Trout went on to publish several “brand extensions” of this book over the years, which combined with his workshops, introduced 1,000’s of marketers to the concept.
His basic premise was that the mind of the consumer really only has so much room to remember a brand — much less distinguish it from competing brands. So we need to understand what “real estate” the brand will occupy in the consumer’s mind, and position it accordingly in all communications.
Another way of looking at it: You can use the dominant player in your market as a springboard for your own brand, simply by being clear on how your brand differs (and is better).
One example he cited was the positioning of the car rental company, Avis. In the 1960’s since Hertz strongly held the position of “We’re #1” in the marketplace, Avis couldn’t very well use the message, “Nope, WE are #1!” Consumers simply wouldn’t remember them.
So instead, Avis promoted the fact that they were NOT #1 with the slogan “We Try Harder.” (Anybody old enough to remember all those little We Try Harder buttons they distributed?)
And it certainly worked. Avis is still just behind Hertz in market share in today’s $100 billion global rental car industry.
Other examples include 7Up “the un-cola,” Coke being “the real thing,” Volvo being “the safest,” — and the list goes on.
For more info on Jack Trout, here’s his obit in The New York Times.