Death At The Disco: Positioning Strategies Out, Customer-Driven In

très jolie, coco, très jolie

Marketing’s positioning strategies died when disco was king.

It’s stuck in a bad hair day of a 1970s time warp. It’s like a man trying to wear platform shoes, a silk print shirt, gold chains and a tacky polyester leisure suit to a job interview today. It’s just not right.

Many of marketing’s truisms of the past are relics with the realities of today.

Positioning Defined

More than 25 years ago, Jack Trout and Al Ries published Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. In 2010, Trout published Repositioning: Marketing In The Era of Competition.

Positioning is when marketers try to create an image or identity of their product, brand or organization in the minds of their target market. In theory, marketers try to cut through the clutter, connect with customers and create a mental image of their service.

Sounds like a great idea? Right?

Positioning’s Fatal Flaws

Positioning holds iconic, legendary status among marketers, especially when marketing an event or organization. But its fundamental tenets are fatally flawed.

  • Differentiate or die.
    Should your strategies be driven by the need to be different from your competitors, especially in today’s increasingly fragmented markets? Or should your strategies be driven by what your customers’ value?
  • Better to be first than to be best.
    In today’s rapid real-time economy, people are used to beta software. Yet when it comes to products, many wait for the second release so it’s free of bugs. Which do your customers want?
  • Positioning focuses on people’s perception of the product.
    Which are consumers more concerned with: perception of the product or functionality, quality and service?
  • Mind share is more important than market share.
    Can mind share be quantified? Market share is measurable and links directly to profitability. You can have all the mind share in the world but it doesn’t mean much if people don’t purchase your stuff.

Ultimately, positioning was about trying to control the mind and perceptions of consumers.

“So we reject the outmoded view of the positionistas, and declare an end to the out-of-date, simplistic concept of brand positioning; that marketing lockbox that locks brands into uni-dimensional, uni-segment, monotone marketing. Instead, we are adopting an up-to-date, multi-segment, multi-dimensional marketing approach,” Larry Light, former CMO, McDonalds.

Customer Driven Accountability Metrics

The words many marketing executives want to own today are “social” and “accountability.” It’s about incorporating measurement along with the knowledge of what customers value.

For example, we know from conference data that the top two reasons people attend conferences are education and networking. If that’s what consumers value, why aren’t organizations focusing more resources on improving education and networking?

In the association world, if you know what customers value, and what they hold your leadership team accountable for, why not focusing more on those areas? Why do you continue to focus on finding alternative revenue streams instead of improving your services to increase value?

Today, successful organizations are turning to their customers to help define their brands. User-generated content has taken hold. User co-creation of products and services is the trademark of some brands. Crowdsouring has replaced positioning.

The question many conference organizers and association leaders should be asking is, “What customer-based metrics are you using for strategy development?”

What are some of the customer-based metrics you use to justify your association or conference objectives? What are some of the ways you can measure the impact of your experiential and emotional connections that are at the heart of all brands?

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