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Monday, March 21, 2016





Recently an investment banker was asked why marketing is under-represented on corporate boards. (Only 2 – 3% of board members are former marketers.) His answer was that marketers are “tactical.” But there’s more to it than failing to be perceived as “strategic.” It really has to do with marketers not being accountable for linking their marketing with sales results. Marketing is not providing a clear line of sight in driving sales outcomes.


There are a number of reasons why marketing is failing to manifest itself as what Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, proposes is one of the two most functions in the organization. He says, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results: all the rest are costs.” Hmmm, how curious. Most businesses view marketing as a cost center as opposed to producer of results.


It appears that marketing has lost its place in the world in “creating customers” and “producing results.” Our marketing doesn’t really matter, that’s why marketing support budgets are cut deeply, and frequently. Poor marketing practices are at the root of the decline of marketing preeminence and, even, relevance. Slip-ups, oversights and a lack of predictability of marketing results contribute to retarding versus optimizing brand and corporate performance.


This is the first in a series of articles that will tackle critical marketing mistakes, those slip-ups, oversights and poor practices, and address what needs to be done to make marketing matter (more). In this article we’ll start at the beginning with, what we believe is, the most important “P’ in marketing.


The Most Important “P” in Marketing

Ask anyone who has studied marketing, “What are the four P’s of marketing?” and they’ll answer, “Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.” So where is “positioning?” It is relegated to being a subset of promotion. Yet positioning is the most important “P” in marketing. It addresses: what does our brand stand for (our reason for existence – out purpose); who’s the target-customer; what’s our market; what’s our differentiated value-proposition (benefit promise) versus the competition; what is our reason-why support that makes the brand’s benefit promise believable; and, finally, what is our brand personality (what we refer to as Brand Character).


Positioning is relegated to being a subset of promotion because the two people who introduced us to this notion, Reis and Trout, were two advertising guys. They conceived positioning as what you say (as in advertising) to win-over prospective customers. But we’ve learned over the years that practiced properly positioning is the “customer-centric” strategic practice of transforming products, compounds and services into brands in order to “create brand loyalty.” “Create” means to bring a customer into existence. The “brand” is a constellation of values and experiences that creates a bond with customers. And “loyalty” commands unswerving customer devotion to the brand.


There are so many different types of positioning strategies. There’s competitive positioning, oppositioning, repositioning and prositioning – to name the most frequently used types of positioning strategies to claim a unique and coveted space in the marketplace. We define “competitive positioning,” which serves as the blueprint for the development of the brand, as how we want customers to perceive, think and feel regarding our brand versus competition. Yes, it serves as the blueprint for the development of the brand that will bring a customer into existence, maintain a special bond and command unswerving devotion and loyalty.


Critical Positioning Mistakes

There are a number of mistakes and oversights marketers and their organizations make with regard to positioning. Here are some of the most significant:

  1. No positioning strategy – Can you believe it? It’s true! Many brands lack a positioning strategy. These marketers are merely selling versus marketing their company’s offering. Now the question is, “If you don’t have a positioning strategy does that mean you don’t have a positioning in the marketplace?” No, you have a positioning. Unfortunately, the positioning prospective customers have in their heads was not designed by the marketer who does not possess a written strategy. Instead, it was conjured by customers based upon a plethora of unrelated tactics and/or it was established by competitors oppositioning your offering. This is not being competitive. This is not being an effective marketer.

  2. Product versus brand positioning – Product positioning is about the product, not the brand. The brand is the richer and more compelling entity given its constellation of values and customer experiences. Simply stated a product positioning promises a product benefit, namely what the product does. Given that each product in the customer’s competitive set basically shares the same product benefits the resultant positioning is generic. In other words it is not competitive in serving to drive differentiation and inspire preference in this “age of abundance,” where we have a plethora of products in each category, and “age of sameness,” where compounds, products and services do the same things, work in the same basic ways and produce the same (clinical or measureable) outcomes.

  3. Starting positioning development too late – Senior managers share news of potential new products in the pipeline with the press and Wall Street well before launch and that point in time when marketers being positioning development. It’s basically letting the horse out of the barn. For example, in pharmaceutical companies this occurs well before Phase III clinical trials are completed or even begin. What these senior managers say seeps into the marketplace, which leads customers to assume the positioning role and competitors to begin oppositioning. Everyone is positioning your anticipated offering well before the marketer has had her/his hand in undertaking the most important strategic mission facing the launch.

