Other books written by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Bottom Up Marketing
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
By Al Ries
The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding*
The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding*
By Jack Trout
The New Positioning
The Power of Simplicity
Differentiate or Die
*With Laura Ries
Positioning : The Battle for Your
Twentieth Anniversary Edition
Al Ries, Chairman
Ries & Ries
Jack Trout, President Trout & Partners Ltd.
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Dedicated to the second best
advertising agency in the whole world.
Whoever ther might be.
Positioning became a roaring success, the buzzword of advertising
and marketing people around the world.
Yet the success of the concept had the unintended consequences
of pushing Trout & Ries out of the advertising business and into the
marketing strategy business.
As it turned out, clients didn't want their advertising agencies to
be "strategic"; they wanted them to be "creative." The clients would
do their own positioning.
So be it. We became marketing strategists and never looked
Developed by the authors, "positioning" is the first 1
body of thought to come to grips with the problems of
communicating in an overcommunicated society
Chapter 1. What Positioning Is All About
Many people misunderstand the role of communica- 5
tion in business and politics today. In our overcommunicated society, very little communication actually
takes place. Rather, a company must create a
"position" in the prospect's mind. A position that takes
into consideration not only a company's own strengths
and weaknesses, but those of its competitors as well
Chapter 2. The Assault on the Mind
There are just too many companies, too many 11
products, too much marketing noise. The per-capita
consumption of advertising in America is $200 per
Chapter 3. Getting Into the Mind
The easy way to get into a person's mind is to be first. 21
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
Chapter 4. Those Little Ladders in Your Head
To cope with our overcomunicated society, people 33
have learned to rank products on mental ladders. In the
rent-a-car field, for example, most people put Hertz on
the top rung, Avis on the second rung and National on
the third. Before you can position anything, you must
know where it is on the product ladder in the mind
Chapter 5. You Can't Get There from Here
A competitor has no hope of going head-to-head 43
against the position IBM has established in computers.
Many companies have ignored this basic positioning
principle and have suffered the consequences
Chapter 6. Positioning of a Leader
To be a leader, you have to be first to get into the mind 51
of the prospect. And then follow the strategies for
Chapter 7. Positioning of a Follower
What works for a leader doesn't necessarily work for a 65
follower. An also-ran must find a "creneau" or hole in
the mind not occupied by someone else
Chapter 8. Repositioning the Competition
If there are no "creneaus" left, you have to create one 77
by repositioning the competition. Tylenol, for
example, re-positioned aspirin
Chapter 9. The Power of the Name
The most important marketing decision you can make 89
is what to name the product. The name alone has
enormous power in an overcommunicated society.
Chapter 10. The No-Name Trap
Companies with long, complex names have tried to107
shorten them by using initials. This strategy seldom
Chapter 11. The Free-Ride Trap
Can a second product get a free ride on the advertising119
coattails of a well-known brand? In the case of AlkaSeltzer Plus and many other products on the market
today, the answer is no.
Chapter 12. The Line-Extension Trap
Line extension has become the marketing sickness of127
the past decade. Why it seldom works
Chapter 13. When Line Extension Can Work
There are cases, however, of successful line extension145
(GE, for example.) A discussion of when to use the
house name and when to use a new name
Chapter 14. Positioning a Company: Monsanto
A case history that illustrates how Monsanto is estab-159
lishing its leadership in the chemical industry with the
Chemical Facts of Life program
Chapter 15. Positioning a Country: Belgium
A case history of Sabena Belgium World Airlines. The171
answer to the problems of a national airline like
Sabena is to position the country, not the airline
Chapter 16. Positioning a Product: Milk Duds
A case history that illustrates how a product with a179
small budget can get into the mind by positioning itself
as the long-lasting alternative to the candy bar
Chapter 17. Positioning a Service: Mailgram
A case history that illustrates why a really new service183
has to be positioned against the old
Chapter 18. Positioning a Long Island Bank
A case history that shows how a bank can successfully191
strike back when its territory gets invaded by its giant
neighbors from the Big City
Chapter 19. Positioning the Catholic Church
Even institutions can benefit from positioning think-199
ing. An outline of the logical steps that should be taken
to position the Roman Catholic Church
Chapter 20. Positioning Yourself & Your Career
You can benefit by using positioning strategy to ad-207
vance your own career. Key principle: Don't try to do
everything yourself. Find a horse to ride
Chapter 21. Six Steps to Success
To get started on a positioning program, there are six219
questions you can ask yourself
Chapter 22. Playing the Positioning Game
To be successful at positioning, you have to have the229
right mental attitude. You have to become an outsidein thinker rather than an inside-out thinker. This requires patience, courage and strength of character
"What we have here is a failure to communicate."
