A Guide To Positioning And Branding

An IM Guide to Positioning and Branding.


A lot of people think that branding is a negative thing (and I guess it is in a traditional sense). We are not talking about institutional branding – that’s where people try to get you to associate one or two words in your mind which automatically make them think of your product.

Good branding is when you think ‘headache’ you might think Tylenol or Ibuprofen or something like that. That’s branding.

They have linked in your mind one word to their product so they have top of the mind awareness (if you want to use a fancy term) and that kind of branding sucks for sub niche stuff.

Like making money online is such a sub niche.

I don’t know one out of a hundred people in my personal life who have any interest in it at all but everybody has an interest in curing a headache, everybody has an interest in drinking some nice flavored sugary drink and that’s why Coke can brand their name because that has universal appeal.

I am not really interested in that branding and anyway I would argue that that branding is ineffective. You should have branding as a by-product of your marketing communications where you are selling benefits in a certain way.

So I believe you sell benefits.

You deliver proof on your claims and you show people an advantage that they can’t get anywhere else, but its how you show them that advantage and the tone and the personality that you take while showing that advantage that determines your branding and your positioning in the marketplace.


It’s very good for a couple of reasons to think about positioning.

Positioning means: How can I enter the marketplace in a way that will automatically get me recognition and will exploit a certain gap in the marketplace that is not being fulfilled with a certain position.

So that way I can get awareness instantly, which will then be easier for me to communicate with that marketplace because I’ll be recognizable.

Rule #1: if they don’t know you they can’t buy from you so this is a great way to enter the market, instantly gain awareness in the marketplace and gain market share if you do everything else right.

The 5 Percent Theory

So that’s important about positioning and branding and I’ll take it a step further, this is why it is important.

I have the thing called the 5 Percent Theory which I have found to be true.

There is no way technically I can prove it but like the theory of relativity even though it’s still a theory everybody accepts it because there is no way you can test it objectively but it’s just there. It’s just something to think about.

Here is the 5 Percent Theory:

Certain people respond deepest to those who resonate the character that they themselves want to portray.

So every single one of us has a role, like a fantasy role in our mind of somebody we’d like to be.

Here is an insight – most people live with a lot of self doubt especially in social engagements, most people are not that confident.

Even people that project outward confidence deep down inside they are like a scared school child.

I know beautiful women that I have dated who once you got to know them you’d find out they were the most insecure about their looks of all. It doesn’t make any sense but its just there, it exists.

The fact is a lot of people have a lot of self doubts and they have a lot of things they perceive as weakness about their personality, or their character traits and so they really want to play a different role than the role they‘re playing.

They have this fantasy role in their mind and they look up to people who do the actions that they think are in alignment with that fantasy role.

So a lot of people think: “Man James Bond is so cool, he gets all the women, he goes in there, he has no fear of bad guys, he saves the world, I would love to live that lifestyle!”

So if they meet somebody like that in person they are naturally attracted to them, they resonate with them on a deeper level than just on: Here are the benefits I am doing for you and I’m trying to sell you something.

It’s like “No, this person is me. They are doing the role I want to do, if I hang out with them maybe that role will transfer on to me a little bit or maybe I will get more insight into how they do that”.

So you’re personality selling and you just don’t want to just plain out personality sell in most cases but when you add that personality selling to the regular selling you’re doing it just enhances persuasion.

So 5 percent of people though are going to resonate with you and the other 95 percent aren’t. But everybody has five percent they can take.

I was explaining this to some of my coaching clients one day. We pulled up a page, (it was a sales page), and it was like: “The Conspiracy on Dog Food: What the pet food industry isn’t telling you about dog food, blah blah blah…” and they are scaring you to death.

You know what, about 5 percent of the population is hard-wired to respond to that and that’s the main way that they are going to respond, you’ve got to scare them out of their mind before they take action.

But there is another 5 percent who are completely absolutely turned off by that type of positioning in they absolutely hate to be scared to death on that kind of stuff and they will instantly turn away on that.

So that’s ineffective for them. However those are the kind of people that you can come at with all the facts, you can keep it low key.

You can say: “Look I don’t know about this conspiracy or not but here is what I know to be true” and that 5 percent is going to absolutely resonate with you because that’s how they are and that’s the role they play in their mind, they want to be somebody just like that.

They don’t want to be shocked, awed and scared to death. So they’ll respond to the low key sales message, more the advocate role than the shock and doom and that kind of role, the controversy role. But then the people that respond to controversy probably won’t respond to it.

That’s why you typically see response rates in internet marketing between 1 and 5 percent for a sales letter because a lot of people are most conditioned to respond to a certain type of personality or the tone of the advertisement as much as the content of the advertisement.

