The pre-eminence of positioning

I’m a strategist, a marketer, a PR man, an integrated communications guy and an advocate of the importance of branding to add value to the balance sheet. I operate in the digital realm and in the ‘real world’.

I believe that we (collectively) ought to be able to show a causative correlation between what we do (our craft, our creativity) and a positive return for the organisations we represent. Not just a ‘return on reputation’ but also a tangible return on investment.

We are in the business of influence, yes. But our work has to do more than that. What good is influence if it doesn’t move audiences to react positively?

We must motivate and move our stakeholders to think differently, to feel differently and, crucially, to act differently. They must be engaged, be enamoured and be enchanted. And, in the final scenario, they must buy our products and/or services.

The object of their purchase is immaterial to the process of strategic, persuasive communication. Our audiences might be buying FMCG or financial services. No matter. The mechanism to get them to the point of decision is the same.

My growing conviction is that the key to orchestrating all of the disciplines mentioned above, is positioning. Branding, marketing, PR and digital are all important. These strategic and tactical disciplines are key in an integrated communications environment. But they all ought to be informed by and align to a positioning strategy.

Positioning is the art (let’s not be pretentious and pretend it’s a science) of emphasising and illuminating the most appealing facets of a brand, to selected and defined audiences, in light of the competitive environment, for the purpose of persuasion. It’s about the space that you own in the minds and hearts of your prospects.

Very little has been written about positioning. The original concept was created and popularised by Al Ries and Jack Trout in ‘Positioning – the Battle for Your Mind’. Despite not using the term, the essence of the idea was further expounded by Frank Luntz in ‘Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear’.

In order to be successful, we have got to start with the prospect’s thoughts, feelings and actions – and work back to ensure that our offering is going to connect with them, where they’re at – not blast messages at them from our entrenched position.

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