Positioning, Oppositioning, Gender & Political Statements

By Gonzalo López Martí    – Creative director, etc. / LMMiami.com

  • Let me take you down memory lane for a moment and bring back that old marketing soundbite from the 80s: brand positioning.
  • The little concept that made the Al Ries & Jack Trout dynamic duo a staple of the lecture circuit.
  • To be sure, many a marketing & advertising charlatan still uses it profusely.
  • Me being one of them, of course.
  • I must’ve penned dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of “positioning statements” for clients big and small in every imaginable category throughout my roughly two decades in this racket.
  • I’ve seen them all.
  • Sometimes it feels like I actually wrote them all.
  • Now let me tell you a little story about “positioning”.
  • A few weeks back a good friend of mine whose car lease is about to expire, a dude, made an oddly insightful comment: “I don’t want to drive a car a woman would be seen driving”.
  • I was aghast.
  • I used to hold this guy in high regard.
  • I mean, he didn’t seem like the type of dude who’d fall for such silly mental games.
  • Early forties, father of two wonderful kids, avid golfer, quite successful in the marketing profession.
  • Happily married (or so it seems).
  • Why would he need to drive a “bajapantis”*?
  • To impress his golf buddies?
  • His coworkers?
  • Insecurity.
  • I guess nobody is immune to the malady.
  • As I mentioned, this gentleman works in marketing.
  • A lot of people regard him as an expert in the field.
  • How can he fall victim of his own bag of tricks?
  • The foolish idea that a guy’s car is the measure of his manhood possibly is the tritest chicanery in the marketing playbook.
  • I was about to point this out to him but, instead of being my usual sarcastic self and telling him he’s actually a, errr… pussy… for the very fact of being afraid of being perceived as one, I decided to take a step back, use him as a mini focus group and analyze his logic.
  • So I let him speak his mind.
  • He went on to say that Porsche had made a serious strategic mistake by coming out with an SUV.
  • As per his train of thought, the fact that the suburbs are now densely peopled by affluent soccer moms wearing sultry body-hugging yoga attire** at the wheel of Porsche SUVs such as the Cayenne and the Cayman will inflict irreversible long term damage to the “positioning” of a once badass brand***.
  • He obviously has a point cuz there’s no denying that an awful lot of dudes think precisely like him and duly proceed to clog our roads with assorted gas guzzlers or useless, pointless, nonsensical, uncomfortable, overpriced exotic vehicles.
  • Then again, the folks who pushed the Porsche brand into the yoga mom-hauling category obviously don’t care about the brand’s long-term image issues.
  • Marketing wise it was a highly profitable short-term bet.
  • If and when the brand becomes diluted by losing its sporty masculine veneer the current CMO will be long gone.
  • Branding has officially ceased to be a long view game, to judge by the revolving door of CEOs and CMOs these.
  • You are only as good as your last quarter’s earnings in this racket.
  • So.
  • What do you think?
  • By the way, I drive a Honda Crosstour.
  • An Accord station wagon of sorts.
  • AKA emasculation on wheels.
  • A darling of Car & Driver magazine reviewers for over twenty years, by the way.
  • And a darling of thieves too, who’ve bestowed upon it the honor of being the most stolen car in America.
  • Why?
  • Because Hondas remain for so long on the road that there’s a huge black aftermarket of parts.
  • It just so happens that my lease is about to expire too and Honda has discontinued the Crosstour so my next car will most probably be a Subaru station wagon.
  • Aka the vehicle of tree huggers and lesbians.
  • And the best rated crossover by Consumer Reports year after year after year for durability, handling, reliability, safety, interior space, finish and mileage per gallon.
  • Then again, who cares about durability, handling, mileage et al when you have plenty dudes out there preoccupied about the “image” they project and the demographic cohort they do not want to be associated with?
  • Positioning by opposition***.
  • Or, for the sake of coining a pretentious portmanteau, let’s christen it “oppositioning”****.
  • Speaking of which, let’s move on to politics.
  • After all, as we are clearly witnessing these days, politics has finally morphed into marketing.
  • With a heavy dose of class, gender, sexual and ethnic warfare in the equation.
  • You know what they say: politics is showbiz for ugly people.
  • To be continued next week.

* Puerto Ricans call an expensive &/or flashy car a “bajapantis” (literally a “panty puller downer” or “panty dropper”). An epithet also used to describe a sexually avid &/or promiscuous male. They have a way with words those islanders. They created reggaetón for a reason. Boricuas will be boricuas.
**Note to self: write a piece about how we equivocally talk about “healthy” or “organic” lifestyles when we are actually referring to our adolescent obsession with being sexually attractive. Analyze the brilliant way in which brands such as lululemon and Whole Foods have exploited this phenomenon.
***The great maxim by Groucho Marx “I don’t want to belong to a club that will accept me as a member” might be the ultimate summation of the slippery pseudoscience we know as marketing.
****If you conduct a perfunctory google search you might find that the neologism “oppositioning” is sometimes used in the legal world to describe a certain litigation strategy. Then again, to the best of my knowledge, the expression has never been used in marketing, advertising or, surprisingly, in politics. Hence I hereby claim authorship over the little word.

 

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