Marketing Communication, Positioning and Differentiation

All the various marketing management contributions of the 60s based on Druckerian Management philosophy, did not stop those who believed that the emphasis was to be put on advertising and selling. In this way, Other general models and frameworks about marketing communications were presented and evolved from the 60s. These include models such as the hierarchy of effects approach, the AIDA (attention, interest, decision, action) (Lavidge and Steiner, 1961; Barry and Howard, 1990), etc.

In the early 70s in a series of Advertising Age articles published in 1972, two marketing consultants, Jack Trout and Al Ries, recognized the need of positioning a product as a response to what they called the “over-communicated society”.

Their concept was simple: the success of a new product depended on how consumers thought about that product or, in their own words, how the product was positioned in the consumer’s mind. In 1980 Trout and Ries published their thoughts in the classic book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”, where in addition to the concept of positioning they urged companies to look not only at their strengths but also at the competitor’s weaknesses. The concept of positioning as defined by the authors in the 20th anniversary edition of the book “starts with the product… but it is not what you do to the product… but what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”

As more media channels and strategies for communicating a company’s products raised, in the early 1980s Don E. Shultz, proposed the concept of Integrated Marketing communications (IMC). This concept meant that all components of a brand’s communication should follow a common strategy and be planned to work cooperatively. The main communication elements that should be integrated in the common plan were to be “highly selective” advertising, direct marketing, public relations, selling to the retail trade, sales promotions directed to the consumer, instore activities, packaging, influencing opinion leaders and word-of-mouth. This evolution meant a broader analysis and a need for a strategy to coordinate different medias and advertising possibilities. At around that time too, large communication conglomerates surged with the objective to provide a  “one-stop shopping” solution to coordinate the different communication activities.

During the early 80s while the IMC was the latest development in marketing communications, the corporate world began to shift the focus from producing products to  images of their brands. The focus was no longer in manufacturing but rather on marketing and more specifically on advertising.

Most of the concepts presented until then are part of the evolution of the advertising and communication functions (Scientific Advertising, 1920s; USPs, 50-60s; AIDA, 1961; Positioning, mid 70s; IMC, 1980). These concepts however, had little or no emphasis on the economic value or strategic management of brands.  Furthermore,  this approach created a gap between the promise of the offering, communicated through advertising and other mechanisms, and the reality delivered.

In 1972 and 1973 in the midst of the service economy, Levitt published two titles related to service marketing: Production-line approach to service and the industrialization of service. Also in 1973, at a time when advertising was still the driving force of marketing, Drucker presented the notion of the importance of marketing and innovation to satisfy genuine consumer needs.

“because it is the purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two-and only two-basic functions: marketing and innovation… There will always, one can assume, be need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy. All that should be needed then, is to make the product or service available.” Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (by Peter Drucker 1973)

In the beginning of the 80s and throughout the 90s Michael Porter contributions to Strategic Management had a great influence in Marketing. With his various models including the five forces, the value chain, generic strategies of cost leadership, product differentiation and segmentation, the market positioning strategies of variety based, needs based, and access based market positions, etc. These various contributions helped with the development of the academic field dealing with “strategy content”, in other words the “what” of strategy (De Wit & Meyer, 2003) and hence the “what or content” of strategic marketing.

At a time when most companies where focused on selling and communicating differences, also in 1980, Ted Levitt published the article “Marketing success through differentiation of anything”. In this article Levitt introduces the importance of the services, intangible aspects and behavior involved closely related to an offering.

Some of these industry insights presented by Levitt, combined with increased competition across industries, improved technologies and increased consumer sophistication, were early signs of what would lead to what today is widely recognized as the experience economy.


The Origin of Branding read here

Branding during the Industrial Economy read here

The Origin of Brand Advertising read here

The Origin of Brand Management read here

The Origin of the Marketing Concept read here

Marketing Communication, Positioning and Differentiation read here

The 80s-90s and Brand Equity read here

New Trends in the early 2000’s read here

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