  4. Lacks a BIG Brand Idea – The Brand Idea is the theme of the positioning strategy. This point is consistent with point #2, yet bigger, much bigger. The Brand Idea addresses the purpose of the brand in a way that is highly emotive to the target-customer.  Additionally, inclusion of a Brand Idea works not only to ensure our positioning is differentiated but that it is also choiceful, which is evidenced by being single-minded. It’s how we serve-up our undifferentiated “egg” (another way to say “commodity”) in a way that is appealing and inspiring to our target-customer.

  5. Converging on the “right answer” – We’ve observed from our years of practice working with leading companies throughout the world that the right answer is the same for all of them. It’s the first executional expedient answer that has consensus. Unfortunately, it is typically not the right answer when it comes to establishing a successful positioning in the marketplace. In order to get to the appropriate positioning the marketer needs to diverge with many potential Brand Ideas, reflecting differentiated positioning strategies, before converging. These potential, differentiated Brand Ideas may then be used to engage and dialogue with the marketplace so that the marketer may iterate her/his way to a positioning strategy that will be successful.

  6. Launch versus aspirational positioning – Positioning needs to go beyond launch to envision the lifecycle of the brand. As mentioned previously it is our blueprint for the development of the brand. It guides everything we do (see next point). If we merely position for the launch, which typically stems from using positioning for communications only, it’s like creating a blueprint for the first level of a multi-level home as opposed to the entire home. We need to envision what we can make of the brand and where we can take it over its life. Our specific communication strategy will guide the development of the launch communications.

  7. Advertising versus Power Positioning – Positioning in the marketplace takes root from everything we do, not just what we say. When we relegate positioning merely to advertising we are not leveraging its full potential to create and establish the brand in the minds, and hearts, of target-customers. We marketers are not only responsible for creating a positioning strategy but also using it as the blueprint for developing the brand asset. This means we must take on an additional role, serving as stewards for brand development. The positioning strategy is used to guide and filter everything we do to ensure that all marketing initiatives are consistent with the brand positioning strategy, and bring the Brand Idea to life. It impacts not just advertising but promotion, clinical studies, product development, absolutely everything we do.

  8. Repositioning versus Prositioning – Repositioning is reactive. Repositioning occurs when a brand has been losing market share, category growth has slowed and/or revenues are declining. Most often it is not initiated until many years into the brand’s decline. Repositioning is desperate and is manifested by revolution as opposed to evolution. Most repositioning attempts fail because the brand is too far-gone, it requires significant investment and management has little patience with it nor propensity to spend behind it. So, the organization gives-up on it shortly following implementation. On the other hand, prositioning is responsive. It is also proactive. It is an evolution of the brand’s positioning that is triggered by a slow down in the rate of growth or new brand development (such as product improvement or new clinical outcomes).  It serves to move the S-Curve up and to the right increasing sales and extending brand health.

  9. Extraneous garbage – The core elements of the positioning strategy are: Brand Idea; Target-Customer; Competitive Framework; Benefit (Product, Customer and Emotional); Reason-Why Support; and, finally, Brand Character. Anything else is garbage. It’s superfluous and, as such, an energy drain. It dilutes focus from what is really important. “What about Customer Insights?” you might ask. It is a lead-in to the development of the brand positioning strategy, the product of which is the Brand Idea.

  10. Poor technical skills – It is amazing to witness the lack of technical competence among marketers in addressing the core elements in the development of a brand positioning strategy. For example, they will make the target-customer too broad (like “everyone”), provide an incomplete target profile and/or fabricate the target; list the standard of identity or class of drug in the competitive framework; articulate multiple benefits; use “fat” words (i.e., words that have many meanings such as the word “efficacious”) for the benefits; offer generic benefits; stuff benefit claims in the reason-why as opposed to registering credibility for the proffered benefit; and stringing a litany of adjectives for the brand character, which are the same descriptors (or synonyms) used by everyone. Whew! And, these are just but a few of the technical errors that riddle the vast majority of brand positioning strategy statements.



