Use your common sense before you think positioning

Before you can work on positioning your product, you need to get inside the consumer’s head to figure out what the heck they’re thinking. About your product, about competitor products, about the million other things they have to worry about in an average day.

This is important stuff. If you unearth a thought that triggers a consumer to think kindly about your product, you’re one step closer to positioning, and selling it.

However, the process can also make you nuts. Especially when you slide into paralysis by analysis. Wondering (real story) if diet bar consumers are thinking of your bar when they’re in a positive mood about their impending wedding, or slightly pensive mood. How many thousands in research did we spend to come to that impasse? Too many.

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At times like these, it pays to pull back a bit into the realm of common sense, and perhaps ponder what would make you buy your product. Obvious? Yes. Seldom done? Yes.

Before positioning, understand where you suck

I’ve always loved McDonald’s. When I was growing up, my family would go once a week. I still recall exactly what I ordered: a Big Mac, Filet O’ Fish, fries and chocolate sundae. Hey, I was a growing boy.

When I was assigned to work on the account, I was super stoked. I knew exactly how to sell these products to kids (and dads) like myself.

There was just…one…problem.

I was  a big fan of McDonald’s breakfasts. But the coffee? Seriously? It was axle grease remover.

My client at the time was a great guy. I had no problem talking about the bad coffee with him. Turns out, he hated the coffee too. In fact, he hated it so much that he was actively agitating with head office to get some game on the coffee front.

I imagine it was his input (as well as the input from many other McDonald’s decision makers) that led to the introduction of the awesome coffee that McDonald’s offers now.

A lesser client would’ve been offended at the frank critiques he received. He may have gotten defensive, or evasive, or passive aggressive. And the coffee would’ve remained terrible.

Hello Dairy Queen, Burger King, Wendys? Check your coffee pot.

Before positioning, know if you’re hitting the right market

Marlboro cigarettes launched as a ladies’ brand. It’s true. And while I wasn’t sitting around the boardroom table as the tobacco execs were looking at their anemic sales, I can’t imagine the decision to change to a macho male brand came from researcher insights. The leap was simply too far.

I’d postulate that it was one of the execs thinking hard what he wanted in a cigarette. What he, a stressed out downtown Manhattan exec about to lose his job, would want in a cigarette. Hmmmm… perhaps a cigarette that would take him far, far away from his troubles. To Wyoming, say.

Are you working on a brand targeted at the opposite gender? Or a brand targeted at boomers, and you’re a millennial? Or at suburban dwellers, and you’re downtown? Have you ever thought what would make you want to buy that product?  What sort of tweaks would make your product truly useful to you? What would make it look like a breath of fresh air in your market?

Before positioning, eliminate friction

You may love your product. But the ‘what would I like’ analysis shouldn’t end there.

Try to buy your product online. Call the help desk. Go to the online chat service on your website. I can virtually guarantee you’ll find points of friction, where your product has made itself hard to love. The best product in the world will gather dust on the shelf if there are points of friction in the purchase or service process.

Before positioning, ponder

The greatest enemy to this process is noise. Getting caught up in the process of marketing. Not taking a moment to simply sit and ponder.

If nothing else, putting your feet up on the table to reflect on what would make your product appeal to you will dust out the cobwebs, and perhaps get you thinking along a new path. Hey, it never hurts.

Want more stories on positioning? Check these out:

To find out more about the most common brand mistakes all of us make (bad positioning is one of them!) read my book Stop Busting Your Brand

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