I recently finished Positioning: The Battle for your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It’s a fascinating marketing book about the mental landscape of branding and positioning within the marketplace. Below is my interpretation for how this can be applied not to just brands, but to the work of designers, entrepreneurs and makers.
We designers, entrepreneurs and makers thrive on flexibility. Our creative craft is honed by creating and curating options. Even within the necessary creative constraints we seek to find an edge and leverage the constraints to make the best outcome. Today, we live in an overcommunicated society where we have many different channels coming at us constantly. To break through the wall of indifference (where no one knows you and no one cares), we need to flip our mindset and see ourselves from the point of view of the person we seek to connect to.
Most of us don’t want to select a single concept for ourselves – it becomes too limiting. As we move through defining ourselves, there is a backstop. We can try on these different identities to see how each suits us. Like the creative constraints, we shift our creative mindset beyond iterating on specific product features to a larger definition of who we are. In this process, we embrace mistakes. Some shoes won’t fit.
Two Tools to use when positioning yourself:
Tool One: Mine Your Story.
It’s difficult to change our own minds, let alone someone else’s. This is why your brand is not what you say about you, its what other people say and feel about you. Instead, we leverage what you already own in the prospects mind. For example:
- Story: Mine your own story? What’s unique about you?
- Vision: What’s your vision for the future?
- Belief: Why what you believe matters.
Tool Two: Grandma Gut Check
One of the best ways to get feedback on this process is to solicit another point of view, ideally from someone outside this process. I like the grandma test. If my grandma is like yours she cares for you, but has a healthy dose of pragmatism and telling you like it is.
- True: Can you prove it?
- Emotive: Does it make us feel something?
- Impact: Does it deliver?
The personal positioning is valuable if you’re not just looking for a new gig, it helps to hone your own story, clarify your own goals and growing yourself. A brand is not that different than a person, after all its adaptive and constantly evolving.