Monday, July 24, 2006

Rice vs. Ries: Categories and Positioning

Jennifer Rice recently questioned Laura Ries's analysis of the positioning of the Weber brand of grills. Ries had written that Weber's foray into gas grills (as opposed to their specialty, charcoal grills) was an example of unwise line extension.

Rice points out:

When you position your brand on what you do (charcoal, hamburgers, computers), it can only lead to extinction. Rather, base your positioning on how you do it (ie. a higher-level benefit), which allows you more flexibility over time. Google's brand position isn't search, it's organizing the world's information. Nike isn't shoes, it's passion. McDonald's isn't hamburgers, it's convenience.
As much as I buy into Ries's suggestion that companies strive to be first in a "category", and that often the category is a product category rather than a benefit category, Rice's point is well taken. Consider positioning your brand in terms of a benefit category rather than a product category. Your brand may be less vulnerable to extinction if you do.

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