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Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition

Andy Cunningham

By Andy Cunningham

Back in the 1970’s, Jack Trout and Al Ries developed the concept of “positioning.” They wrote about it in a book called Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind that became a business best seller and remains so today. The book posits that successful marketing must start with the development of a “position” for your product or service to be placed in the mind of a potential customer. In other words, a “position” establishes real estate for your product or service within the knowledge base of your prospect alongside of other, similar products or services.

Forty years ago, these “positions” were established largely with advertising, a medium over which companies have complete control. You buy the space, you say what you want. In a way, messaging was a controlled substance back then because its distribution largely took place through a controlled channel: advertising. The internet, of course, has changed everything opening up vast channels of communication with customers and prospects resulting in dialog, ratings, reviews and rants. Advertising still exists, of course, but it is flanked now by two-way communication vehicles that have given the customer a voice. As a result positions for products and services are more difficult to establish. A new approach to positioning was definitely in order.

While Jack and Al’s book established the credibility of positioning as a marketing practice, I have brought it into the 21st century with my book, Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition, or what I call Positioning 2.0. It starts with the thesis that companies are like people, and like people they have DNA. Their DNA isn’t as complicated as human DNA, but nonetheless, they have it.

Having worked with hundreds of companies over the years, I’ve noted that certain ones focus the bulk of their attention on customers and their relationships with them. Others focus on their products and continuous improvement of them. And still others try to change the world or at least human behavior in it. The more I examined these companies, the more I saw how they organize themselves against their focus. They hire people differently. They compensate them differently. They measure success differently. They even talk about different things in meetings. Once I saw the pattern and realized we were dealing with a sort of “corporate DNA,” I decided to give the “types” human nicknames: Mothers, Mechanics and Missionaries. Mothers are customer-focused, Mechanics are product-focused and Missionaries are concept-focused.

And it doesn’t end there. Each of these DNA types has two—and only two—genotypes that help define the overall DNA of a company and provide direction for positioning. Mothers position themselves based either on Customer Segmentation, like Nike does with its focus on the authentic athlete, or on Customer Experience, like Disney does with its highly experiential theme parks. Mechanics position themselves based on the Features they offer the market, like Microsoft, or on the Value they bring to the customer, like Walmart. And Missionaries position themselves either as pursuing the Next Big Thing like Tesla or, around a Cult of Personality like the Virgin franchise does with Richard Branson.

Once you know your Corporate DNA, you have a good understanding of what you can leverage to create success in the market. In other words, once you know what you’re made of, you can make something of it. And moreover, it will be authentic because it’s an actual reflection of who you are. In today’s digital world, authenticity is everything in marketing and it all starts with positioning.

Andy Cunningham - Get to Aha!

Andy Cunningham is the founder and president of Cunningham Collective, a marketing, brand and communication strategy firm dedicated to bringing innovation to market. She is also the author of the newly released book, “Get to Aha!” a seminal primer about corporate positioning. Andy is much sought after marketing expert in Silicon Valley, having been on forefront of marketing, branding, positioning and communicating “The Next Big Thing” for over 30 years. She is well known for helping Steve Jobs launch the Macintosh and later working with him at NeXT and Pixar.

Join marketing strategist and consultant, Andy Cunningham in conversation with Skillsoft Chief Creative Officer Tara O’Sullivan and SVP of Books, Mark Onisk as they discuss how to apply the ideas in Andy’s latest book, Get to Aha! Discovering Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition. They will explore how determining your positioning DNA is vital to businesses who wish to align their organization with their vision and branding to achieve successful outcomes both as a business and for their workforce. Sign up for this webinar, here.

This webinar is part of Skillsoft Off the Shelf, a virtual book club for modern learners. Check out the details at to watch the launch video interview with the author and get access to the book resources offered on the Skillsoft platform, Percipio.

Skillsoft is pleased to launch a new learning experience designed to bring trending business ideas and thought leadership to life. “Skillsoft Off the Shelf,” a monthly virtual book club featuring leading authors, carefully selected to align with trending topics, groundbreaking insights, and actionable lessons to apply to your work, your strategy, and your organization.

Andy Cunningham is the author of Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition.

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