Monday, May 3, 2010

Even I Browse the Business Table at the Women's Leadership Conference--The Trout Looks Appealing

With a morning to mind our mobile bookstore at the Women's Leadership Conference last Friday, I had the chance to look through a number of book titles that I brought with me. I'm not positive, but I think next year's is scheduled for March 31st, 2011. Mark your calendars.

After a few choice selections, I settled on Jack Trout's Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change, and Crisis (McGraw Hill, 11/09, $24.95). I liked that he questioned the current marketing strategies of several high-profile companies; most of the criticisms in these kinds of books are usually after the fact, when the company has gone belly up or is close to failure.

Trout's postioning statement has always been simple and direct. The message has to get to the recipient and be easily processed. And avoid making your message about price, unless you can weather a long battle (Walmart and Southwest were the only winners that came to his mind).

For repositioning, Trout focuses on companies that have had to change their position. Sometimes this has led to companies that have shunned new technology, even when they developed it (Kodak and Xerox come to mind--poor Rochester!), as opposed to Gillette, who never had a problem making their products obsolete.

What he doesn't mention is that Gillette ran into its own problems and still wound up selling out to P&G. And while Digital shunned personal computers and paid the price, IBM didn't and still lost the battle for customers. This leads into another Trout mantra--he hates, hates, hates line extensions.

Oh, and one other thing. New marketing people will always want to make changes. Be careful, or you'll wind up with Pepsi's Tropicana fiasco, where Pepsi tweaked the label away from its brand position. See an older blog post where I discuss the book Squeezed, that exposes the falsehood behind that very "close to fresh" branding position of Tropicana.

He doesn't like "I'm loving it" and criticizes Continental for moving away from their value proposition. If he'd had his mitts on Midwest, Trout would have said, don't get in price wars, and keep your service up. Nobody listened. Hello, Frontier!

Regarding GM, he thinks Cadillac will never stand for prestige, and can't figure why they held onto the relatively shakey GMC brand. I don't know what it means either. It struck me that Pontiac still had residue of the performance branding. For more on this, read Sixty to Zero, or at least my blog on the book.

Sometimes Trout and Rivkin fault companies for changing, sometimes for not changing. After reading Repositioning, I still wasn't clear of when to follow which strategy. There is also perhaps a little too much referencing of Trout's previous work. But since I link to two old blog posts here, who am I to talk?

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