positioning: Geeks leading the way
August 3, 1998
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Mr. Trout, meet Mr. Sviokla.
as we all learned from Jack Trout and Al Ries, is the battle for
share of the customer's mind. Positioning is about securing a
worthwhile place in the mind of the prospect.
when differential advantages last for just milliseconds and competitors
seem to copy your moves and countermoves almost before you've
conceived them, positioning may be the most potent form of differentiation
left to marketers. When product differences get scarce, your image
may be all that counts.
marketers-not fast food providers, beverage brewers or shoe makers-seem
to be showing us the way these days. Some of the hottest ads and
most sought-after accounts on Madison Avenue are those of technology
companies. The Internet itself is proving to be a vital tool to
position all kinds of products and services, high tech and otherwise.
It sure wasn't
always this way with the techno-crowd. Product used to be the
Take the Digital
Equipment Corp. Back in DEC's heyday when they ruled with their
VAX minicomputers, I sat next to DEC's founder and then-CEO Ken
Olsen at dinner one night in Boston and asked him why he didn't
advertise. Olsen said, "I don't need to. Our products sell
themselves." He admitted to doing a few print ads and some
tasteful things on PBS.
later, a floundering DIGITAL sold itself to Compaq, the upstart
personal computer manufacturer. Positioning itself as the lower-cost
personal computer company, Compaq knocked IBM off its throne in
the '90s, and with the help of computer retailers, established
itself as the No. 1 PC provider.
Olsen in the 80s, Compaq's current president and CEO, Eckhard
Pfeiffer, believes in positioning. He recently hired DDB Needham
to run the merged company's rumored $300-million advertising and
positioning effort-an account that Keith Reinhard's team at DDB
Needham fought for as if it were the McDonald's account.
So why are
all these ad moguls pursuing the high tech crowd? One agency CEO
told me that he "learns from the technology group."
The message was, "They're smart and they're rewriting the
to Harvard University Associate Professor John J. Sviokla, our
market- place is being transformed into a marketspace, an information-defined
space where our previous investments in brand equity and positioning
may be supplanted by technology- based upheaval. For example,
as ATM networks proliferate, is my brand loyalty going to rest
with Citibank or with the Cirrus network? That's a thorny question
for Citibank's global advertising agency to chew on.
out that traditionally, content (what we offer), context (how
we offer it) and infrastructure (the means we use to produce the
product or service) all were integrated. In the new age, these
three items can be separated and brand equity built around each.
So tomorrow, I may get my content, branded by the Chicago Tribune,
distributed in the context of the Internet from AOL, to which
I connect over the Sprint "Ion"(Integrated On-Demand
Network) infrastructure. Whew, it must be a good time to own ad
the halo effect. Just wrapping my product or service in the high-tech
blanket of the Internet provides a positive spin for my brand.
Anyone who watched the Chicago Bulls play the Utah Jazz in the
NBA finals last spring kept hearing announcer Bob Costas say you
could get fuller coverage after the game on the Internet. Sure,
some of the hybrid high-tech jock crowd probably hit the NBA.com
Web site, but all of the audience came away with the impression
that NBC is at the cutting edge. The network is a leader because
it's in the Internet game.
same series you would have seen yet another way the Internet is
changing the rules of positioning: "Web tune-in" advertising.
Barnesandnoble.com spent millions introducing and positioning
their answer to Amazon.com via prime time broadcast advertising.
the $7-billion dollar personal computer visionary, also used broadcast
television advertising for his "Be Direct" campaign.
This cute, clever program features a mouse burning down the maze
to get to the cheese. The ads are part of a $70-million campaign
to draw viewers to Dell's Internet site to browse and buy. J.
Walter Thompson is Dell's advertising agency.
And, we haven't
broached the subject of Internet advertising yet. Just for fun,
go to www.dilbert.com. You'll read the latest cartoon, and see
some Internet billboard advertising.
DART (Dynamic Advertising Reporting & Targeting) Technology
from DoubleClick Inc. in New York, the ads you see at Dilbert.com
will be tailored for you based on your IP (Internet protocol)
address and DoubleClick's database of 500,000 mapped networks.
In other words,
advertising on the Internet is growing more targeted.
So what does
it all mean? It means that technology marketers are rewriting
the book on positioning. Extracting value from our products and
services is growing more difficult. Technology marketers are showing
us future models of how to use positioning and differentiation
to improve our value propositions.
It's no longer
just the occasional breakthrough Apple commercial or the Intel
Inside ads that you should watch. The Internet itself is providing
a positive halo for products as diverse as Levi's jeans, Geffen
Records or the latest Hollywood feature film.
If you care
about positioning trends, keep watching the Internet. There's
lot's more to come.
Trout and Al Ries, I wonder if a new book is in the offing. Could
Positioning in the MarketSpace be far behind?
Prof. Sviokla as a co-author, guys.
is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at email@example.com.