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The Trouble With Positioning

Do you remember when President Obama came to office first time round and negotiated with the secret service to keep his BlackBerry—Bush and Clinton didn’t even use email. In 2004, three years before the launch of the first iPhone, BlackBerry, who pioneered the smartphone had a market share of 47%. Four years ago Blackberry was the fastest growing company in the world.
Today it’s market share is just 2% and BlackBerry is facing obsolescence. The company had identified, occupied and dominated a product niche by developing a phone that could email. It was perfectly positioned to stay top of mind for years to come.

I think where BlackBerry came unstuck was in believing that their job as innovators was to change how people felt about their product, instead of wondering how smartphones might shape culture beyond accessing email on the go. In the end they didn’t lose out because of Apple and Google, they lost out by failing to understand how their brand would enable connection going forward.

The trouble with positioning is that it doesn’t take into account that business is symbiotic, that the relationship between brand and customer really is interdependent. That’s because positioning is less about considering what people value and more about telling people what to believe.

It’s not enough to be first to market or top of mind. The brands that we care about don’t just make innovative products, they shape our culture and make us feel like better versions of ourselves. They take account of what we believe, how we act and who we might want to become. Which is very different from riding the wave of first mover advantage.

Brands big and small connect people through a culture that’s bigger than themselves, provenance, adventure, sustainability, entrepreneurship, self expression, conscious consumption, sisterhood and real food to name a few.

So tell me, what beliefs are you connecting your customers to?

Image by Lindsay Turner.

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