Positioning (Trout Ries)

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Creating the perception of a product / brand /company identity. Explanation of Positioning of Trout & Ries. ('69). Explanation of Reverse, Breakaway, Stealth Positioning by Moon. ('05)


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What is Positioning. Description

Positioning is a marketing method for creating the perception of a product, brand, or company identity. Starting from 1969, two young marketing guys, Jack Trout and Al Ries, wrote, spoke and disseminated to the advertising and PR world about a new concept in communications which they called positioning. The term was actually first mentioned in a paper by Jack Trout: Positioning is a game people play in today's me-too market place, Industrial Marketing, Vol.54, No. 6, June 1969, pp.51-55. Their 1981 book about Positioning: "The Battle for Your Mind" became a bestseller. Until then, advertising agencies had primarily been basing their media campaigns on internally conceived benefits of the client's product.

According to Trout and Ries, "positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position (place) the product in the mind of the potential buyer". Since that time in marketing, positioning is the technique in which marketers try to create an image or identity for a product, brand, or company in the perception of the target market. What matters is how potential buyers see the product. It is expressed relative to the position of competitors. Typical positioning tools include graphical perception mapping, market surveys, and certain statistical techniques.

Competitive Edge and Positioning

A successful positioning strategy is usually based on a sustainable competitive advantage of a company. Positioning can be based on several things, including:

  • Product features

  • Benefits, needs, or solutions

  • Use categories

  • Usage occasions

  • Placing and comparing it relative to another product

  • Dissociation of the product class

Three bases of positioning can be distinguished

  1. Functional (solve problems, provide benefits to customers)
  2. Symbolic (self-image enhancement, ego identification, belongingness and social meaningfulness, affective fulfillment)
  3. Experiential (provide sensory stimulation; provide cognitive stimulation)

Steps in Product Positioning. Process

  • Identify competing products

  • Identify the attributes, also called dimensions, that define the product 'space'

  • Collect information from a sample of customers about their perceptions of each product on the relevant attributes

  • Determine the share of mind of each product

  • Determine the current location of each product in the product space

  • Determine the target market's preferred combination of attributes. These are called: an ideal vector.

  • Examine the fit between: the positions of competing products, the position of your product and the position of the ideal vector

  • Select the optimum position

Three Positioning Strategies by Youngme Moon

In an HBR article of May 2005, Youngme Moon introduced three variations of Positioning that can be used to break free from Product Life Cycle thinking. Companies can change how consumers perceive them. By Positioning or often Repositioning their products in unexpected ways. Three positioning strategies that marketers use to cause a mental shift at consumers are Reverse, Breakaway, Stealth Positioning:

  1. Reverse Positioning. This method removes "sacred" product attributes. Simultaneously new attributes are added that would typically be found only in a highly augmented product. For example IKEA is not delivering to your home the products which you have bought, and it offers no sales consultancy. But IKEA added: children drop-off, cafe, toys). Recommended for: Services companies.

  2. Breakaway Positioning. This method associates the product with a radically different category. By manipulating the cues of consumers of how they perceive and categorize a product, a firm can change how consumers frame a product. (ex. Swatch > no longer in category Swiss Watches, but in Fashion Accessories). Recommended for Packaged Goods companies.

  3. Stealth Positioning. This variant gradually interests consumers for a new offering, by hiding the product's true nature. For example Sony's AIBO robot was positioned as a lovable pet. This shifted consumer's attention away from its major limitations as a household aide. It apparently even turned elderly people into early technology adopters. Recommended for: Technology companies.

Book: Jack Trout and Al Ries - Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind -

Positioning Forum
  Sit Back and Relax...
Watching another firm enter a market first and not entering yourself can be hard, but by doing this you can see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes a  
  Reverse and Stealth Positioning in Banking Institutions
Competition drives the use of reverse positioning and stealth positioning techniques in business transactions in many service industries. For example banks use reverse positioning combined with stealth positioning for promotional checks to con...
  Reposition or Relaunch?
I would like to know if repositioning is a good strategy or should we change the brand and re-launch the product? As Al Ries and Jack Trout have mentioned the most wasteful expense that a company could do is to try to change the mind of the prosp...
  Example of Poor Product positioning
Is there an example of confused positioning? What have been the market consequences to that?...
  What are the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Ries and Trout ? Summary
Another well-known publication by Ries and Trout is the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (1994):
1. The Law of Leadership - It is better to be first than it is to be better.
2. The Law of the C...

