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Web Marketers Beware…Positioning Is Dead

December 12, 2007 | Wisitech InfoSolutions
Param Shobhit
Team Leader – Web Content

Have you heard that McDonald’s, the premier mass market branding giant, is doing away with “positioning?” And if McDonald’s is doing away with positioning, far reaching changes in the way we see and do branding these days are going to take place, if they are not already there.

All of you guys out there providing Internet marketing services and search engine marketing services might ask what this has got to do with “web marketing” as we know it. All you need to do is select some keywords, place them in the web content, throw in some meta tags (again stuffed with keywords), submit the website in directories and exchange of few links with other sites. And bingo, your web marketing campaign is on!

Soon, the website is in top search engine rankings. Task finished. But is it? With Web 2.0
firmly in and Web 3.0 peeping on the horizon, these are times to let people, the end users
take the decision, take your message forward in so many shapes as web-video, web-audio, web discussions, articles, blogs, forums, postings in social networking sites (SNS), podcasting and what not. This is what people providing strategic Internet marketing services should be doing.

Ask yourself, am I giving my client enough by sticking to the old ways of web marketing or
SEO (search engine optimization). In fact sticking to the old method of SEO, you will end up
corrupting or distorting the message by techniques aimed at attracting search engine robots.

Coming back to positioning, fundamentals of marketing are as relevant to web marketing as to traditional ones, and so are the upheavals affecting the strategies adopted to position a  brand through the Internet.

Let’s now desiccate what precipitated in McDonald’s abandoning “positioning” as a branding strategy.

•    Lack of Measurability: To be frank, the demise of “positioning” was certain as its
DNA did not allow it to favor the measurement. Cost containment and accountability have made market share the going parameter of measuring marketing efforts’ success, rather than the venerable but now dead mind share. Reason – mind share isn’t measurable.

Usually marketing department is responsible for, among other things, corporate branding and positioning of corporate identity corners the second biggest outlay for most companies.

And if it cannot generate the metrics to justify those expenditures, companies would disband marketing departments and distribute its function among sales, customer service, etc. This
is already happening if research consultancy Forrester is to be believed.

•    Customer is the King: When companies position themselves or their products, they are
essentially deciding ‘what to sell’ and ‘to whom to sell’ rather than determining ‘what and
how customers seek to buy’. Such posturing might have worked in the mass economy, but the tactic is bound to fail in a customer-driven world.

•    Competitor driven strategy: If you are not a new mover in a market and if you want
to position yourself, you certainly can’t seek the #1 or #2 space in that category. These
spaces are occupied by competitors, then “positioning” would require alternate strategy.

Not only is it extremely difficult to establish a meaningful category in already ‘done to
death’ market, it also means that your branding strategy is being driven by your competitors. Branding must be customer focused rather than driven by what competitors are doing.

In the light of the above, McDonald’s chief global marketing officer Larry Light’s rather  scathing comment “Identifying one brand position, communicating it in a repetitive manner is old-fashioned, out of date, out of touch” is right on button.

Above discussion is important not only for people providing Internet marketing services and search engine marketing services, but also for professional website development companies too as both go hand in hand.

So what has replaced ‘positioning’ as we know it? I will cover that in my next posting.

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