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"Repositioning" in a Time of Competition, Crisis, and Change Communication

On April 29, nearly five hundred business and marketing executives gathered at the John S. Knight Center in Akron, Ohio to hear Jack Trout, acclaimed marketing strategist and author of numerous positioning books talk about the twin of positioning, "repositioning." Change communication is an important part of repositioning.

This is one of three in a series of videos from the Jack Trout event with commentary around the "3 C's" of Repositioning.

What is repositioning?

"Repositioning," says Trout, "is how you adjust and alter perceptions in the mind to cope with a world of competition, change and crisis." In other words, repositioning is how you market today.

Repositioning to Cope with Change
Repositioning is also how a marketer copes with change from disruptive, next-generation products, says Jack Trout. "Technology can force you to adapt your brand to changing circumstances," says Trout. "But you must never lose contact with your basic position."

Disruptive technologies or next-generation products are particularly threatening to market leaders, often because they present new competition from an unexpected direction. In some cases, the disruption comes at the low end of the market. A new innovation can actually displace the old technology and yet cost less.

There are many, many examples of this in the high-velocity computer space. Other disruptions are not so much evolutions as they are revolutions. The horseless carriage (automobile) left the horse-drawn carriage literally in the dust. The personal computer obsoleted the mini-computer from the modern office. In fact, say "mini-computer" to anyone under forty today and they won't know what you're talking about.

The velocity of next-generation products is at fever pitch today. Change communication must take center stage.
Marketers cannot afford to "wait and see." Even marquee names have little defense when disruption takes hold.


  • Kodak failed to reposition for the digital age. They are struggling with a name and a perception stuck in the film age.

  • Xerox failed to jump on laser printing, a technology that fit perfectly with its core competency of putting marks on paper.

  • Think "laser printer" today and the name that comes to mind is  Hewlett Packard (HP).

  • The iPhone redefined the next generation "smart phone," causing other phone manufacturers and carriers to scramble to catch up.

  • The Blu-ray Disc next-generation of optical disc format blew the conventional DVD player out of the home and into the graveyard of extinction.

The Internet, of course, has disrupted just about everything in the communication media world as we know it today. Newspaper has been hit especially hard. Many were slow to reposition and are now paying the price.  At least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shut down since January 2008.

Media columnist Michael Wolf, co-founder with several others of the media aggregate, Newser, predicted that big media, whether they are newspapers or conglomerates, are "just months away from the dustbin of history," going so far as to claim that "About 18 months from now, 80 percent of newspapers will be gone."

There are 1,430 newspapers in the U.S. today. If Wolf is right, 1,144 will be extinct in less than two years. While we strongly disagree with this prediction (the majority of newspapers, 86%, are in small towns and cities, and remain profitable), there can be no doubt that big newspapers are in deep trouble.

The Houston Chronicle and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, two of the largest U.S. newspapers, cut jobs last week and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer eliminated its print edition altogether. Change communication is key in this industry.

On April 21, the owner of the Chicago Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy. It is predicted that in less than a year or two, Internet advertising will have a bigger slice of the pie than newspaper advertising.

Not all disruptions involve advanced electronics or technology products. Some are simpler. Consider the Swiffer duster from Procter and Gamble. It obsoleted the conventional broom.

Jack Trout warns, companies have to find a way to move to the better idea or technology, even if it threatens their base business. This involves change communication.

"It's a rapidly changing world out there. Not coping with change head-on causes more trouble than any other mistake." The graveyard is filled with brands that failed to adapt to change.

Lesson: When you've got a chance, try to become the next thing.  It's the sure way to leapfrog competition.

Lorraine Kessler is Innis Maggiore's Principal Client Services & Positioning Strategist.