It’s really a matter of which 5 percent in the marketplace isn’t being catered to right now. Personality positioning wise that I can cater to and immediately steal them all and of course you are going to get other people too.

So I get high conversion rates on some of my sales letters but I know I’m predominantly getting a certain type of person who resonates with me and that’s not an accident.

That’s just me coming out with my personality and that was kind of an accident, I just came out with a personality, but then I discovered it was really good positioning especially in my marketplace (we’ll talk more about that in a minute).

The Seven Positions

Here are the positions that you would want to learn about.

There are 7 positions that you can really take. There are a couple of other ones you can flirt with and really in reality there is one predominant one and you’ll use strategies from a lot of these. I can think of 4 or 5 that I use on a regular basis but there is one that overrides all the others. So they are:

1. The Advocate
2. The Commoner
3. The Straight Shooter
4. The Jerk
5. The Goof
6. The Savant
7. The Positive Thinker.

I’ll walk you through each of these and then I’ll give you some benefits for each of these and some examples and also some ways that you can use these and we’ll actually get it more in to a systematic fashion in a few minutes.

The Advocate

This is absolutely the most powerful role in general to take in a marketplace.

In most cases you can get away with this because people simply don’t know good marketing and just by selling, by telling more, by giving them more relevant and important information than your competitors, that’s a good strategy.

Doesn’t work as well in internet marketing because everybody plays the advocate role so it’s a tough position to take.

But in carpet cleaning, when you are the only person educating them about what good carpet cleaning is, how to protect their home, how to protect their loved ones, the bacteria in carpet and all that kind of stuff, you are the star.

When it comes to financial planning, if you are writing those full page advertorial ads explaining in depth all of the different things in the market and you are keeping people in place, you are hitting them with your newsletters every month and nobody else is in your marketplace is doing that, the advocate role is hugely powerful.

It is basically this: An advocate takes the time to further educate you to help you make the best decision. It’s called an advocate because you feel that they are in your corner. You feel that they are looking out for your best interests more than you are trying to sell them something.

The typical financial planner’s ad in the local newspaper is: “C’mon in, we’ll give you a blah blah blah” and nobody actually takes the time to educate the consumer.

If you come out with a full page advertorial style ad where you give them all this great information and then you ask for the order. Wow!

David Ogilvy was a master at this.

When he would get clients he would write ads that said: How to create advertising that sells – and he would give you nine steps to good advertising that sells and then in the end he would say: “By the way Ogilvy & Mather, we do this stuff for our clients. If you would like us to put these to use for you, contact us”.

So he gave them all this great information before he asks for the order.

Like I said, it doesn’t work as great in internet marketing because everybody does it but it’s an absolute killer in small businesses because nobody does it and it’s the most powerful positioning provided that 99% of the marketplace isn’t doing it.

It takes time to further educate you to help you make the best decision
It shows they are looking out for your best interests
Ample use of little known but beneficial information

Claude Hopkins is a great example with preemptive sales of Schlitz Beer, he talked about how Schlitz Beer made everything purified and nobody else did that, so everybody wanted the Schlitz Beer.

A great example of this in internet marketing and marketing in general is Jay Abraham, a very good advocate.

He is very empathetic with you and Suze Orman is the same way. She is a very good advocate in a certain marketplace with women, how to plan their investments and stuff like that.

Now I’m an advocate in a different world, I’ve taken it one step further in internet marketing.

I don’t promote affiliate products typically and everybody else does and if I do I’ll come out and plainly say what’s good and what’s bad about them and I’ll say the things other people want.

I am more of a straight shooter but I use a lot of advanced advocation strategies that other marketers aren’t using.

The Commoner

The second position that you can take is called the commoner and this is a good sales position. The commoner is: Someone who doesn’t claim to be all that special, seems to be just like you but only possesses a bit of specialized information.

This is why the commoner is great because the average person feels they are average, in fact that’s why they are called average.

So it just like, “I am just like you except that I know a couple of good things that I could share with you that could really help you out”, people really resonate with that. People are like: Ah! He is just like me.

In fact I have a deal that might go through right now that could be extremely lucrative for me if we can hammer out the details to make it work, basically the guy liked me because he grew up thirty minutes away from where I lived, where I grew up.

So we resonated simply because he had that in common with me. It wasn’t because I was slick or I was a great writer.

So that is what’s great about the commoner. I am just like you, the only difference is I possess some specialized information that can benefit your life but other than that I am just like you.

I don’t have a crazy lifestyle, I am not flamboyant, I am pretty much blah. Except for one or two things that I know a lot about that you want to know about.

A great example of this is Warren Buffet. He has lived in the same house since 1957 and it’s not that fancy, he doesn’t drive fancy cars, he buys his stuff from Walmart (well maybe not Walmart) and he doesn’t wear 600 dollar silk shirts.

