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Positioning, by Al Ries and Jack Trout, has long been on my to read list, and I wish I had read it sooner.

The core message of how to position a product is becoming more relevant as the marketplace continues to crowd.

In our overcommunicated society, the name of the game today is positioning. And only the better players are going to survive.

The book draws on a wide range of examples of different products, where a product could be a type of beer, the Catholic Church or your own career.

The key message is that your products position is determined by how it fits into the consumer’s mind. All the things that matter to you, to your company, are irrelevant if you can’t create a distinct position to separate you from everything else.

Experience has shown that a positioning exercise is a search for the obvious. Those are the easiest concepts to communicate because they make the most sense to the recipient of a message.

The authors are quite scathing about “me too” products that attempt to beat out a competitor by going head-to-head. Many examples are provided within the book.

The suicidal bent of companies that go head-on against established competition is hard to understand.

To repeat, the first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.

The leader owns the high ground. The No. 1 position in the prospect’s mind. The top rung of the product ladder.

The book covers a range of detail levels, and dips into more detail on key areas such as product naming:

As a guide, the five most common initial letters are S, C, P, A, and T. The five least common are X, Z, Y, Q, and K. One out of eight English words starts with an S. One out of 3000 starts with an X.

The authors are often quite blunt as to how they see things. This is a refreshing change from most business books:

Creative people often resist positioning thinking because they believe it restricts their creativity. And you know what? It does. Positioning thinking does restrict creativity.

I gained a lot of insight into how products have succeeded, or not, by reading this book. The examples are clear and will easily map to situations you are experiencing.

I recommend Positioning for anyone involved in creating something new. This is a book that I will re-read.