Positioning is the act of associating a certain set of attributes about your product or service in the minds of your customers. Repositioning is when you try to change that after it's been in place for a while. Wikipedia defines it thusly:
Re-positioning involves changing the identity of a product, relative to the identity of competing products, in the collective minds of the target market.
This morning, coming back from a run, I heard the most brilliant example of repositioning I've encountered in some time. It came from, of all places, KQED, our local public radio station who is in the middle of yet another of their merciless pledge drives.
The announcers are going on about how the pledges are coming along, and one of them says that they had initially thought they were going to reach their goal on Friday, but they didn't, so they've had to extend the drive over the weekend. As soon as they reach their goal, the drive will end.
This is brilliant. Public radio is a charity. It's no different from MADD, or the Salvation Army, or the SPCA. People only have so many dollars to give away to good causes, and KQED has to compete with all the other equally worthy places to put your money.
In the old days, by simply cadging for money, they positioned themselves as just another charity. Just like everyone else, their basic message was "Give us money."
However, they've turned that on its head. Now, the message is "As soon as we get the money we want, the pledge drive will end." This is sheer genius. It reminds me of a guy on the New York City subway -- the A train, to be precise -- who had a routine that never failed. He had no idea how to play the saxophone, so he'd play -- badly -- until people gave him money. Give him money, the punishment will end. Same here. Or an old National Lampoon magazine cover that said "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog."
Positioning is all about assumptions. It's about what's not stated. By changing the rules of the game -- by making the issue how long the pledge drive will take rather than how much money will be raised, the KQED people have done several brilliant things.
- If the drive goes on and on, it's your fault. Not giving prolongs the drive.
- It becomes about time, not about money. Unlike every other charity, this one doesn't dwell on money. It dwells on something different -- time.
- It also -- and this is the real genius here -- makes it seem as if reaching the goal is assumed. It's going to happen. It's just a question of how long it takes. Public radio's triumph is inevitable. This is especially smart because unlike, say, the Sierra Club, KQED is part of your life. You get in the car every day, and there it is. People think of it as like a utility. Utilities always get paid. They'll think of KQED the same way.