Blue Buffalo and Purina are embroiled in a battle.

A relative newcomer to dog food, Blue Buffalo says it uses nothing but the best natural ingredients and no byproducts. Since being founded in 2001, Blue Buffalo has claimed to manufacture and sell the healthiest dog food available.

Purina disagrees and has filed suit against Blue Buffalo regarding these claims. Purina even introduced its own line of "healthier" Pro Plan dog food in the fight against its rival. This brings us to one of the 12 Rules of Positioning. Rule #1 - Perception is Reality. Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products. Marketing battles are fought inside the mind. There is no objective reality. There are no facts. The better product doesn't always win. The better perception wins.

Blue Buffalo has positioned itself as the leading purveyor of the healthiest dog food available. My family was listening. Our German shorthaired pointers, Bruno and Milo, eat nothing else. Others have listened, too. Blue Buffalo's sales topped $1 billion in 2013.

Does reality matter? If Blue Buffalo loses its lawsuit, will I change my buying behavior? Probably not. Will I even see news about the legal decision? There's a good chance I won't. Will I ever truly know the real difference? Probably not.

Another positioning rule also applies here. Rule #6 - The Exclusivity Rule. Two companies cannot own the same idea in the mind. In almost all cases, the one that gets to the mind first wins.

Blue Buffalo was first to mind with the healthiest dog food. Purina is fighting an uphill battle. The company will have spent millions on a war it isn't likely to win.

The lesson? Focus on getting your unique point of difference into the minds of your customers and prospects before someone else does. Like Blue Buffalo, you'll be glad you did.

Innis Maggiore Case Study

Curing Lindsay Precast's Brand Position
Lindsay Concrete's products were hard, durable and dependable, but its position was not. First, the company knew it had an identity problem. Several acquisitions resulted in the company fronting multiple names. With limited resources, the need to coalesce around the strongest name in the portfolio - Lindsay - was obviously apparent.

Curing the company's brand position came next. The mix for strong brand positioning requires three essentials: 1) A sustainable competitive advantage. 2) A unique point of difference, and, 3) An emotional connection with the target audience.

Satisfying the first of these came easiest. Lindsay doesn't just pour the soft stuff. Rather it specializes in "precast" - a highly engineered molded form of manufactured concrete structures and containers. The company's clear competitive advantage is its more than 50-year history in precast innovation and manufacturing. Replacing the word "concrete" with "precast" in the Lindsay name served to crystallize the company's strategic focus around its core competency.

The question now became one of differentiation. What idea could the company own that would help it stand out from the precast crowd? Our discovery revealed that Lindsay Precast products are the first choice when banks need to protect money and securities, and D.O.T.s need to protect transportation infrastructure. The company is also the go-to manufacturer when it comes to precast concrete products to protect property and the environment with storm drainage systems or soil and water with septic systems. Moreover, and most uniquely, the company holds the distinction of creating the structures that house the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Inarguably, more than any other precast manufacturer in the nation, Lindsay is the precast company most skilled at Protecting What Matters.

The positioning cure - a unified name, (Lindsay), a clear focus on a high-value category of specialization, (precast), and the emotionally engaging slogan, (Protecting What Matters), has resulted in a brand, like our client's products, "built to last." That's as solid as it gets.