AdStand: Positioning. Impulse. Transaction. Delivery.

Jack Trout passed away earlier this week. He along with Al Reis wrote the book “Positioning. The Battle For Your Mind” in the late 60s. For over fifty years the marketing and communication practice has looked at the term and what the term represents almost every day.

70s was the era of manufacturing boom in America (the theory originated in USA) the retail shelves were getting filled with new packaged products, the brands needed to stand out.

The concept of positioning is based on a simple principle of identifying a ‘differentiator” and then owning that differentiator in consumers’ mind. The ownership of the differentiator creates a lasting impression and becomes the driver of business in a wider sense of the term.

This remained unchanged and unchallenged, despite the second book that the authors wrote. They amended some of their theories, but somehow the updated book did not become the kind of anthem the first book had become.

Positioning was all about narrowing the brand to one thing that could be owned in the strongest way in consumers mind.

Positioning actually built a buying shortcut

I am not sure if the theory was intended to build a buying shortcut. The singular focus of the brands meant that consumers could identify what the brand stood for with ease. That ease fuelled the entire impulse buying. As the consumer crossed the shop shelf, or stood behind counter asking for the brand or interacted with the brand at any place, the singularity triggered the reason to buy.

Singularity meant that consumers could use twisted heuristics – unconsciously held rules of thumb – that help us make quick decisions that we’ve learned generally work out well.

Impulse became the currency and positioning strengthened impulse every day.

Now if the brands had to enter the buying basket, they had to displace the ones already there. What was called brand loyalty was actually twisted heuristics, and rival brands raided the others to weaken the twist.

At some stage with more and more brands proliferating, with every brand trying to occupy mind space, the whole singularity started to become a drag for the brands.


Impulse got ambushed by transaction.

Positioning as a theory lived in the context of broadcast era. Brands could be singular and deliver the same message to a wide range of diverse audience every evening, in the same way, every day. Digital changed that fundamentally. Messages are now not broadcast driven, they are individual driven. Narrowcast is not the word that can be used for digital messaging. Brands now don’t have to bother about building a context. They look at the consumer and make an offer. Heuristic went out of the window because the new currency is all about better value here and now.

Transaction rules the new message from brands. Brands becoming transactional is the exact opposite if what the Gurus of Positioning say. In being transactional brands are many things to many people. They are about moving hands and feet, they are not about moving heart and mind.


Transactional is now delivery, that too by drone

The new frontier of branding is neither positioning nor the transactional competence. The final frontier is about how quickly the brand can be delivered to the consumers. Before you think this is kite flying, consider this: Mercedes-Benz is investing USD 562 Million in a drone delivery setup. This system is designed to deliver packages faster to consumers using drones. This in 60s when the positioning theory was written would have sounded like a far off science fiction thing. The future is here, the future is in drones


Jack Trout has passed away. The theory he co authored is also passing through transitioning times.

The future itself may need new positioning

Originally published here:


Is the Positioning theory working today?


First the perspective

It was in 1969 that Jack Trout introduced the term Positioning, and strangely in context of industrial marketing. It was only in 1981 that the term was popularized in the bath breaking book, “Positioning, A Battle for Your Mind” with Al Reis. Jack Trout then wrote the book “New Positioning” in late 90s that never caught reader’s imagination.

The concept of positioning is based on a simple principle of identifying a ‘differentiator” and then owning that differentiator in consumers’ mind. The ownership of the differentiator creates a lasting impression and becomes the driver of business in a wider sense of term.

The concept of positioning was created in a world where communication was just about taking off. It was necessary to differentiate one communication message from another. It was necessary to make it distinctive and build on salience. Things have changed since. We now live in over manufactured world. Today the production cycles have come down to minimum. You don’t even need to own a factory, there are factories that would gladly produce it for you and stamp your name on it. If you are in service business, you don’t even need a factory, just an idea! In an over produced world, is it still relevant to own a fixed position in consumers’ mind. Is it possible to own one, and make the distinction when the consumer is bombarded with overflowing shelves and choices?

The world of branding is witnessing something really strange. A search engine on web is world leader in digital maps. A telecom operator in India is among the largest seller of digital music. A cellphone brand is world’s largest brand of cameras. Even iconic Apple is no longer just a brand of cutting edge computers that takes on PC in an irreverent way.

The whole concept of positioning is built on a simple premise.  It starts with the product. Every product has functions, every product appeals to emotions. Every product delivers functional benefits and also delivers emotional benefits. The synthesis of this functional and emotional benefits leads to brands’ position. The brands job is to keep building on this factor.

Today, life has dramatically changed. Every brand has a context to operate in, and the contexts are rapidly changing. Is the consumer really seeking one benefit out of brand? In this over produced world is that not a recipe for disaster? After all there is always someone waiting to deliver the same benefit as your brand in better, cheaper, faster or cooler way. Even the delivery models of brands are changing. The linear old world model is not applicable to all brands any longer. So would the 70s theory work any longer?

If the old theories are not working, what is the way of making brands iconic? If we look at some of the greatest brands of our times, the answer is obvious

I believe great brands have to be about Good Karma. Good Karma not in religious sense, but in sense of action. Brands need to ensure that their actions today, impact overall wellbeing of its wider franchise. This simply means brands have to be focused on inherent beliefs and have a wider philosophy. This wider belief and philosophy of brand should be translated into a coherent action plan that propels the brand forward. This means brands need to have belief in what they are doing, and have a strong point of view on how they want to impact consumers’ lives.

There is one thing in common since the concept was propounded in early seventies; consumers need brands as much as brands need consumers. This relationship in the twenty first century needs a new charter.

It needs Good Karma