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Position Yourself for Greatness
How to get where you want to be wanted.
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 Gelphman Associates

by Robert Gelphman
Gelphman Associates

Robert GelphmanBrand seems to be all the rage these days with declining sales and profit margins. However, the influx of new and available products, some actually very interesting and useful, has not abated.

To jump start sales, many people are asking me about branding. But their question should be positioning. Often what goes wrong with marketing campaigns is the underlying strategy. Too many VPs of marketing and their product managers choose a branding campaign when they cannot even articulate a position.

The pursuit of brand is expensive, time consuming and is designed to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience. It generally works best for commodity-type products where there is little distinction among the competition. Positioning is based on a demonstration of real value, can be done in a much shorter time frame (months rather than years), and consequently is significantly less expensive. Most importantly, for many industries and companies, positioning is the best strategy for improving sales and market share, not branding.

The real problem, however, is that many people do not know the difference between the two. Instead of pursuing brand, or ubiquity (everyone knows you), it is often more appropriate to establish positioning, or value (everyone wants you). When market share is the objective, the fastest and least expensive marketing strategy is positioning. The building of a brand not only takes more time and money than originally budgeted, but can be difficult to measure, as brand does not always show up in the form of sales.

Many of the dot-coms fell into this trap. Basically, they failed to communicate a value proposition. People knew who they were but did not know why they needed them. They thought the road to market share was paved by brand creation. They succeeded in generating Web hits but not sales. Positioning creates demand for a product. Brand works best when leveraging this already established need or demand for continued sales.

Positioning helps create brand but brand does not always or necessarily contribute to position. Some companies have achieved brand in a short time but are still suffering from an unclear positioning. This is a situation that currently affects Yahoo! It could be argued that Yahoo! has brand but no position. Is Yahoo! a search engine? A portal? An online auction site ? A content aggregator? Online store? All of the above? What is the value proposition to its customers? What is the company's position vis a vis its competitors?

In every one of these categories, Yahoo! has formidable competition. What is least understood about building brand is the amount of time required. Amazon did it in a relatively short time but anyone can articulate its reason for existence--online storefront. Hence, the call to action is visit the site for eventual purchase of a particular product. People go there expecting to spend money and this in turn creates market share.

So before creating brand, establish a position. Define positioning as that desirable place in the customer's mind where he not only recognizes the product but can also recite the attributes of the product or service being offered. Effective positioning makes the customer a part of the sales team while reinforcing your positioning efforts.

Positioning is dynamic and fluid. Yesterday's unique position is today's commodity provider. Useful positioning statements should describe who the company is AND who it wants to be.

Gelphman Associates is an integrated marketing communications 
agency serving companies in high technology for the  development
of a single, efficient and effective message platform.
Visit for more information or
write Robert Gelphman at

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