by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024

What are the big ideas? 1. Positioning is about adjusting existing perceptions rather than creating new ones. 2. Simplified messaging is more effective in a world o

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Positioning is about adjusting existing perceptions rather than creating new ones.
  2. Simplified messaging is more effective in a world overloaded with information.
  3. Being first in the mind is more powerful than being better in positioning strategies.
  4. A product or service's name plays a critical role in its positioning success.
  5. Repositioning competitors effectively requires altering their perceived image in the consumer's mind.


Chapter 1: What Positioning Is All About

Manipulating Existing Perceptions in the Prospect's Mind

  • Positioning is not about creating something new and different. It’s about manipulating what’s already in the prospect’s mind.
  • “The mind, as a defense against the volume of today’s communications, screens and rejects much of the information offered it. In general, the mind accepts only that which matches prior knowledge or experience.”
  • “Once a mind is made up, it’s almost impossible to change it.”

Simplifying Messages for Effective Communication

  • “The best approach to take in our overcommunicated society is the oversimplified message.”
  • “You have to sharpen your message to cut into the mind."
  • “Once you own a word in the mind, you have to use it or lose it.”

Reversing the Perspective for Effective Positioning

  • “When you want to communicate the advantages of a political candidate or a product or even yourself, you must turn things inside out."
  • “The essence of positioning thinking is to accept the perceptions as reality and then restructure those perceptions to create the position you desire.”

Chapter 2: The Assault on the Mind

The Impact of Media Overload on Communication

  • Another reason our messages keep getting lost is the number of media we have invented to serve our communication needs.

Chapter 3: Getting into the Mind

Effective Techniques to Enter the Prospect's Mind

  • “Positioning is an organized system for finding windows in the mind."
  • “The easy way to get into a person’s mind is to be first."
  • “‘It’s better to be first than it is to be better’ is by far the most powerful positioning idea."
  • “If you want to be successful in love or in business, you must appreciate the importance of getting into the mind first."
  • “If you didn’t get into the mind of your prospect first (personally, politically or corporately), then you have a positioning problem."
  • “‘If you can’t be first in a category, then set up a new category you can be first in’ is the second most powerful positioning idea.”

The Significance of Brand Naming

  • “Don’t give your brand a generic name."
  • “The name of your brand is just as important as its positioning, maybe even more important.”

Chapter 4: Those Little Ladders in Your Head

Replacing Old Brands in the Mind with New Ones

  • “To put a new brand into the mind, you have to delete or reposition the old brand that already occupies the category."
  • “The mind has no room for what’s new and different unless it’s related to the old."

Utilizing Incomplete Information for Engagement

  • “For 13 years in a row, Avis lost money. Then they admitted that they were No. 2 and Avis started to make money."
  • “The best headline for an advertisement is always incomplete."

Finding a Unique Position Through Unconventional Means

  • “To find a unique position, you must ignore conventional logic."
  • “More than anything else, successful positioning requires consistency."
  • “If you want to be successful today, you can’t ignore the competitor’s position.”

Chapter 5: You Can’t Get There from Here

Perceptions Versus Facts in Positioning

  • “Don’t fight perceptions with facts. Perceptions will always win."
  • “Positioning has nothing to do with whether you mention a competitor or not. It has to do with ‘considering’ competitive strengths and weaknesses before you launch a marketing campaign.”

Chapter 6: Positioning of a Leader

The Superior Market Share of the First Brand

  • “History shows that the first brand into the brain, on the average, gets twice the long-term market share of the No. 2 brand."

Leadership as the Key Marketing Strategy

  • “Leadership alone is your most effective marketing strategy."
  • “Leaders should not try to drive their competitors out of business. They need them to create a category."
  • “Leadership is your best ‘differentiator.’"
  • “In every category, there are two brands which will ultimately dominate the category."
  • “When two brands are close, one or the other is likely to get the upper hand and then dominate the market for years to come."
  • “You can’t build a leadership position on your own terms."

Chapter 7: Positioning of a Follower

Focusing on Speed Rather Than Being Better

  • “Most me-too products fail to achieve reasonable sales goals because the accent is on ‘better’ rather than ‘speed.’"
  • “It’s not enough to be better than the competitor. You must launch your attack while the situation is fluid."

Looking for the Hole in the Market

  • “‘Look for the hole’ in the prospect’s mind is one of the best strategies in the field of marketing."
  • “You don’t have to be first to succeed, as long as you can create the perception that you were first."
  • “Your high price must have a real difference to justify the price."
  • “Being the first to (1) establish the high-price position (2) with a valid product story (3) in a category where consumers are receptive to a high-priced brand is the secret of success."
  • “In positioning a product, there’s no substitute for getting there first."
  • “The biggest single mistake that companies make is trying to appeal to everybody."
  • “Rather than asking yourself, ‘Who are we trying to appeal to?’ try asking yourself the opposite question, ‘Who should not use our brand?’”

Chapter 8: Repositioning the Competition

Moving Competitor Ideas Out to Move New Ones In

  • “To move a new idea or product into the mind, you must first move an old one out."
  • “For a repositioning strategy to work, you must say something about your competitor’s product that causes the prospect to change his or her mind."

The Difference Between Repositioning and Comparative Advertising

  • “‘We’re better than our competitors isn’t repositioning. It’s comparative advertising and not very effective."

Chapter 9: The Power of the Name

The Role of Naming in Positioning

  • “The name is the hook that hangs the brand on the product ladder in the prospect’s mind."
  • “What you must look for is a name that begins the positioning process."
  • “When you want to change a strongly held opinion, the first step to take is usually to change the name."
  • “In naming people or products, you should not let your competitors unfairly preempt words that you need to describe your own products."
  • “The name is the first point of contact between the message and the mind.”