Warren Buffet is simply just a normal guy except he is a financial investing genius and so that’s what’s really cool about it.

I use the commoner in a lot of positions, in a lot of approaches in my sales communication I say: “Hey, I’ve led a pretty boring lifestyle but I am really good at internet marketing and teaching people about it”. So its like: “Cool, this guy isn’t that different from me, he just knows a couple of things I don’t” – that’s the great position.

The Straight Shooter

Another position here is the straight-shooter. I am a hybrid of the commoner and the straight shooter. This is what the straight shooter is: The professor of harsh reality. Doesn’t mind offending people to make a point. Says things others are afraid to say.

Good examples of this are Dan Kennedy and Donald Trump.

Yes you can even argue that, some of them are kind of jerky, I’ll give you the distinction here in a bit, but the professor of harsh reality is very important, because when a lot of people look for information, what they want is to get it from somebody who’s like a stern father figure, if you will.

They want somebody to tell them exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it because they don’t like to make decisions for themselves.

That’s the average person’s mentality.

So if you come right out and say: “Look this is how it is and I know that conventional wisdom might say otherwise, but I am telling you exactly what I know and I am not afraid if people are pissed off about it, or if it goes against social norms or whatever, because this is the deal and this is how it is”.

I took this position as the straight shooter when I wrote a really good article that got a great number of responses.

It was the eight mistakes internet marketers make that keep them poor – the difference between success and failure in internet marketing.

One of the things I came straight out and said: everybody talks about how affiliate marketing is easier and that’s bullshit.

Affiliate marketing is not easier, it’s different because the barrier of entry is lower in affiliate marketing.

More people go in there therefore there is more competition so in the end it’s not easier or harder, its just a different business model.

So I am not afraid to speak my mind based on my experiences and what I know to be true from personal experience, even if it offends some people or even if it goes against the grain.

I am not afraid to say the things that others are afraid to say, so if a product comes up that everybody else is promoting and I think it sucks, I’ll come out and say I think this product sucks, don’t buy it.

So that’s what’s really powerful about the straight shooter and this works really good in internet marketing because most people give you a bunch of crap, most people give you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear.

The good thing is to give them what they want in a way that cuts through all the crap and makes you different from everybody else.

The Jerk

Not only do they not mind offending people they actually get off on it.

They go out of their way to cause controversy. They defy social conventions and etiquette.

A good example of this would be like Rush Limbaugh or the Rich Jerk.

These are the people that cause controversy first of all so that everybody talks about them, which is great for awareness, and at the second time there is this segment of the population that absolutely resonates with that.

They like it when they get people pissed off but most people don’t have the self esteem or the self image to do that so they are like: I would like to get all these people going.

I am just afraid to, I cant but man he can do it. I just want to be around him because he is playing that role that I want to play in my mind.

Like Dennis Rodman.

He was a good basketball player but everybody followed him and talked about him because he was so flamboyant.

He was such a crazy character and so he got really famous as a basketball player and everybody knew about him, not because of his basketball skills, although they were good, it was just because he was the jerk.

And the Rich Jerk is the same way.

His positioning is everybody else is trying to be your best friend, but I am going to be an asshole to you and I want to cause controversy and offend a lot of people, because in the end I know the positioning is so new in this marketplace that a lot of people are going to go for it and really hone in on it.

I’m going to get all these eyeballs and people are going to want to buy this because the people are like: this guy must know something nobody else knows because he is the only one doing it. So it’s a great position.

The Goof

This is an awesome position actually. It’s extremely entertaining while being informative.

He wants you to laugh while you learn and I am like: man, the students resonate with that so good.

So the trick is to be entertaining, sometimes at the expense of being informative. Not afraid to do silly stuff to get attention or to make a point and you laugh while you learn.

The best example of this by far is Frank Kern.

When everybody talks about Frank Kern they talk about him as the lazy guy which is actually a supposition and not a very universal position, but they think Frank Kern is lazy, which is not really true and Frank Kern is funny, he is entertaining.

So Frank has a way of, he doesn’t really give you a whole lot of content, although the content he does give you is good in his marketing communication so he is not so much of an advocate or not a jerk or a straight shooter or a commoner. He is just a goofy guy.

He is just funny. You watch him to see what he does next. You are like: man I wish I could be that charismatic or as funny or as goofy as Frank and don’t have a care in the world and be successful. Excellent position to take.

Some people will take it a little too far, they are like the guy wearing question marks on his suit when he’s selling you: here’s how to make money, here’s how to make the government give you money for free.