Positioning Special Interest Group

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Positioning Education & Events

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Best Practices - Positioning Premium
  How to Measure the Effectiveness of Positioning?
In order to know how effective positioning is, positioning effectiveness should be measured.
Two main groups of positioning measurements exist, namely company-based and customer-based.
1. Comp...

Expert Tips - Positioning Premium

How to Develop the Positioning for a Bank?

According to L. Biff Motley in the article “The Power of Positioning” (ABA Bank Marketing, Jan/Feb 2003), the lesson for community banks from Reis’...
Usage (application): Strategic Marketing, Positioning

The Risk of Positioning your Product as 'The Best'

An article in the Harvard Business Review elaborates on the effects of positioning your product (company, organization) as 'the best’. According to t...
Usage (application): Marketing, Positioning, Branding

Self-gifting Buying Behavior

Clarke and Mortimer (2013) assess the motivations of self-gifting behavior and its following post-purchase regret. Self-gifting refers to buying produ...
Usage (application): Consumer Marketing, Self-Gifting, Consumption Behavior, Consumer Behavior

How to Better Understand your Customer's Needs?

In order to transform your customer’s experience and to better understand your customer’s needs, it is helpful to construct a hypothetical cons...
Usage (application): Customer Targeting and Strategy

The 22 Laws of Branding (Trout & Ries)

1. The Law of Expansion: The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope. Trying to be all things to all people undermines the power of th...
Usage (application): Branding, Brand Recognition

Social Persuasion: Determining the Potential of Social Influencers

Which consumers are best able to influence others in social groups? What characteristics and what factors identify those consumers with the greates...
Usage (application): Social Media Marketing, Social Influence, Opinion Leadership

Childrens' Understanding of Advertizing: Three Stages of Consumer Socialization

The way that people behave and how they make their decisions in the marketplace depends on the processes by which they have obtained skills, knowledge...
Usage (application): Advertizing to Children, Targeting Children, Consumer Socialization, Marketing to Children

Brand Engagement of Consumers in the Digital Age

Edelman argues that nowadays people are connecting with brands in a different way than before. This is cuased mainly because of an increased number of...
Usage (application): Branding, Brand Management, Marketing, Advertising

Customer Experience Management Framework

The concept of Customer Experience Management (CEM), which was developed by Bernd Schmitt, describes the process of strategically managing a cu...
Usage (application): Experiential Marketing

Why Some Technology Revolutions Take Off and Others Don't

Back in 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, in which he suggested that the entrenched interests in an old paradigm will res...
Usage (application): Adoption of New Technologies

Resources - Positioning Premium

Brand Positioning

Brand Positioning by A. Kwanta Panthongprasert, Department of Advertsising, 2010.
A clear summary presentation about Brand Positioning.
Usage (application): Positioning

Brand and Identity Management in Fashion Companies

This paper by Stefania Saviolo aims at analysing what are the peculiar aspect of brand management for fashion ready to wear firms. We define the brand...
Usage (application): Brand Management, Identity, Positioning, Communication

Product Positioning

Presentation about Product Positioning that includes the following sections:
1. Definition of Product Positioning
2. Elements of Product Pos...
Usage (application): Positioning Strategy

Strategically Managing Perceptions for Improved Corporate Reputation

Concise presentation that provides an interesting framework for reputation management. It particularly focuses on 4 key activities that together form ...
Usage (application): Reputation Management Activities, Strategic Reputation Management, Reputation Perceptions

Customer Segmentation by Emotion: The EMO-index

Emotions are an important part of customers' overall experience and final decision making; therefore they contribute to value creation. Although the i...
Usage (application): Consumption Behavior

Consumer Buyer Behavior & Business Buyer Behavior

Presentation about both consumer buying behavior business buying behavior. First consumer buying behavior is explained and outlined. After that the bu...
Usage (application): Marketing, Strategy Decision

Speech of Trout on the Importance of Marketing

Jack Trout refers to Drucker’s advice: "Because the purpose of a business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two, and only these two...
Usage (application): Trout on the Value of Marketing, Background of Trout


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Compare with Positioning:  Marketing Mix  |  Extended Marketing Mix (7-Ps)  |  Product/Market Grid  |  Co-Creation  |  Porter Competitive Advantage  |  BCG Matrix  |  Product Life Cycle  |  McKinsey Matrix  |  Innovation Adoption Curve  |  Profit Pools  |  Four Trajectories of Industry Change  |  Disruptive Innovation  |  Framing

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