What is a “Position,” anyway?

The great majority of stations fit in that fuzzy place between standing for nothing and standing for something.

Sure, there are the stations that represent “Country” or “Classic Rock.” But trouble arises when there are two or more such stations in one market or when a station’s format doesn’t fit the nice and neat one-word-definition that speaks volumes to all (“Hot AC,” anyone?).

Because of this ambiguity, we hear managers say “we’re the variety station” or “we’re the most-music station.” Yet the research often (but not always) shows that, to an approximation, there is no one “variety” station and there is no one “most music” station. In fact, lots of stations are fighting neck-and-neck for slivers of advantages – and slivers do not an advantage make.

If you don’t own something – clearly, uniquely, unambiguously, and by a wide margin – then you don’t have a position in that something. And owning something requires over-performing in that something compared to ALL your competitors.

What car owns the word “safe”? It used to be Volvo, we’re told. But we know that only because we read a twenty-year-old Trout & Ries book. Does the average consumer really believe that today? Of course not.

The idea that “you’ve got to own a word” makes sense only when there’s a word to own that nobody else owns and nobody else wants to own and everyone in the audience really cares about. And nowadays, good luck to you. What word does “Starbucks” own? What word does “Nike” own? What word does “Apple” own?

But…can you describe in one sentence what your station stands for and how that’s dramatically different from your competition and incredibly important to your potential audience?

If not, your “position” is “also-ran.”

A “position” is not a “positioning line” and is much more than a word. It’s an expression of your brand’s purpose in action. In my experience precious few broadcasters can verbalize that position for their station. And if you can’t do it, how do you expect your audience to do it?

How are you expressing your brand’s purpose? What “hooks” are you providing listeners so they can say to their friends “WXXX is my favorite station, and here’s why….”?

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