Positioning is dead; long live Wikification
FusionBrand has an interesting editorial up right now, claiming that the traditional theory of 'positioning' in marketing is now dead. For those who don't know, positioning is a theory about marketing that first became popular in the late 1960s - the idea is that your company or brand occupies a certain 'position' in your customer's head, and that anytime a specific idea is thought of, that customer automatically thinks of your product. (Cooly-designed cutting-edge computers = 'Apple.' You see what I'm saying.) Your product is going to occupy a position in that customer's head no matter what you do, so the goal then is to have it occupy the position that you want it to, or that would benefit you the most. So you use mass advertising to sell an overall "message" of what your brand or company is, and you "position" your brand into the place in the customer's brain where you want it to exist, by repeatedly hammering your message into them over and over again.
With the ongoing death of mass advertising, though, according to this editorial, and the rise of customized advertising, viral marketing, the blogosphere and other community-oriented developments, the rules for successfully marketing your company are rapidly changing. A better metaphor, then, might be the 'wikis' we're starting to see pop up more and more all over the web - pages of content just like any other site, but these group-written and -edited by a whole crowd of people, and with a group consensus eventually emerging of what that page should be and what it should look like. The benefits of using such a theory for your marketing, according to the editorial, include the fact that you're hearing much better what your customers actually want from you in order to make them insanely happy, since your entire corporate message is now driven by them, not by your advertising people. Also, your "message" hits home in a much more powerful way, because it's driven by actions instead of words; instead of endlessly running commercials about what great customer service you have, you actually go out and achieve great customer service, which makes a much greater impression on your customer than any empty promise in a commercial ever could. And third, unlike positioning this is actually measurable - if you know precisely what your customers want, you can statistically keep track of how well you're getting it to them.
It's a very intriguing article that sets certain marketing rules on their head that we've been taking for granted for over 30 years now. Definitely worth taking a look. (Thanks to the Small Business Del.icio.us watchlist for pointing this out.)