A tale of two cars….

So I’m shopping for cars, and I test-drive two.

First, the 2006 Volvo. Nice, solid car. But what’s up the the audio technology? No satellite radio options, no iPod hookup, no navigation screen. Frankly, I could have bought this car in 2002 and had the same audio options as they offer now.

Meanwhile, the saleswoman kept jibber-jabbering to me about safety. One feature after another that essentially added up to “if the car rolls over, you won’t die.”

Then I drove the Prius. Top-of-the-line version. Fancy navigation screen. Plug for the iPod. Whichever satellite radio provider you want, all operated from the nav screen. Bluetooth for hands-free mobile phone. Impressive. Especially in comparison. No chat about safety – but frankly I’ve never seen a Prius with a massive dent in the side.

Now obviously, the Volvo is all about “safety.” Ries and Trout would tell (and have told) Volvo to focus on the word “safe” to the exclusion of all else. The Prius is about eco-driving and fuel-economy – plus a bunch of luxurious audio extras for those of us who are technically inclined.

If the Volvo saleswoman had bothered to ask me what MY criteria for choosing a car were – instead of assuming that my needs were irrelevant and what really mattered was the “positioning” passed down by corporate – then perhaps she would have known right off the bat that I was a waste of her time.

The Prius seller, meanwhile, knew he had me in the palm of his hand. He focused on what I cared about. He didn’t even mention fuel economy, the primary Prius selling point.

What all this means is this: You may have your positioning, your “positioning line,” but if it doesn’t capture the reasons why listeners come to your station you’re wasting your breath.

Find out why your listeners come to you.

That’s much more important than dishing out your official “line.”

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