Positioning: be different but familiar

The textbooks will tell you that the key to succeed in the market place is to differentiate yourself from competition; to carefully choose your positioning. And that means that you need to start by answering this question: What is it that only we can do?

However, a recent chat over coffee, made me think of another, equally important question: Does your ‘only we’ make sense to the customer?

Let me tell you about that chat.

K and I were catching up over coffee. He told me about his new professional venture, which brought together his many interests. His list of interests included the following:

  • Producing music
  • Performing with artists in several music genres
  • Organising music events, and
  • Helping promote musicians

There was more, but let’s stop here.

It would be very easy for K to answer the ‘only we’ question because, really, how many people do all of the above? So, as far as positioning is concerned, K’s surely is unique. But does it work?

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K’s activities fall within, at least, four categories: production, performance, event management, and promotion.

Categories are good. They facilitate reasoning, assist in decision-making and prediction, and allow for cognitive economy (cognitive economy is the mechanism by which we retrieve information from memory rather than through reasoning, and it plays a fundamental role in daily life because it enables us to make quick decisions). Categories also enable communication.

Conversely, information that falls outside of well-established categories, is new or unexpected, will require considerable cognitive effort… which we may be unwilling, or unable, to apply. We are also more likely to forget it, or to make mistakes when trying to recall details.

So, when it comes to positioning, this means that you should be different, but within familiar, clear parameters.

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Or, as Warren Buffet put it (though not about the marketing of products): “The most important thing in terms of your circle of competence is not how large it is but how well you define the perimeter. (…) Knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to focus on.

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