Home Articles The 10 best strategic business slides of all time: #7 — Positioning

The 10 best strategic business slides of all time: #7 — Positioning


In the seventh post in this series, Nigel Malone shares the contents of another of his favourite business keynote slides, drawn from a cross-section of sources that includes some of the great business, brand and military planners of all time.

Also in this series:

Favourite Slide #7: Positioning

great business keynote slides number 7, anthill, nigel malone

This slide comes courtesy of the genius of Gerald Nanninga. Gerald is a retail guru with the best blog planninga-from-nanninga.blogspot.com on strategic planning I’ve ever read. He literally has an analogy for everything, but in this particular slide, I draw directly on his wisdom regarding ‘positioning’.

What is positioning?

A position explains why your business has a right to exist in the marketplace and why a certain customer segment would prefer it. It is the place where your business is genuinely successful. It may be based on price, service, quality, durability, convenience, variety, taste or status. The point is that trying to be all things to all people at all times will fail.

Alexander Chernev, a Professor at the Kellogg School of Management, recently proved this with an experiment detailed in the November 2008 edition of Kellogg Insight.

Chernev surveyed consumers about everyday items like laundry detergent and toothpaste. Some of the products stressed excellence in a single attribute, while others claimed to excel at multiple attributes. For example, there could be one toothpaste brand emphasising just whitening, while another brand claimed expertise at whitening, cavity prevention and fresh breath.

What Chernev discovered was that products specialising in a single attribute were perceived by consumers to be superior in that attribute relative to a multi-attribute product making the same claim. In other words, even if I tell you that the teeth cleaning powers in my multi-attribute brand are as strong as the brand that only claims whitening, consumers won’t believe you. They’ll think the specialist is better at whitening.

Are you in position?

So let’s put your positioning strategy to the test. If you don’t already have one you may wish to use Proctor and Gamble’s positioning statement template:

“For [your audience] [your product name] is a [category name] which provides [main benefit] unlike [primary competitor] which provides [competitor’s main benefit]”

Now put it to the acid test…

1) Is the position Desirable?

Do people want what you are trying to sell? Sure, people desire cars, but if you pick a position of selling cars so cheap that they are unreliable and unsafe, you have chosen an undesirable position.

2) Is the position Sizeable?

To make a profit, you need enough sales to cover all your costs plus a little more. You may have found a position that several people find very desirable, but is there enough of them?

3) Is the position Ownable?

Highly desirable positions are often already taken. Being known for “selling everyday essentials at the lowest prices” is a great position, however K-Mart already owns the position, and will not give it up without a fight.

4) Is the position Preferable?

Why should a customer prefer your position versus what the competition is offering? Decisions are not made in a vacuum. People need to like your position more than the competition, otherwise you’re in trouble.

5) Is the position Achievable?

A position looks great on paper, but can you pull it off in reality? It’s okay to aim high with your positioning goals, but don’t aim for the impossible.

6) Is the position Believable?

Even if you could make the best quality sports car and sell it as the lowest priced vehicle on the market, customers might have trouble believing your claim. Is your position too good to be true?

7) Is the position Understandable?

If you cannot explain your position in just a few words, then the customer will give up on trying to understand it. All successful positions share the idea of simplicity.

8) Is the position Profitable?

Pick a position that will provide a financial return on investment. Ask yourself how much are people willing to pay for what you have to offer?

If you are thinking you may have to go back to the drawing board on your positioning statement, Gerald has a few points to keep in mind.

  • First, don’t pick a position that is already owned by someone else. Choose something else.
  • Second, clearly communicate that position to the customer, so that they will associate your brand with that attribute.

Third, don’t get greedy and try to make too many claims of superiority. The more attributes you claim to own, the less likely customers will believe that you own any of them. A simple, narrow position almost always wins out over claims that “I can do it all.”

Nigel Malone is a freelance brand strategist and writer, with particular expertise in the fields of tourism, finance, technology, sustainability and social change. Connect with him on Linkedin http://au.linkedin.com/in/nigelmalone