McD's abandoning of positioning is 'lunacy'

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According to Larry Light, here is the definition of Brand Journalism: `"A chronicle of the varied things that happen in our brand world, throughout our day, throughout the years. Our brand means different things to different people. It does not have one brand position....Brand journalism allows us to be a witness to the multifaceted aspects of a brand story. No one communication alone tells the whole brand story."

Here is the definition of positioning, according to Al Ries: "Positioning is not what you do to the product; it's what you do to the mind of the prospect. It's how you differentiate your brand in the mind. Positioning compensates for our over-communicated society by using an oversimplified message to cut through the clutter and get into the mind. Positioning focuses on the perceptions of the prospect, not on the reality of the brand."

You don't need an expensive research study to tell you what the McDonald's brand stands for in the mind. McDonald's equals kids, Ronald McDonald, Happy Meals, playgrounds, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and french fries. Yes, other people also eat at McDonald's, including the unpaid chauffeur of a headstrong 3-year-old. But the core of McDonald's market is families with kids.

The notion that McDonald's should abandon the positioning philosophy and instead adopt a brand-journalism approach is lunacy. Brand journalism is just another name for an approach that has been tried and has failed many times before: the everybody trap. Brand journalism attempts to make a brand appeal to everybody by using many different brand messages.

Brands that try to appeal to everyone end up appealing to no one.

Larry suggests that brands should not stand for anything. But if you look at some of the most powerful brands in the world, they stand for singular ideas in the mind: BMW stands for driving; Volvo stands for safety; Subway stands for healthy sandwiches. McDon-ald's needs to remem-ber that brand percep-tion is a brand's reality. Management has done a good job in cleaning up the stores and simplifying the menu. Now marketing has to sell the brand position. McDonald's is heaven for kids and their parents who "deserve a break today."

Laura Ries

Partner, Ries & Ries

Roswell, Ga.

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