In Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout explained that what advertisers termed “product positioning” was backwards thinking.
In reality, the ground-breaking work stated, “Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of a prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.” (Emphasis added.)
Each of our minds is a place. As communicators, we are taught to be first in seizing a place in the minds of prospects — with ideas, products, or services. If we can’t be first, we’re trained to stake out an unoccupied position, or place, in the minds of our target audience.
The trouble is, our minds are even more cluttered than they were in the early 1970s when Ries and Trout first staked out their position in the most expensive minds on Madison Avenue. It’s increasingly difficult to find an American whose mind has a spare, unused, unoccupied brain cell.
Sometimes I wonder, “How many times can a brain’s hard drive sector be over-written before it crashes?” Fortunately, humans are miraculously adaptable. Our brains always seem to find a way to process more information, faster.
Even so, the battle for a place in one single mind or thousands of minds is an increasingly high-stakes proposition. It’s incumbent on us to be less inclined to “give that guy a piece of my mind” and more willing to ask individuals what’s important to them.
Occupying a place in a mind these days is less about messaging and more about listening, and quickly meeting expectations. Otherwise, those of us tasked with communicating with others will be increasingly frustrated. It would be a shame for us to lose the minds of our audiences — and our own — just because we failed to understand another human being’s wants and needs.