How often have you heard that bromide? "Failure to communicate" is the single, most common, most universal reason given for
problems that develop.
Business problems, government problems, labor problems, marriage problems.
If only people took the time to communicate their feelings, to explain their reasons, the assumption is that many of the problems of
the world would somehow disappear. People seem to believe any
problem can be solved if only the parties sit down and talk
Today, communication itself is the problem. We have become
the world's first overcommunicated society. Each year, we send
more and receive less.
A New Approach to Communication
This book has been written about a new approach to communication
called "positioning." And most of the examples are from the most
difficult of all forms of communication
Advertising. A form of communication that, from the point of
view of the recipient, is held in low esteem. For the most part, advertising is unwanted and unliked. In some cases, detested
To many intellectuals, advertising is selling your soul to corporate America. Not worthy of serious study
In spite of its reputation, or perhaps because of it, the field of advertising is a superb testing ground for theories of communication.
If it works in advertising, most likely it will work in politics, religion or any activity that requires mass communication
So the examples in this book could just as well have been taken
from the field of politics, war, business or even the science of chasing the opposite sex. Or any form of human activity which involves
influencing the minds of other people. Whether you want to promote a car, a cola, a computer, a candidate or your own career
Positioning is a concept that has changed the nature of advertising. A concept so simple people have difficulty understanding
how powerful it is.
Adolf Hitler practiced positioning. So does Procter & Gamble as
well as every successful politician.
We got carried away. The "big lie" was never a part of positioning thinking. On the other hand, we got many calls from Washington political
strategists for more information about our positioning concepts.
Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service,
a company, an institution, or even a person. Perhaps yourself.
But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is
what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the
product in the mind of the prospect.
A newer definition: "How you differentiate yourself in the mind of your
So it's incorrect to call the concept "product positioning." As if
you were doing something to the product itself.
Not that positioning doesn't involve change. It does. But changes
made in the name, the price and the package are really not changes
in the product at all.
They're basically cosmetic changes done for the purpose of securing a worthwhile position in the prospect's mind.
Positioning is also the first body of thought that comes to grips
with the problems of getting heard in our overcommunicated
Thanks to the personal interest of Rance Crain, editorial director of
Advertising Age, the magazine ran a three-part series on "positioning" in its April 24, May 1, and May 8, 1972 issues. More than
any other single event, this series made positioning famous. It
also made a deep impression in our minds about the power of
How Positioning Got Started
If one word can be said to have marked the course of advertising in
the past decade, the word is "positioning."
Positioning has become the buzzword of advertising and marketing people. Not only in America, but around the world.
Most people think positioning got started in 1972 when we wrote
a series of articles entitled "The Positioning Era" for the trade paper
Since then, we have given more than 500 speeches on positioning to advertising groups in 16 different countries around the world.
And we have given away more than 120,000 copies of our "little orange booklet" which reprints the Advertising Age articles.
Positioning has changed the way the advertising game is being
Unfortunately, "vagueness" is becoming more prevalent today than
"We're the third largest-selling coffee in America," say the Sanka
The third largest? Whatever happened to those good old advertising words like "first" and "best" and "finest"?
The original Avis positioning ad with the most famous last line in
advertising history: "The line at our counter is shorter."
Well, the good old advertising days are gone forever and so are
the words. Today you find comparatives, not superlatives.
"Avis is only No. 2 in rent-a-cars, so why go with us? We try
"Honeywell, the other computer company."
"Seven-Up: the uncola."
Along Madison Avenue, these are called positioning slogans.
And the advertising people who write them spend their time and research money looking for positions, or holes, in the marketplace.
But positioning has stirred up interest well beyond Madison Avenue. With good reason.
