January 10, 2010

Wisdom from Jack Trout

There's an old metaphor, an expression of humility I love that talks of "standing on the shoulders of giants." One of the giants upon whose shoulders I stand is Jack Trout, author of the foundational advertising book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind and many other important works.

I've read just about everything Jack ever wrote, and he has definitely helped shape the SciMark philosophy. Right now I am reading one of his latest books, In Search of the Obvious: The Antidote for Today's Marketing Mess. Although it reiterates many of the same lessons Jack has been teaching for years, I'm finding it refreshing. When it comes to marketing strategy, I need a dose of Jack's clarity every so often to refocus my thinking.

Here's an excerpt from the book I found particularly useful:

How do you find the proper (strategic) direction? ... The following is a four-step process:

Step 1: Make Sense in Context
Arguments are never made in a vacuum. You are always surrounded by competitors trying to make arguments of their own ... What you're after are the perceptual strengths and weaknesses of you and your competitors as they exist in the minds of the target group of customers.

Step 2: Find the Differentiating Idea
(Earlier Jack writes) Forty years ago, it was called a unique selling position. In more recent years, it was called a position. In all cases, it's why a customer should prefer your product over the many other choices out there.

Step 3: Have the Credentials
...To build a logical argument for your difference, you must have the credentials to support your differentiating idea, to make it real and believable ... Claims of difference without proof are really just claims ... You can't differentiate with smoke and mirrors. Consumers are skeptical. They're thinking, 'Oh yeah, Mr. Advertiser? Prove it!" You must be able to support you argument.

Step 4: Communicate Your Difference
... Better products don't win. Better perceptions tend to be the winners.

As I read this, I thought about how well it applies to our industry and how much my approach to DRTV (e.g. my S7 checklist) has been influenced by this way of thinking. How about you? Are you applying these principles to your advertising strategy? If so, post a comment and tell me about it.

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