In their 1981 book, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout describe how positioning is used as a communication tool to reach target customers in a crowded marketplace. Regular use of the term dates back to 1972 when the same authors published a series of articles in Advertising Age called “The Positioning Era.” Not long thereafter, Madison Avenue advertising executives began to develop positioning slogans for their clients and positioning became a key aspect of marketing communications.
Positioning: The Battle for your Mind has become a classic in the field of marketing.
Ries and Trout explain that while positioning begins with a product, the concept really is about positioning that product in the mind of the customer. This approach is needed because consumers are bombarded with a continuous stream of advertising, with advertisers spending several hundred dollars annually per consumer in the U.S. The consumer’s mind reacts to this high volume of advertising by accepting only what is consistent with prior knowledge or experience.
It is quite difficult to change a consumer’s impression once it is formed. Consumers cope with information overload by oversimplifying and are likely to shut out anything inconsistent with their knowledge and experience. In an over-communicated environment, the advertiser should present a simplified message and make that message consistent with what the consumer already believes by focusing on the perceptions of the consumer rather than on the reality of the product.