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Blogosphere on Positioning: Steve McKee

Posted on Friday, Feb 5th 2010

Following the just-concluded Blogosphere on Bootstrapping series, here’s a similar series that captures thoughts on positioning from the cloud. Note, most of this material comes from marketeers outside of the technology domain, from folks who write about consumer marketing and brand positioning. However, some of my personal development on product positioning came from my experience with consumer marketing, especially working in the fashion industry while I was running Uuma. So I think this series would be useful for the technology marketeers as well. We start with Steve McKee and his extensive writings in Business Week.

In Growing Big by Thinking Narrow, Steve espouses segmentation, something you hear me harping on constantly. Segmentation is by far the most powerful tool you will find in any marketeer’s arsenal.

Do you want your brand to appeal to more people? Try targeting fewer of them. It may sound counterintuitive, but the narrower your target, the greater the potential intensity of your brand’s appeal.

The piece has great examples, and here’s the conclusion:

If it’s true for credit cards, soft drinks, and automobiles, it can be true for your business as well. As long as you try to be all things to all people you’ll end up being little to anyone. But if you narrow your focus to a key audience defined by demographics, lifestyle, attitudes, perceptions, behaviors, or anything else, you have the opportunity to create highly relevant, compelling messaging.

In Building a Better Brand, Steve offers the following advice:

As you evaluate your own brand’s positioning, don’t focus on features that will soon be co-opted by your competitors. Consider the primary benefits your brand provides and what they really add up to. Then examine the extent to which your positioning passes six key tests: relevance, simplicity, differentiation, believability, credibility, and defensibility.

Steve also sent me How to Sell Against the Tide where he discusses Universal’s strategy of releasing “Batman” and “Mamma Mia!” together, an example of really understanding the segmentation of the two films and how they might work together.

Why did the brain trust at Universal Pictures (GE) choose to launch Mamma Mia! on the same weekend as the summer’s biggest blockbuster? One word: counterprogramming. Universal knew the Batman movie would trump its own film at the box office, but it would do so on the shoulders of a typically young, male audience—a segment that wouldn’t be caught dead watching a film based on an ABBA soundtrack. And they bet that the older, female demographic that would be attracted to Mamma Mia! wouldn’t have much use for The Dark Knight. They were right, and the $27 million Mamma Mia! took in put the weekend’s box office receipts over the top.

In How to Build Brand Friendship, Steve discusses the concept of “clubs” that form around successful brands:

We are all members of different clubs. Our family is a club, our church is a club, our place of employment is even a club. In some sense we “belong” to each of these clubs by choice—we choose whom to marry, where to worship, and where to work because we identify with the people in them in some form or fashion. I was on the East Coast recently and saw a tourist sporting a sweatshirt from my high school across the country. I quite naturally struck up a conversation with her, as we were part of the same club.

In these days of social media and online communities, this concept of “clubs” is taking on a whole new dimension. Social media, in fact, formalizes the erstwhile informal “clubs” or “tribes” or “friendships” that would form around brands. We constantly get requests from people on Facebook to become “Fans” of this, that and the other brand. Most don’t leave much of an impression. Some do. And those typically tend to be tightly segmented, perfectly positioned, narrowly defined. Not spray and pray!

This segment is a part in the series : Blogosphere on Positioning

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Thanks for providing these important reminders.

In our case, they’ve all proved to be true – whether for ourselves or the work we do for our clients.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 7:22 AM PT