Pick a Word, Any Word, But Own It

The essence of marketing is narrowing the focus. How narrow? Can you sum up everything you want to convey in one word? Can you own one word all to yourself in your prospect’s mind? This is powerful.

Keep it simple

What word do you choose? Well, not an invented one and not a complicated one either. The simpler the better… right out of the dictionary. The best words are simple and explain the benefit you are providing. Once you choose it, don’t chase trademarks… you want others to use it… to be a leader, you must have followers. Examples:

FedEx: they sacrificed all other methods of delivery in their business to own “Overnight”
Prego: they took share from Ragu by borrowing words from Heinz (in another category) and went with “thicker”
Volvo = Safety
Dominos = Home Delivery

Words you can’t use

You may have your heart set on picking words like “Quality” or “Honesty”, but these don’t work as everybody says they stand for these and no one is taking an opposing view, so you can’t take a stand here. The “Unquality” corporation or the “Dishonest” political candidates have no volunteers even though there may be many in existence

If somebody else owns it, look elsewhere

If a competitor already owns a word in the prospect’s mind in your space, look elsewhere. Example: Volvo owns safety and many others have tried to say they do too, but Volvo still wins after vast sums have been spent on futile advertising. Another example: Atari owned video games but once business slowed they tried to make Atari = “Computer”, but there were too many others already in that space and they lost. The sadder part is they gave up “video games” to Nintendo who has owned it since. You can’t go for a word too similar to your competitor. You need to pick another attribute and own it. You can’t predict the size of a new attribute’s share, so never laugh.

Some great reads that I borrowed liberally from:

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout


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