Positioning: Why Is It More Important Than Ever?

…the first in a series of white papers discussing the forgotten steps to successful marketing.


Having spent my life in the field of marketing and having had success, it’s probably not surprising that I know many marketing professionals that I worked with and many more that were competitors.

We have managed to stay in touch over the years have watched with great interest the new developments new approaches new techniques developed and used to market their products and services.  There is so much more information available today.  It is no wonder that marketing can be far more powerful and effective in communicating targeted marketing messages.

My friends and I, do however, frequently marvel at not what is, but what is missing as well.  New tactics and tools are everywhere, however, while immensely useful and important, they do not substitute for sound, and yes, basic marketing principles. In this paper I will address importance of one of them…positioning.

While I have worked in many industries, the largest portion of my career was in the automotive industry…the automotive marketing industry to be precise. So, I will reference and use automotive examples, as a means, to communicate some of my concepts and positions.

As you read on, please understand that marketing is both a science and art. There are many proven facts, formulas, ratios, measurements, etc. that are applied when marketing is implemented in a professional manner. Since we all are the targets of some advertising, we all know something about advertising.  There are different types of marketing from consumer, packaged goods, B2B (business-to-business), etc. all with its own set of rules, formulas, etc.  And while it is true that any ‘mom and pop’ store can buy a television spot on the same station right next to a national brand spot (i.e., Lexus), they usually do not deliver the same efficiency or impact.  I contend that that is largely due to lack of positioning.

Positioning…what is it

Over the years I’ve heard numerous definitions and explanations of what positioning is.

According to Wikipedia, Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors and different from the concept of brand awareness. In order to position products or brands, companies may emphasize the distinguishing features of their brand (what it is, what it does and how, etc.) or they may try to create a suitable image (inexpensive or premium, utilitarian or luxurious, entry-level or high-end, etc.) through the marketing mix. Once a brand has achieved a strong position, it can become difficult to reposition it.[1]

While I have no problem with this explanation, but does not really explain how it’s developed, nor why it is needed. 

I was amazed to find that there are 11,100,000 Results when I entered “What is a Marketing Positioning Statement” into my browser (Microsoft Bing).

Many of the entries are examples, some explain elements of a good statement and more.  One entry from eCornell #IMPACT[2] says the following:

How to Write Market Positioning Statements

Your organization is gearing up to launch a new product or service or enter a new market. You’re on the marketing team. You’re familiar with the details of these new endeavors; you know your customers. Where do you start? (The following guide is an excerpt from my Marketing Strategy certificate.)

Start with the positioning statement.

A positioning statement is a concise description of your target market as well as a compelling picture of how you want that market to perceive your brand. Though it may read like something from your promotional materials, your positioning statement is an internal tool. Every product and marketing decision you make regarding your brand must align with and support your positioning statement. A good positioning statement is a guidepost for your marketing efforts. It helps you maintain focus on your brand and its value proposition while you work on market strategy and tactics.

Again, no problem, but it does not get to a clear definition, nor why a positioning statement is not necessary, but critical/essential!

So, what is a positioning statement…Well:


A positioning statement is the answer to the following question: “If you could put all potential customers in one room and guarantee they would leave the room fully understanding a paragraph or two of information about your products and services, what would that paragraph be?”  Emanating from the corporate mission statement, a positioning statement is the yardstick against which, every, piece of communication developed for the marketplace is measured.  No matter what the words or pictures are, the roots of any message to be communicated to customers and potential customers must be consistent with and reflect some portion of the positioning statement.

Positioning…Why is it needed

Simply said it is needed so that you are successful and do not go out of business. 

CLEAR AND CONCISE – Unless you want a confused target customer/audience that is not interested in your products and services, you want a clear, concise, and consistent message communicated.  If it is not clear, concise, and consistent, you’re going to lose.  Again, many studies over the years prove that if there is confusion, potential customers run away.  This was most true with print ads…and probably the reason the print industry is dying today.

To understand how this works, find a magazine…if you can!  Turn pages until you find an ad. Only look at the ad for 5 to 7 seconds.  Then turn the page.  Now try to describe what you saw.  What was their product or service, what was their selling proposition, and was it pleasing? 

Repeat this process several times.  You will find that some ads are trying to say too much, some are designed in a manner that does not “lead your eye in a logical first place to second, etc.”  We call this managing the eye. 

Then, after doing this exercise a few times, stop and recap.  Which ad is your favorite?  Why, was it the message, the graphics, the colors, etc.  At the end, you should have discovered that the ones that were confusing, you had no desire to go back to and learn more. 

Simply stated, consumers sub-conscious mind run when it must work to decipher advertising messages.  And the reason print marketing is dying, it takes work to gather the data from the articles and from the ads.  Seeing and hearing is easier than reading.


Let us discuss common sense. 