Anyone can use positioning strategy to get ahead in the game of
life. And look at it this way: If you don't understand and use the
principles, your competitors undoubtedly will.
1 What Positioning Is All About
How did a hard-sell concept like positioning become so popular in a
business noted for its creativity?
In truth, the past decade might well be characterized as a "return
to reality." White knights and black eye patches gave way to such
positioning concepts as Lite Beer's "Everything you've always
wanted in a great beer. And less."
Poetic? Yes. Artful? Yes. But also a straightforward, clearly
defined explanation of the basic positioning premise.
To be successful today, you must touch base with reality. And
the reality that really counts is what's already in the prospect's mind.
To be creative, to create something that doesn't already exist in
the mind, is becoming more and more difficult. If not impossible.
The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new
and different. But to manipulate what's already up there in the mind.
To retie the connections that already exist.
Today's marketplace is no longer responsive to the strategies that
worked in the past. There are just too many products, too many
companies, and too much marketing noise.
We had no idea what "too many" really meant. Average supermarket now
has 40,000 SKUs or stock keeping units.
The question most frequently asked is why. Why do we need a
new approach to advertising and marketing?
The Overcommunicated Society
The answer is that we have become an overcommunicated society.
The per-capita consumption of advertising in America today is
about $200 a year.
The $200 per-capita figure was based on a broad definition of advertising.
If you count "media expenditures" only, the actual 1972 number was about
$110 per person. Today, the comparable number is $880. Truly we live in
an overcommunicated society and it's not getting any better.
If you spend $1 million a year on advertising, you are bombarding the average consumer with less than a half-cent of advertising,
spread out over 365 days. A consumer already exposed to $200
worth of advertising from other companies
In our overcommunicated society, to talk about the impact of
your advertising is to seriously overstate the potential effectiveness
of your message. It's an egocentric view that bears no relationship
to the realities of the marketplace.
In the communication jungle out there, the only hope to score big
is to be selective, to concentrate on narrow targets, to practice segmentation. In a word, "positioning."
The mind, as a defense against the volume of today's communications, screens and rejects much of the information offered it. In
general, the mind accepts only that which matches prior knowledge
Millions of dollars have been wasted trying to change minds with
advertising. Once a mind is made up, it's almost impossible to
change it. Certainly not with a weak force like advertising. "Don't
confuse me with the facts, my mind's made up." That's a way of life
for most people.
The average person can tolerate being told something which he
or she knows nothing about. (Which is why "news" is an effective
advertising approach.) But the average person cannot tolerate being
told he or she is wrong. Mind-changing is the road to advertising
The folly of trying to change a human mind became one of the
most important tenets of the positioning concept. This is the one
principle most often violated by marketing people. Literally millions of dollars are wasted every day by companies trying to
change the minds of their prospects.
The Oversimplified Mind
The only defense a person has in our overcommuni-cated society is
an oversimplified mind.
Not unless they repeal the law of nature that gives us only 24
hours in a day will they find a way to stuff more into the mind.
The average mind is already a dripping sponge that can only soak
up more information at the expense of what's already there. Yet we
continue to pour more information into that supersaturated sponge
and are disappointed when our messages fail to get through.
Advertising, of course, is only the tip of the communication iceberg. We communicate with each other in a wide variety of bewildering ways. And in a geometrically increasing volume.
The medium may not be the message, but it does seriously affect
the message. Instead of a transmission system, the medium acts like
a filter. Only a tiny fraction of the original material ends up in the
mind of the receiver
Furthermore, what we receive is influenced by the nature of our
overcommunicated society. "Glittering generalities" have become a
way of life in our over-communicated society. Not to mention that
Technically, we are capable of increasing the volume of communication at least tenfold. Already there's talk of direct television
broadcasting from satellites. Every home would have 50 channels or
so to choose from.
Satellite television, of course, has become a big deal and most consumers already have their 50 channels to choose from. Today the
talk is about 500 channels in the future. We're not too sure about
this prediction. Who needs 500 channels when the average consumer watches no more than 5 or 6 channels?
500 channels? By the time you find something to look at, the show will be
And there's more to come. Texas Instruments has announced a
"magnetic bubble" memory device which can store 92,000 bits of
information on a single chip. Six times as ...
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