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“Positioning” is not a “Statement”

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip August 4, 2004

In the Radio business, when we ask what a station’s position is, what we’re usually probing for is their positioning statement. This is a mistake. Positions, after all, exist in the minds of the audience, not in the taglines of your advertising.

How We Got Into this Fix

Somewhere along our path to positioning we took a fork in the road and stuck it directly into our stations. Wasn’t it Ries & Trout who proclaimed the importance of owning a word in the prospect’s mind? And if so, as marketing guru Tom Asacker asks, what is the word owned by Apple? Or Amazon? Or Samsung, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs, Caterpillar, Canon, or Motorola? None of these brands “own a word” yet all are rising stars in Interbrand’s 2004 ranking of Top Global Brands by dollar value. How do you explain this?

Here’s our mistake: We confuse TRYING to position with having one. We confuse a positioning STATEMENT with an actual position. What we say on the air is not the same as what’s in the listener’s mind. No wonder the audience shrugs its collective shoulders when we ask them to explain how we’re unique.

Getting Back to Positioning Basics

Unless listeners view your station differently from your competition you do NOT have a position, no matter what fancy words you use on-air. John Zagula, co-author of the forthcoming book “The Marketing Playbook” has a handy shortcut called “Positioning XYZ’s” (TM).

Fill in the blanks: “We are the only X that solves Y problem in Z unique way,” where X is the category your station is in, Y is the unmet need of your target audience, and Z is the differentiation, advantage, or key positive distinction you have over your competition.

Time to Start Fresh

Hot AC stations keep lifting rocks to see if there’s a word or phrase underneath with no success. Mainstream AC stations tussle over “Soft” and “Lite,” not realizing that they are really the same word. Battling over synonyms is not positioning. Most stations fight over the same words and thus own none.

Just as owning “10 in a row” doesn’t mean you own “Most Music,” owning a word or phrase is meaningless unless you own a unique expectation. Unless the very mention of your station’s name creates a distinct and desirable image which listeners want to listen to and affiliate with. That’s what a position is. Whether or not you have a “line” or “own a word or phrase.”

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