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A Shortcut To Mindshare

Back in the ‘60s, Al Ries and Jack Trout created the idea of positioning. They championed the notion that a business needs to “occupy” a certain position in the customer’s mind. That way, the customer will immediately think of the business whenever they have a need that it can satisfy. Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? But back when the Beatles were the hottest young band on the radio, it was a pretty radical notion. Today, the idea that you need to achieve market position is taken as a given. Pretty much all business people, certainly all marketers, aspire to it. But, in an ideal situation, positioning alone is not enough. People need a shortcut to access that position in their minds. And, oddly enough, it’s the Beatles who can teach us something about that.

Recently, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about Paul McCartney. When you delve into his biography, you quickly begin to understand what a remarkable man he is. He’s tremendously skilled in a variety of talents. For the moment, let’s just look at one – songwriting. The range of types of songs he tackles is astounding. He wrote most of the Beatles’ hard rockers like “Back in the USSR” and “Helter Skelter”. He wrote their most memorable ballads like “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude”. And he was particularly adept at writing what John Lennon described as “granny songs” – ditties like “Your Mother Should Know” and “When I’m Sixty-four”. As a songwriter, Paul McCartney has it all.

Add to songwriting, all his other talents – his vocal range, his ability to master almost any musical instrument, his command as a performer, etc. – and you start to appreciate what a complex and multi-dimensional human being he really is. That’s a pretty enviable position to have in the public’s mind. But to grasp all that complexity, human beings simplify. We create shortcuts to help us manage all the detail. And, perhaps to his chagrin, McCartney is still known today by a shortcut that was forged decades ago – “the cute one”.

John was the social activist. George was the spiritual one. Ringo was the lovable goofball. But Paul was the cute one.

It must be frustrating to be as talented and accomplished as he is and still be described as cute. It has to seem ridiculous too, now that he’s pushing 80. But hopefully he realizes that no one is dismissing him. It’s just that the door many use to access all his complex mix of talents was, for better or worse, installed years ago by his teeny bopper fans. Seems like a small price to pay for all of his success.

Good for you if your business is well-positioned. Kudos if you’re distinguished from your competition. But if your positioning statement is 50 words long, you need a shortcut. If it takes the entire elevator ride to describe your business to a stranger, you need to simplify. You need to find a positioning slogan that tells the world all they need to know about you to begin an engagement.

Again, you just need enough to begin a relationship with a new customer. You don’t need to tell your whole story in the first ten seconds. You just want to create a simple portal through which a customer can access all your many, complex solutions. If it turns out that makes you “The cute one”, so be it. It will be well worth it if it brings you the same kind of success that Paul McCartney enjoys.


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