zen gardenThe following is a summery post from , you can go there to read the full version.  However there are a few points I want to reinforce.  When a company bring a technology to market, they have to think about how to talk about their offering.For a start-up company, this can be especially challenging since typically no one on the team will have marketing experience to know how to think about the new offering from a consumers and not a developers view point.

First, positioning technology requires that the consumer sees your technology as a member of a category.  You may not like this, but its unavoidable. Depending on your technology, some consumers may place your technology in different categories, for example, before the smart phone became recognized as its own category, there was a split between consumers asking; is the new iPhone a phone or a PDA or a very small portable computer?

Knowing this, you need to get out in front, decide what category you feel having your product provides the greatest advantage and reinforce your message accordingly.  Of course if your Technology does not actually belong in the category you have selected it will eventually backfire on you and your consumers realize that your technology either does not belong in that category or worse performs poorly.  You can also try to create your own category by defining the combination of 2 or more categories, as well the smart phone, however, that can quite difficult and very expensive since you have to train you target consumer group what this new category is and why your technology is such a good fit.

A challenge then is to try to determine what category your technology is best suited for, even if its crosses many categories. There are a parade of consultants that can help with this if you are either a very small team or if your marketing group cannot resolve the question.  So lets have a quick look at the five points Hugh brought up..

1): Brand positioning is not the same as business positioning, though they’re related.

Business positioning is an assessment of the firm’s assets, processes and aspirations relative to your competition. Business positioning as a process is the development of a plan to change these assets & processes to move to a better configuration relative to the firm’s competitors. Business positioning concerns all of the hard facts of the business model, which brand positioning does not.

ed: Keep in mind service CAN be thought of as a product if what your business does is specialize in the deliver of a category of product.  For example, say your firm installs solar panels, then the marketing efforts around selling the product can be applicable to the business, but this is a rare case.

2): Brand positioning is deciding how the consumer will view your brand, and thus how the brand will connect to the knowledge they already have in their minds. Consumers will not give you very much time, so presenting yourself to them clearly, consistently is obviously critical. But consistency just means you’re on the ‘same page’ internally. The magic happens when your positioning appeals to how consumers think – how they view the category of which you’re a part, how they view the categories you’re probably borrowing from to make your new-to-the-world product, and most importantly, how these things you’re saying all add up to a distinct offering that they can understand easily but also offers something different enough to be compelling.

3): Categories are fundamental to how we view the world, because a category label brings with it immediate inferences that simplify processing a messy reality. When I see pieces of wood nailed together, and classify them as chair, immediately it has a place in my world and I know what to do with it

Consumers will resist assessing your product attribute by attribute, and this is precisely where an engineer’s mind-set creates a blind spot: what makes one a good engineer is the affinity for breaking things apart to understand their parts and how they work together, so its hard to realize that most people don’t do that for most things. Experts and aficionados do that, but only in a narrow sliver of categories and that’s not who your market is.

4): Most products draw from multiple categories and they will contradict each other. When I see a brand and I classify it as a watch, I know what to do with it. When I see it and I classify it as a PDA, but it’s on my wrist, I get worried that the cross-categorization of watch and PDA will bring the size of a PDA to my wrist and the functional limits of my watch to my PDA.

That is the positioning challenge. How to bring multiple categories together such that the benefits of each are not cannibalized by the others. And it is often quite hard, and always means some things you’d like to emphasize simply cannot be.

5): Resolving category contradictions is what positioning strategy is. And here is where specialized consultants/agencies help. I find that there are ‘strategists’ who can help define the problem, and the intuitive, holistic approach of creative professionals is often indispensible. The strategy must be right, must be grounded in how consumers really view your category and sub-categories, including where they’re naturally going to see contradictions, but the solution, the resolution, is actually one of the clearest examples of a creative act I can think of.