Repositioning on Four Wheels

If you’re like many Americans, you’ll probably spend a portion of the Independence Day holiday weekend sitting in traffic. Somewhere between muttered curses toward rubbernecking motorists and the realization that you should have stopped at the previous rest area, you may lament the amount of gas your engine is burning while idling on the highway. At times like this, we tend to speculate about the arrival of the electric car as a permanent replacement for internal combustion engines.

Here’s an interesting piece about that very topic from the New York Times. The article profiles automaker BMW’s public commitment to changing the way we approach automotive engineering. The company is in the process of designing a battery-powered car. I have to give extra credit to reporter Jack Ewing for a sly backhanded remark about the potential audience for the vehicle. Did you spot it? Perhaps I’ll reveal it in a future post if you send me a few comments with your guesses.

Clever reporting aside, the story and BMW’s efforts fit with the theme of Jack Trout’s recent book Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis, a book recently summarized by Soundview Executive Book Summaries. Trout makes the case in the book that the normal approaches to marketing are undergoing a shift. Companies that traditionally positioned themselves need to reevaluate their standing. The solution is to reposition oneself by using the competition and its differences to help set your company apart.

BMW is certainly making strides in this area. If the company can blend luxury with environmental consciousness, its competitors will see nothing but BMW’s taillights disappearing in the distance.

If you want to learn more about the changing tide of eco-business, check out our summary collection Going Green for more tips that can help your business.

Are You Ready to Reposition?

What makes a company walk away from an established brand name? Companies put years of time, money and the effort of employees into building a brand. Is there a shelf-life on even the most notable of names?

I saw this article on CNNMoney.com about the recent name change of GMAC Financial Services to Ally Financial, Inc. In the case of GMAC, the desire to abandon its established brand may be the result of poor public opinion in the wake of the company receiving three government bailouts. Changing the company’s name helps GMAC distance itself from the raw nerve that is easily struck when Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds are discussed.

In the CNNMoney report, reporter Annalyn Censky sought out the opinion of branding expert Jack Trout. In his trademark to-the-point fashion, Trout gave this assessment of GMAC’s decision:

“GMAC was always confusing. It was a good name if you’re leasing GM cars, but once you get beyond the automobile world, it’s not good,” Trout said. “If you can take advantage of what the word ‘ally’ means, you can use that word to certainly help drive a new idea in.”

In his recent book Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis, Trout defines repositioning as the adjustment of perceptions, whether they are about your company or your competition. In fact, one of the strategies Trout lists as a route to successful repositioning is “Change the name.” While I can’t say for certain if the folks at GMAC read Trout’s book, it’s obvious that his strategies have real-world support behind them.

To learn the remaining four repositioning strategies, check out Soundview’s summary of Jack Trout’s Repositioning. Now available at Summary.com.

The Sky’s the Limit on Competition

The announcement today that United Airlines will merge with Continental Airlines to create the world’s largest carrier is another sign of the continued changes in the airline industry. The  airlines still have one major hoop through which to leap before this mega-airline can see its wheels leave the ground: they have to navigate the federal approval process, something that many news outlets claim will be more difficult under the Obama administration.

The state of the airline industry demonstrates that competition continues to intensify and shift. As internal and external pressures mount, companies are forced to re-evaluate existing strategies and create new methods to ensure survival in the marketplace.

These sentiments echo the thoughts of  marketing icon Jack Trout, author of the classic Positioning, as well as Repositioning, a book co-authored with Steve Rivkin and summarized by Soundview in our latest monthly edition. Trout’s book centers on conquering the 3 C’s of business: competition, crisis and change. In a recent interview with Soundview, Trout mentioned that competition is by far the most critical of the three C’s to conquer.

To show the ways in which competition will continue to increase, Trout gave this example:

“I recently returned from Beijing where they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of my book Positioning. Can you believe this? In China they’ve fallen in love with Positioning and Repositioning because they are now a country that’s learning how to market products. They already know how to make everything. Now they’ve decided that they’re going to have to build brands or buy brands on their own. That’s a scary thought! Think about it. The Chinese are getting into the marketing game. You think we’ve seen competition now? Get ready.”

To help yourself get ready, check out Soundview’s summary of Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis.