The field with many products should use the local name; the empty field should not.
  • Advertising costs. Small budgets should use domestic names; large budgets should not.
  • Meaning range. Breakthrough products should not use old product names; consumables should.
  • Distribution system. Products sold through sales staff should use local names, and products sold on shelves should not.

Locate some entities

Positioning a company Monsanto this section deals with the Monsanto methodology of product leadership, business leadership, and industry leadership (Monsanto has represented and voiced the entire industry to position its first position). )

Locating a country in this section, the author mentioned Belgium as an example. Images alone cannot create a place in people’s minds; they need to express images in words.

Product positioning Milk Duds is an example of a candy product positioning. The lesson learned is to use the right words to describe what needs to be conveyed to the customer. It is necessary to highlight the difference between the product that meets the customer’s wishes.

Locating a Mailgram Service This is an example of locating a collaborative service between Western Union and US Postal. In this section, emphasis is placed on the technical difference. In product advertising, the main element is usually the visual-related image.

In service advertising, the dominant element often lies in words related to speech. For products, the media is mainly visual. With the service, radio is the main means of communication because of its preference for sound. Visuals can be easy to remember, but they won’t be as effective without verbalizing the idea. Services need to stick to what is available internally to penetrate the customer’s head.

Locating a Long Island Bank This is an example of locating a bank. In this section, the author has given an example of locating the service area of ​​Long Island bank. A very simple idea but very successful. Simple ideas are sometimes very successful, but they are often overlooked.

Positioning yourself and your career in this section is very realistic and directly related to each person. Content includes defining yourself (who you are), having the courage to experiment and not be afraid to make mistakes, giving a suitable name, avoiding the trap of anonymity and, expanding the product line, and choosing horses to ride.

In the section on choosing a horse to ride, there are main contents such as Your Company, Your Boss, A Friend, Ideas (What are new means getting old), Belief, Yourself. This part is very good and practical you should read it to have the best orientation for your life.

Six steps to success in this section you need to answer the questions Where do you stand, What position do you want to win, Who do you have to beat, Do you have enough money, Do you hang on to the end, Do you Is it worthy of its position (Creativity itself is worthless. It is only useful when accompanied by a positioning goal), The role of outsiders (Provides objectivity, what is going on outside. i.e. in the mind of the customer), what does the outsider provide?

Playing the locator game is the end of the book.

In this section, the author has raised the role of understanding words. Words have no inherent meaning; meaning is not in the word it depends on the user of the word.

Today to position yourself right, you have to think extremely flexibly. In addition, it is necessary to understand people; words are the trigger; they help shoot out the thoughts that are in our heads. Language is money in the mind, and it is necessary to think in the language used to interpret to the customer. The situation is always changing, so the only thing that is constant probably changes. Positioning requires sophistication and patience; success will smile on those who make the right decision today.

Successful positioning here is a balance between two things: a distinct location with broad appeal. “The product is not positioned in the sales manager’s office but in the customer’s mind.”



Above, AZlifemastery has just shared the core ideas of product and service positioning by two authors Al Ries & Jack Trout. The impressive conclusion to this section is probably: If you are not a leader, create a new product line yourself so that you can be a leader in it. And in the positioning game, “Who plays better, that person will survive”.

This article summarizes the basic contents of the book Positioning – The bible of strategy. The book gives definitions and examples of success and failure in positioning.

Moreover, self-positioning is a close and practical part for those who are wondering on the way to locating themselves, answering the question of who you are, where are you standing?

View On Amazon

The book is handy for those of you who do Marketing and those who make marketing and sales strategies for businesses. Above all, those who are on the path of starting a business or running a company need to read this book to be able to be more firmly on the path that they are going.

Once we make the right choice from the beginning, avoiding the wrong traps, the path we go can be much farther and wider.

Don’t forget to share the article if you found it useful!

Other books by Al Ries