The Semantic Soup that is Marketing

If I had to pick one marketing concept that is misunderstood and much abused then it is ‘positioning’. This post probably adds to that confusion, because I had to develop my own understanding over time – but it has now been tested robustly in many marketing (planning) sessions, and I am confident to put forward a typology/schemata that distinguishes between various related concepts. (In so doing I am even going to depart from what I have practised and taught for some years; but it is important to draw the proverbial line in the sand.)

Marketers are renowned for generating fluffy words in their endeavours to gain credibility for their craft, but in the process they don’t simply expand the vocabulary, they end up confusing themselves as well as the other stakeholders in the marketing process.

I am yet to discover a marketing guru clearly and convincingly articulate the difference between these various concepts:

1. Position(ing) (along with strapline/ tagline etc.)

2. (Value) Proposition and/or USP

3. Offer

4. Brand Promise

5. Brand Essence

A question has been posted on Marketing Profs – but I don’t think the responses really helped much. Hopefully these 5 posts on the topic will help somewhat cut through the bullsh*t.

I believe it is useful to first think about the marketing process and identify the key principles or issues that need to be defined, rather than working back-to-front and defining words that seek some application.

The key concepts that one need in order to adequately describe marketing strategy are related to the following questions:

1. Customer perception/ view: How do I want the customer to think about my product/offer/solution?

2. Product/solution: What exactly is the core benefit that I want to offer to potential customers?

3. Customer need: How do I describe the customer’s need –which I am trying to meet?

4. Marketing message:

a. What must I say about my product that will convince the customer to buy?

b. How must I say it in order to actually get noticed? I.e. what must I do to get potential customers to notice my message?

5. Competitor/ competitive offer: In what way must I be different from the competition –

a. My product/ offer

b. My message

The key marketing tools must respond to these questions. Anything less will not suffice, whilst anything more will simply confuse the issue. (These questions are of course only limited to understanding our ‘offer’ in relation to customers and competitors. There are many more questions to be answered and marketing tools to be used.

In the next few blogs I will attempt to answer some of these questions and explain the relevant marketing tool accordingly.