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A marketing genius moves on

There are countless definitions of the word “genius” online and elsewhere. The one below is a good one.
– Genius is a characteristic of original and exceptional insight in the performance of some art or endeavor that surpasses expectations, sets new standards for the future, establishes better methods of operation, or remains outside the capabilities of competitors.


– A person having such capacity.
These days one can’t help but think of Elon Musk. Scanning back through recent history, Nelson Mandela, who’s managing of South Africa after his release from prison can’t be deemed anything less, or Winston Churchill during the Second World War.

These are people that demonstrated political genius as opposed to the more common academic genius like today’s news article about the 13-year-old who just graduated college with separate degrees.



In October of last year, a genius passed from  the world in which I operate – market research, marketing and PR – the genius was Al Ries.
“Al Ries was the father of positioning, a legendary marketing strategist, a global brand in his own right and the bestselling author of 12 books that have sold over 4 million copies worldwide.”


After reading Ries’ marketing classic, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, decades ago I was “hooked” and followed his writings via his many subsequent books and had the privilege of communicating with him on some marketing ideas. I keep his validations of some of my marketing ideas in a secure location on my computer.

When one talks of Al Ries, one must talk of positioning.
There are countless definitions of positioning and how it works.
Simply put, positioning makes the unfamiliar* familiar by tying it to something that is already familiar in the mind.
(*Think of the unfamiliar as your product or service).
This facilitates instant communication (because what you are tying your product to with marketing or PR is already in the recipient’s mind).
Positioning has long been used in politics – usually negatively.
“The famous speaker and politician Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), for instance, when he defended his supporter Sestius, did not shrink from publicly accusing the enemy Clodius of incest with brothers and sisters,”

Political Debates In Ancient Rome: Great Harshness, Personal Attacks And Unpleasant Atmosphere

(Positioning the enemy with incest.)”

This kind of positioning goes on daily in the U.S. Congress.  One is no longer just a Kennedy Democrat or Reagan Republican today. The campaign, sourced by the Democrats, driven by the media, the intelligence community and the Justice Department to position Donald Trump with Vladimir Putin was one of the most vicious and well organized I have ever seen.
Of course, Cicero did not have access to Twitter, Facebook or any of today’s digital weapons. But he had an enormous presence and ability to communicate. His presence and oratory in the Roman Senate is easily compared to modern social media.

“Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, writer and academic skeptic who tried to uphold optimate principles during the political crises that led to the establishment of the Roman empire.  He is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists and the innovator of what became known as Ciceronian rhetoric.
His influence on the Latin language was immense. He wrote more than three-quarters of extant Latin literature that is known to have existed in his lifetime.”

But politics is far from the only use of positioning. When used correctly in marketing and PR, positioning can not only drive business sales, but, more importantly, establish your brand as an industry leader.
Here are some excellent examples of positioning.

Here’s a commercial for strong cheese that uses positioning very cleverly. Click the link.

One of Burger King’s cleverest commercials starts with a shot from the back of a Burger King restaurant. There is a number of people standing in a single line waiting to order.
In the middle of the line is someone with a hat with orange hair sprouting out of the sides. The person is wearing an overcoat, collar up, obviously trying not to be recognized. He turns his head for a moment and his identity becomes obvious: this is Ronald MacDonald who has snuck into Burger King to get a hamburger, trying not to be recognized.
This is, of course, Burger King cleverly positioning against Mac Donald’s.
One I had a great time creating was some years back. Around 2000, Internet service was largely done via dial up. Remember that?
High speed broad band was just beginning to roll out.
ISPs (Internet Service providers) were just beginning to provide high-speed Internet. Our client, an ISP in the Southeastern United States was just introducing their high-speed service, as was their chief competitor, Time Warner.
Positioning takes two surveys. The first survey that we conducted of small to medium-sized businesses (our client’s public) in that region, found that the main thing businesses wanted from Internet service providers was speed . No surprise.
Time Warner had a visual icon going for it that they could use to promote speed, the Road Runner (a type of bird known for running at high speeds, that was always being chased in a cartoon series by a coyote [Wiley Coyote]. Wiley Coyote was always just about to catch him, but the Road Runner was always too fast).

Road Runner Rd., Runner clip art related keywords to dash wikiclipartwikiclipart.com

When we did the follow-up positioning survey, we found that what represented speed to this public was a Daytona racing car (the client was headquartered in Florida).
The advertisement?

A Daytona racing car with the client’s name on it roaring down the highway. Off to the side of the road bent over and panting is the Road Runner.

Here’s feedback from a couple of startups we positioned.

“The positioning that grew out of your research was nothing short of stellar work. We now have a strategically researched, laser like position that will dramatically assist us in rolling out our new brand.”
J.D. – President

“ In launching our new company, I considered one of the most important things we would do is brand and position the company. Your work to help us get into the minds of our customers and prospects really pinpointed – with precision – what our brand should represent. And the rest fell in place from there.  …I feel confident that we have hit on a position and brand that impinges on our public and will have lasting value. I look forward to continuing to work with On Target as we build our company.”    M.D.  – EVP

This came after we implemented an in-depth market research program followed by positioning surveys.
“When we implemented On Target’s research survey findings, our profits increased and marketing cost decreased. From a financial analysis of our company, we discovered that over a two-year period, On Target Research saved our firm over $300,000 a month or, ballpark, a total of $7.2 million so far.”      R.C. – President

Does your company have a position that drives sales? If not, give me a call. We can discuss what would be involved.

Bruce Wiseman
President & CEO
On Target Research