Often I’m asked can you position anything?
This is asking the wrong question, in fact, it is looking through a telescope the wrong way.
In reality, everything is positioned already. With a bias map in all of our heads we already have an opinion about everything. Little is based on fact, all perceptions have an emotional edge to them.
The TRUE question is what is the baseline position that is being held right now by the perceivers. This is the starting place for making meaningful progress towards developing your strategy for positioning. We start with what is and then pivot to a more favorable position.
Take Starbucks. One day in 1971 they invented coffee. Incredible. Right? Because before Starbucks, coffee was, for the most part, a throwaway. Sold as a lost leader, often for 10-25 cents for what was almost just colored water with unlimited refills. Customers’ perception of the coffee and the position it had was low value: middling taste at best and “dishwater” at worst.
Now 49 years later coffee has become a happening thing, a luxury to be enjoyed and experienced. It was now priced far beyond the commodity it was. That is the power of positioning and pivoting. Not everyone buys into the Starbucks position. For those who do there is talk of how much of your monthly budget should go to coffee.
During a speaking engagement, I was waiting in line at a jammed packed Starbucks. Two women behind me were talking about what their preference was. It hit me that neither of the drinks that they were buying was just coffee, they were buying a milkshake with just a little coffee snuck in. Clearly true believers. They spent enough money that they could have gone to Denny’s, ordered a cup of Joe and a Grand Slam for the same money.
Positioning is about the possible and not about what we want it to be. Always know your position first, be brutal in your assessment before you start worshiping false positions. You can achieve more. You can be truly different if you pivot far enough that your old customers won’t recognize you.