Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout – Summary

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind - Summary
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We are bombarded with millions of advertisements fighting for our attention. Creativity used to be the key to success in advertising. Now the name of the game is Positioning.

This book came out in 2001 and the advice still holds true today. The Internet has only gotten bigger and so have advertisements.

So the big question is how do you communicate to your customers in an overcrowded marketplace?

The Answer to that is positioning.

Getting into the mind

There is no doubt we have become an over-communicated society. There’s too much noise out there and only a tiny fraction of messages get through.

There is a finite limit to what the mind can take. To stand out, you must be a Purple Cow.

Getting noticed is getting tougher. Owning a position in the mind is like owning a valuable piece of real estate.

Positioning is thinking in reverse. Instead of starting with yourself, you start with the mind of the prospect.

Find a position you can call your own. Find an opening where you are at the center of the spectrum.

There’s an age-old french marketing expression. Cherchez le creneau. “Look for the hole.” Cherchez le creneau and then fill it.


Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. You position the product in the mind of the prospect. If you don’t understand and see this, then your competition will.

The Mind is the battleground, the 6 inches of grey matter is where the prize lies.

Positioning is a unique approach to communication, which starts with a product, a company, service, or even a country.

Positioning is an organized system for finding a window in the mind. The easiest way to get to mind is to be first. The first company with a new idea or new product is always at an advantage.

If you’re first, you’re remembered If you’re second you’re soon forgotten.

What’s the name of the first person to walk on the moon?

Neil Armstrong, of course.
Now, What’s the name of the second?

This is no Knock on Buzz Aldrin but this is just an example. Being first gives you a healthy advantage over the competition.

Playing the Positioning game

You can’t be all things to all people, so it’s important to define yourself.

Once you go niche and own a firm position in the prospect’s mind, the brand name then becomes the substitute for the generic name. Some brand names are so strong they are practically generic.

Kleenex, Band-Aid, Fiberglas are a few names that come to mind.

To use advertising in the positioning game, we must not use it like a sledgehammer. It should instead be used more like a light fog.

You have 2 choices to position yourself. You can either dislodge the competition or associate with it.

Here are some examples of the 2 variants:

  1. Avis Rental Cars decided to go against Hertz, their main competition at the time. “Avis is only No. 2 in rent-a-cars, so why go with us? We try harder.” This was their positioning slogan, and it worked because who doesn’t like an underdog. Stay #2 long enough and you’ll soon become #1.
  2. Seven-Up positioned itself as the Uncola. A valuable alternative to its market leader Cola.
  3. Belgium positioned itself as a tourism destination, with the Ad “In beautiful Belgium, there are five Amsterdams.”
  4. Netflix today has positioned itself in it’s viewer’s minds on a monthly subscription fee.

When you look back at history’s big companies, the common thread is not marketing skill or even product innovation.

The common thread is seizing the initiative before the competitor has a chance to get established. It also depends on luck and timing too.

To play the game of positioning, you need to be a big fish in a little pond and get there first. The name of the marketing game today is positioning and only the better players will survive.


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