An internet full of data will explain that for you to be successful, your targeted potential customers must see more value in your products and services than those of your competitors.  Why…well, if you and your competitors offer similar products and services, then my decision as a customer is easy.  Who will charge less money, deliver quicker results, or services, or some other factor that is important to the customer?

In most cases, this winds up being money/cost.  But if you are to survive over the long-term only by being the lowest priced in your field, your income will be limited and at any time, you will not be in control of your destiny.  Someone will have the ability to be more efficient, or…offer more value in the eyes of the consumer.  Or your message will be totally ineffective.  The next time you watch television, pay close attention to car commercials; both local and national.  Think about each one.  If the advertiser does not say something different…give you a “difference,” a reason to buy then they wasted money. If you could take the Ford (for example) out and put a Chevy in the ad and the ad still work, then it’s got nothing to say but buy from the one with the largest ad budget/sell cars at the lowest price.

Think about it.  If price is the determining factor, you are taking orders.  If you genuinely want to be successful, you must offer more value…even if it’s for the same product or service. 

Example: “Sir, while the products are the same as my competitors and his price is slightly less, we have a 90% re-purchase rate due to our outstanding customer satisfaction.  And…we don’t simply deliver as our competition does, we go the extra step to make sure it’s set up and working right.  Those would be important to you wouldn’t they (I.e., we are worth the small difference)?

THE NEED FOR A POSITIONING STATEMENT – Let us recap.    Customers decide it is time to buy.  The list of reasons they decide to buy is incredibly long.  From need (I ran out of batteries), to ego (I need a Porsche), and everything in between.  And in B2B (business to business) they too have reasons, but usually more logically and functionally based; but they have reasons too.

But chances are almost certain that your customers need a reason to buy from us.

If we do not provide that reason, then we will lose. 

We know that we need to communicate clear, concise, and consistent messages so as to be able to create a positive image for you and your products and services. 


Positioning…Where does it come from

The positioning statement, which should be reviewed at least on an annual basis, should be derived from the company “Mission Statement.”  And, yes, your company needs a mission statement too.  Think of it as a job description for the company.

Positioning…A caution

Your positioning statement should be many things.  Believable, easy to understand, clear, concise, and more.  But…Do not fall into the trap that occasionally happens.  Do not put too much in it.  If you have 15 messages, that will lead to poor communications. 

When I spoke at schools and other venues, I used two Saturday Night Live skits that made excellent points about positioning.  It will make a point and it will make you laugh…

Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Shimmer Floor Wax – NBC.com

Bris inside a Royal Deluxe II from Saturday Night Live – Bing video

Positioning…Closing Comments

There are untold numbers of studies over years that prove that the more personalized your message the more likely your message will be to “get through” and impact a potential customers perception and purchase intentions. The internet and the power of Google, Facebook, etc. are providing new ways to reach consumers with perfect timing.  But I contend that without effective messaging (a positioning statement) it will be wasted effort.

[1] Positioning (marketing) – Wikipedia

[2] How to Write Market Positioning Statements – eCornell #IMPACT

About the author

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David Wager has held successful senior level marketing management positions on both the client side and the agency side for over 30 years.

Early in his career, Mr. Wager developed a unique philosophy regarding marketing saying, in short: “I don't want to fight with anyone, anywhere, anytime for any reason,” the implication of which is that if your message is the same as your competition's, then who wins comes down to who has the largest marketing budget and the lowest price. Decommoditization and success instead comes from maximizing the impact of your available funds and promoting your points of differentiation.

Adherence to his philosophy resulted in both significant accomplishments and a great many prestigious recognitions and awards for his work, including:

As a marketing director for a major automobile manufacturer, Mr. Wager developed the first campaign to use the J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings as a marketing tool. The success of his campaigns led to a historic change in how consumer advertising and marketing messaging was done, shifting from a product focus to a benefit focused message.

As President and CEO of the Team One Advertising, Mr. Wager directed the highly- successful launch of the Lexus franchise for Toyota, leading the nation in sales.

As Vice President and Director of Marketing for Porsche Cars North America, Mr. Wager arrested a severe and long-term sales decline, and directed the successful launch of the Carrera 4 series

Mr. Wager created and grew a $1.8 million marketing agency in fifteen months, inventing the concept of the “Integrated Marketing” agency in the process. Specifically, rather than offering one or two marketing tools, Integrated Marketing Incorporated was designed to offer clients the best mix of the widest array of marketing tools, including Advertising, PR, Promotions, Collateral, Customer Satisfaction/Customer Retention, Sports Marketing, Events, Direct Marketing, Strategic Planning, Marketing Research, Sales Training and product launches.

Mr. Wager has been widely recognized for his work, including receiving multiple Clio Awards (The Oscar of the Advertising industry), ADDY’s, One Show’s, POPI’s (The Oscar of the Point-of-purchase industry) and many more personal and professional awards.

David Wager is excited to be working with LeadGen.com, the next generation of Integrated Marketing, and to continue to be able to help clients exceed their goals for revenue, growth, market share and profitability.