What might we do to fix these significant positioning mistakes to make our positioning more productive? Here are a few brief thoughts that address each of the aforementioned points:

  1. Get to work on developing a brand positioning strategy. If you don’t have one, create one. Start with how the marketplace is positioning your offering. Then identify ways in which you might position your offering. Note the gaps between the two and identify what you need to do to fill them. If you do have a positioning strategy conduct due diligence to assess it for competitiveness and identify what you might do to make it more productive.

  2. Get beyond the product to develop a “brand” positioning strategy. We need to get beyond the physical product we sell and think about the whole product (i.e., tangibles and intangibles such as services that make up the entire offering) and experiences we (intend to) deliver.

  3. Get to work on positioning development before the horse is out of the barn. Senior management should be taking their clue regarding positioning from marketing. If you market pharmaceutical products begin before Phase III studies. In fact, you should be involved in the strategic dialogue dealing with the Phase III study. Unless your company will be content with its fair share of the market we should ensure that the outcomes are directed at producing meaningful differentiation as opposed to merely demonstrating that the product is effective and safe. Ideally, we should be developing products for positioning versus the other way around.

  4. Start with creating a BIG, emotive Brand Idea. This is the way to serve-up your egg so it is not a commodity. Dig deep to define the purpose of your intended brand and direct it at target-customers who, in the words of executive coach Simon Sinek urges, believe what you believe, so that it will inspire, compel and drive their preference.

  5. Diverge before converging. Seek many potential Brand Ideas. If you feel you have an appropriate Brand Idea and positioning strategy early in the development process put it aside and see what else you might come-up with in and attempt to best it. Dialogue with the marketplace and iterate your way to success.

  6. Go beyond the launch to capture the full potential for the brand’s life. Our blueprint should guide the development of the brand over its life, including product development, clinical studies, etc. On the other hand, use the communication strategy to address launch communications.

  7. Reflect your positioning strategy in everything you do. The Brand Idea and positioning strategy will guide all marketing initiatives, which, in turn, will serve to establish the positioning in the marketplace.

  8. Prosition your brand for success. Don’t rest on your laurels. That’s will open the door for active inertia and complacency to set-in. It’s the way good companies and brands go bad. Instead, be sensitive to lifecycle management, marketplace dynamics and competitive developments. Respond to shifting dynamics to keep the brand fresh and relevant. Avoid repositioning, as it requires significant investment, which an impatient management (and virtually all are impatient) will cut if it does not produce immediate results.

  9. Cut out all non-essential elements from your positioning strategy. Devote your attention to using each essential element to reinforce the Brand Idea and drive differentiation.

  10. Develop a technically correct positioning strategy. We use the 5-C’s to check for technical competency:
    • Clear – All elements of the positioning strategy are articulated in a way that is incapable of being misunderstood.
    • Complete – All elements have been addressed. It is robust.
    • Competitive – The positioning strategy and its elements are relevant and meaningfully differentiated versus competition for the target-customer you’ve chosen.
    • Cohesive – All elements are aligned.
    • Choiceful – There is one, and only one, theme. In other words, the positioning strategy is single-minded.

  11. Let us help. We can be a very valuable resource to you and your team. Here are five ways BDNI might serve you:
    • If you haven’t already done so read our book, COMPETITIVE POSITIONING. You can order it from amazon or It will provide you will an instructive tutorial, reference and/or thought provoker for your positioning development work
    • Check out articles on positioning at All our DISPATCHES’ articles are archived. We’ve written in-depth about all the subjects covered in this article – and more!
    • Consider calling-us in to develop a customized Power Positioning training program for your organization. Clients we serve consistently rate our training programs as “extremely useful” and the best programs of their careers. By the way, we don’t use theoretical cases but have participants work on their own brand development.
    • We offer consulting services via our 2-day Brand Positioning Navigator program to nurture intelligent collaboration among your team members to develop a winning brand positioning strategy.
    • Finally, we can also serve to assist you in conducting due diligence in auditing your brand positioning strategy for technical accuracy and competitiveness with recommendations for what to do next.


It’s important to get the most important “P” in marketing right if we are going to create brand loyalty. If we can be of service to you in any of the aforementioned ways, please don’t hesitate to let us know. All you need to do click reply and we’ll start a dialogue.


Best wishes for positioning success in overcoming critical mistakes and making your marketing matter more,

Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney



Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard:



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.761.4038

reply to Mike:

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