It's easy to slide into cynicism, as the world tends to be a pretty heavy place sometimes. Today we fret more than ever that we are hurtling toward a gloom-and-doom destiny, so we fear.

But every once in a while, our society produces something that makes us proud to be here now. Sometimes that something has advertising at its core. And sometimes the cast of characters doesn't even care about being paid.

Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama and her Partnership for a Healthier America announced a two-year deal in which Sesame Workshop is waiving its licensing fee so members of the Produce Marketing Association can use Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters to help make fruits and vegetables more popular with children.

This is a grand example of what we at Innis Maggiore call "getting the right idea" before working to "get the idea right."

And from a positionist's point of view, the partnership of Sesame Workshop and Produce Marketing Association is a marriage made in heaven, with the first lady leading the ceremony. A recent study by Cornell University found that adding a sticker depicting a popular character like Elmo to an apple nearly doubled the likelihood children would chose it for a snack.

The Sesame Street brand stands clearly as a chief influencer of children. It's a position that is well-earned, staunchly defended and hugely valuable to children, parents and society as a whole.

Produce Marketing Association's mission is as noble as our moms' admonition - "Eat your veggies" - but it has long needed more than medical proof to convince our children.

The proposition is simple. Mrs. Obama sees a day when kids will beg parents to buy fruits and vegetables because Elmo and other Muppet pals say apples and carrots not only are healthy foods, they also taste great.

It's probably not wishful thinking. Frankly, if Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and all the other lovable Muppets can't get kids to eschew cookies and candies for broccoli and pears, then nothing will.

All of this is all the more admirable in that the residents of Sesame Street will not be getting rich from their work in promoting fruits and vegetables - not that money matters much to characters who don't have pockets. Sesame Workshop provided the Produce Marketing Association with two years worth of licensing for free.

Sesame Workshop, of course, benefits from association with a program that is committed to the health and well-being of children. That's great public relations - and perhaps the subject of another essay someday soon.

This is the power of positioning when it's done right (and for the right reason).

Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop, Richard Termine

Innis Maggiore Case Study: Specialty Pipe & Tube

Doing One Thing And Doing It Well
Being a friend of Innis Maggiore, you've no doubt heard it before: Positioning is the single most powerful concept in marketing. To stake a position means an organization, product or service stands for one thing in the minds of its customers and prospects.

Whether he realized it or not, Specialty Pipe & Tube founder Leonard Baroff began practicing the principles of positioning in 1964 when the company sold its very first order.

As a start-up in the ultra-competitive steel distribution industry, Len could have tried to be all things to all buyers. He could have offered bar, sheet and plate, too. Instead, he focused on doing one thing - large-diameter, heavy-wall steel pipe and tube - and doing it well.

If it wasn't cylindrical, large and heavy, Len didn't want anything to do with it. Len's son, Steve, is now president and works hard to maintain the company's tradition and focus.

For 50 years, Specialty has been the undisputed leader in the category. There are several proof points that make it easy for Innis Maggiore to express Specialty Pipe's position in the marketplace:


    • Nobody inventories as much heavy-wall (nearly 20,000 tons on hand)


    • Nobody ships it as fast (99% of orders are on their way within 24 hours)


    • Nobody knows the product as well (the average employee has 20 years of experience)

Both Len and Steve will tell you: Focus on one thing that's relevant and meaningful to your customers. They'll remember you for that.

Now, who needs some heavy-wall?

(Specialty Pipe & Tube has been a client of Innis Maggiore since 2001. The company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.)