Chapter 10: The No-Name Trap

The Ineffectiveness of Initials as Brand Names

  • “When they have a choice of a word or a set of initials, both equal in phonetic length, people will invariably use the word, not the initials."
  • “In general, if you remember the set of initials, you also remember the name."
  • “A company must be extremely well known before it can use initials successfully."
  • “Make no mistake about it. Initials make weak brand or company names."
  • “The mind works by ear, not by eye."
  • “Before you can file away a picture in the mind, you have to verbalize it.”

Chapter 11: The Free-Ride Trap

The Advantage of Smaller Companies in Positioning

  • “A big company with a big reputation usually cannot compete successfully with a smaller company with a well-defined position."

Chapter 12: The Line-Extension Trap

Dangers of Line Extension in Positioning

  • “What does it mean to own a position in the mind? Simply this: the brand name becomes a surrogate or substitute for the generic name."
  • “The stronger the position, the more often this substitution takes place."
  • “The easiest way to kill a brand is to line-extend it."

Concept of Broadening the Base

  • A reverse line extension is called “broadening the base.”

Chapter 13: When Line Extension Can Work

Conditions Favoring Line Extensions

  • “One of the keys to understanding the line-extension issue is to separate the short-term effects from the long-term effects."
  • “The classic test for line extension is the shopping list."
  • “If your competitors are foolish. If your volume is small. If you have no competitors. If you don’t expect to build a position in the prospect’s mind. If you don’t do any advertising.”

Chapter 14: Positioning a Company: Monsanto

Perceived Superiority of Bigger, More Successful Companies

  • “Rightly or wrongly, the bigger, more successful companies have the better people."

Chapter 15: Positioning a Country: Belgium

Different Perceptions Between Residents and Visitors

  • “The perceptions of people living in a place are often different from those visiting it."

Strategies for Attracting Travelers

  • “To position a country as a destination, you need attractions that will keep the traveler around for at least a few days."
  • “In any positioning program, if you can start with a strongly held perception, you’ll be that much ahead in your efforts to establish your own position."

Using Language Effectively in Positioning

  • “To create an effective positioning program, you have to ‘verbalize the visuals.’ Alliteration can also be an effective memory device in this process."
  • “A successful positioning program requires a major long-term commitment by the people in charge.”

Chapter 16: Positioning a Product: Milk Duds

Identifying Effective Positioning Strategies

  • “The first step in any positioning program is to look inside the mind of the prospect."
  • “Isolating a narrow target is usually the first step in finding an effective position."
  • “The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product.”

Chapter 17: Positioning a Service: Mailgram

The Importance of Connecting Visuals with Verbal Ideas

  • “Visuals can be extremely memorable, but unless they are connected to a verbal idea they lose their effectiveness."
  • “Regardless of how much money you spend, regardless of how technologically interesting your service is, to get inside the prospect’s mind, you have to relate to what’s already there.”

Chapter 18: Positioning a Long Island Bank

Understanding the Local Market for Effective Positioning

  • “To successfully position a retail outlet, you must know the territory."
  • “‘Mapping the prospect’s mind’ is normally done with a research technique called ‘semantic differential.’"

The Importance of Comparative Perception in Marketing Research

  • “Most marketing research is overly concerned with the attitudes of customers and prospects to the company itself."
  • “In semantic differential research, the prospect is given a set of attributes and then asked to rank each competitor on a scale, generally from 1 to 10.”

Chapter 19: Positioning the Catholic Church

Setting Direction for Organizational Activities Through Positioning

  • “Once a positioning strategy has been developed, it sets the direction for all the activities of the organization. Even one as large and multifaceted as the Catholic Church.”

Chapter 20: Positioning Yourself and Your Career

Selecting a Specific Concept for Personal Positioning

  • “The most difficult part of positioning is selecting that one specific concept to hang your hat on."

Networking and Working with Competent Individuals for Success

  • “Always try to work for the smartest, brightest, most competent person you can find."
  • “The more business friends you make outside of your own organization, the more likely you are to wind up in a big, rewarding job."
  • “It is possible to succeed in business or in life all by yourself. But it’s not easy.”

Chapter 21: Six Steps to Success

Guiding Questions for Effective Positioning

  • What Position Do You Own?
  • What Position Do You Want to Own?
  • Whom Must You Outgun?
  • Do You Have Enough Money?
  • Can You Stick It Out?
  • Do You Match Your Position?

Chapter 22: Playing the Positioning Game

Understanding the Semantics and Psychology of Positioning

  • “The meanings are not in the words. They are in the people using the words."
  • “It’s a whole lot easier to change the facts to fit your opinions."
  • “Language is the currency of the mind."
  • “To be successful in the positioning era, you must be brutally frank."
  • “One of the most critical aspects of positioning is being able to evaluate products objectively."
  • “The big winners in business and in life are those people who have found open positions near the center of the spectrum."
  • “The secret to establishing a successful position is to keep two things in balance."
  • “To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-to-head against a company that has a strong, established position."
  • “The leader owns the high ground."
  • “If you’re not the leader, set up a new category you can be the leader in.”


  1. How does the concept of positioning relate to manipulating existing perceptions in a person's mind?
  2. Why is simplifying messages essential in today's overcommunicated society?
  3. In what ways can reversing your perspective aid in effectively positioning a product or idea?
  4. How does media saturation challenge the process of communicating and positioning messages?
  5. What are the advantages of being the first brand or idea in a person's mind?
  6. Why is the name of a brand crucial in the positioning process?
  7. How can a company effectively reposition a competitor's product in the consumer's mind?
  8. What strategies can be employed when positioning oneself or one's career in a competitive environment?


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