That might be taken a little bit too far but the goof is a good positioning strategy to incorporate in your marketing. I do it sometimes occasionally, one time I created a launch and I’m like look at that goofy picture of me on the video. I just had this goofy thumbs up look and I got a lot of people to click through and watch the video because it was just goofy.

The Savant

This is really good. I use this a lot in my sub-communication and in parts of my sales letters.

The savant is: I am incredibly adept at a lot of simple stuff that most people can do without any trouble and I am pretty much moronic at everything that has got to do with life except for the few things that you want to learn from me.

I first picked up on this with Gary Halbert because Gary Halbert in his newsletters would say “I have about as much skills for managing money as a pig” and he was like “Yeah I’m broke again”.

He is like “I’m really good at making money I’m just not good at spending it at all” or,” due to me being incredibly stupid, my girlfriend left me”.

He plays up on this in one newsletter he is talking about “I can’t even deal with my laundry”, stuff like that.

He got addicted to Xanax and he talks about that, so he plays up on his frailties but he has got great examples to prove that he’s good at that one thing. He makes you think “This guy, he can’t do hardly anything right. So if this guy can make it, surely I can make it, surely I can do it”.

I play up on savant a lot.

I always talk about how it took me until I was eight years old to learn how to tie my shoes and I was afraid to call and order a pizza when I was a kid because I didn’t like talking to people on the phone.

My mom says I lack a lot of common sense but I am really good on one or two things that you want to know about.

So that reassures people he is not some sort of genius or some special guy. He is just a guy who figured out a couple of things and so if he can do it I can do it.

The Positive Thinker

Finally the positive thinker. This is good. No matter what happens it’s always good. I use the positive thinking role a lot too because this is who I am. No matter what happens it’s always good.

They are never toxic, they seem to be smiling at all times and they always want to leave you better off than where they found you.

Regardless of whether you buy from them or not they just want to try to improve your life and the best example is Zig Ziglar.

The positive thinker is good in markets where people don’t use this strategy. In markets where it’s overused then its probably not a good positioning element. But it’s something to think about.

In regular markets again in the small business markets the positive thinker kills it.

He does an awesome job because your typical retail flooring provider is not sending you stuff every month that makes you feel good about yourself, that makes you feel good about life, they are not conveying any personality.

This is really good in markets where the marketing sucks and there is no positioning of personality.

How to use Positioning to your advantage

First thing you want to ask yourself is what character traits you already have that you can simply exaggerate or make the focal point of your communication?

I now look for ways to be outspoken just to be the professor of harsh reality, because I know it’s effective in getting a point across.

I use the commoner a lot and I really exaggerate to the point of savant but some of the stuff I can’t do, so I focus more on telling them all this stuff.

I don’t tell a lot of stuff that I am not really good at, although occasionally that, but I exaggerate certain things.

Not exaggerate to make things bigger than what they actually are, but I focus more on that in my communication on certain elements depending on what position I want to take at that time that’s going to best communicate my message and my personality that going to resonate the most with my clients.

So think about the character traits that you already have that you can focus more on in your sales communication and in your interaction with your customers and then ask yourself this: what is the primary position in the marketplace and which ones aren’t being used?

At the very least know what the primary position is in that marketplace and try not to make that the main personality driven marketing that you use.

So if everybody’s being an advocate don’t make that what you lead with.

Lead with being a straight shooter. If nobody is being straight shooter in that marketplace, that’s a great position to take because you are going to instantly get awareness.

If nobody is being a goof ball in that marketplace be a goof ball, that was the internet marketing for a long time and that what Frank Kerr took over, because everybody was so serious about making money online that he positioned himself as a goof ball.

If you are in the world of doom and gloom where everybody is talking negatively being the positive thinker is huge.

You want to look at the market you are going to enter into and decide what kind of position you are going to take in that marketplace to gain awareness.

Also remember to use sub-positions according to specific campaigns.

So in certain campaigns maybe if you are running a campaign where there is a lot of misinformation being the straight shooter is the best thing to do in that case.

If you are running a campaign where everybody is talking negatively be the positive thinker. This is where you focus on the character traits that most make sense with the campaigns.

But you want to have an ultimate or overall position.

So I am going to be the straight shooting commoner. That’s my position, I am a combination of these two but in some situations I use the savant and the commoner as a sub-position within the position, if that makes sense.

But the fact is, if you are talking about something where there is a lot of information being the straight shooter is the best thing to do in that campaign.

So while you are the advocate you are being the advocate of the straight shooter while you are the positive thinker you can put a positive twist on telling them what they need to know that nobody else is telling them about.

So that’s how you can combine these uses of power, that’s something to think about, something to use and really hone in because positioning will gain awareness for you in the marketplace thus making it easier to get your marketing communications read.

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