Jack Trout helped put Naugahyde under our butts and Betty Crocker back in our kitchens, but most of all he put positioning top of mind for generations of marketers from Canton to China. When we think positioning, we think Jack Trout Positioning.
His passing Sunday lays to rest the man but certainly not the movement he initiated with partner Al Ries with the publication of their landmark work “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” in 1981. The book was an immediate hit. It continues today as must reading for those who wish to embrace, employ and benefit from the single-most powerful concept in marketing.
That positioning remains so important in brand building nearly 40 years later is testimony to the validity of the thinking that went into the original book and the 15 other books with his name on their covers.
Trout’s career included work in corporate marketing, ad agencies and his own consultancy. His work influenced tens of thousands of marketers, boosted hundreds of brands and impacted billions of consumers. Think of virtually any of the iconic brands and it is likely Trout played a role in how it went to market – whether here in America or anywhere on our globe.
I normally don’t write first-person essays, but Jack Trout had a profound affect on my thinking and the work we do here at Innis Maggiore. He was a friend and mentor, a man whose books we read and whose counsel we employ on a daily basis.
He told me more than once that in the realm of positioning, “Innis Maggiore gets it.” We always knew he was paying attention, even as he advanced in years. Jack might out of the blue send an email or handwritten note with advice, a critique or even an idea.
He was a man who knew the significance of his work in positioning, but who also gave credit to others who provided inspiration. One of the high points of my professional career was the day Jack told me he was dedicating his book “In Search of the Obvious” in my name.
Advertising Age, our industry’s leading publication, called “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” one of the most influential marketing books in history. I heartily endorse Ad Age’s endorsement!
Positioning has been, and continues to be, the single-most powerful concept in marketing. Those who grasped the ideas of Trout and Ries and channeled them properly in building their brands experienced success while foes faltered.
Positioning works for any company or organization competing in an environment where marketing is essential. Jack Trout explained positioning is about finding and focusing on an idea that differentiates your brand from the competition in a way that is meaningful to your customers. He taught us that brands grow when their marketers truly understand what idea their customers think is relevant and then work to strengthen that connection.
The day that Innis Maggiore dedicated our business to positioning was the day that our business took wing. The day we found our differentiation – that positioning is our position – was the day we sharpened our focus and started better serving our clients.
Jack Trout taught us positioning is a competitive strategy. Ultimately, it is the reason customers buy our brand.
Positioning, like its founding father, is straight-forward. In our increasingly complicated and cluttered world, positioning itself is not complicated.
As our minds become conditioned to filter out 99 percent of what our eyes see and ears hear, Jack Trout's positioning principles remind us that our brand can penetrate the gray matter when we show and tell our customers why we are meaningful.
It is impossible to quantify in dollars the value that Jack Trout and positioning has delivered since it burst on the scene in 1981. But we do know it has been enormous and remains today the best competitive strategy in a world that is overwhelmed with noise and distractions.
On behalf of Innis Maggiore and all clients who have benefited from positioning, we thank Jack Trout. We miss him today, but also rejoice that he so clearly articulated positioning and shared it with the world.