The Single Most Important Marketing Effort For Your Product

In the spring of 1971, a new marketing idea was hatched.  Today, over 38 years later, the idea is still the most important thing you can do to achieve marketing success.

In an ad in the April 7, 1971 New York Times, David Ogilvy outlined his 38 points for creating “advertising that sells.”  He called the #1 item on the list “the most important decision.”  He went on to say that “the results of your campaign depend less on how we write your advertising than on how your product is positioned.”

His message was clear…you need to start with a clear positioning for your product.  With a clear positioning, you can establish your marketing territory versus your competitors.  Without a clear positioning, you will forever struggle to establish your marketing message.

How can an idea that was conceived almost 40 years ago still be relevant?  David Shenk, in his book Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, estimated that a consumer was exposed to 560 advertising messages per day in 1971.  Shenk estimated that number had grown to over 3000 per day by 1997.

But the world today is even more complex and consumers get exposed to more frequent messages on traditional vehicles like TV and radio (now we have :15, :10, and even :05 second advertising).  Plus we have a whole new world of marketing messaging using modern tools like computers, cell phones, social networks, podcasts, etc.

So is it any wonder that the “positioning” message is more important today than it was 38 years ago?  Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages.  If your message is not framed by a crystal clear positioning, your message will fade into the background and all of your marketing efforts will fail.

What are the keys to developing your product’s positioning?

First of all, I highly recommend reading the “positioning Bible” which is the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, written by Al Reis and Jack Trout.  This is one of the best marketing books ever written, and I learned the craft of developing clear positioning statements by reading this book.

But to “cut to the chase,” the concept of a clear positioning is very simple.  You need to own “one word” in the mind of a consumer, and you need to make sure that word is competitively viable and achievable in your marketing plan (i.e., your competitors cannot own it and you can afford to own it).

Here is an example.  In a world of colas, 7-Up decided it wanted to be the “Un-Cola.”  One word that drove its marketing messaging for years (and double digit sales gains I might add).  It was simple, direct, and memorable.  It was also appropriate for their product and easy to own without breaking the bank on marketing.

Think Mac versus PC.  Mac owns “cool” and that defines their marketing effort.

So ask yourself, if you have an established product…what positioning do you already own, and what positioning do you want to own?  If you are just starting to launch a product, what positioning do you want to own in the minds of consumers?

If you get the positioning right, the marketing will practically design itself! 

– Mark Prus ([email protected]), NameFlashSM (


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