Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Building a strong brand in your consumers’ minds… Don’t miss out on this “Marvel’s” game-changing marketing insights! [Monday: Marketing Marvels]

April 24, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Hello, everyone. Happy Monday! 

We hope you all had a good rest over the weekend. 

Let’s start the week with our dose of motivation from our “Marketing Marvels.” Each Monday, we feature outstanding individuals in business and marketing, along with their industry-related experiences, contributions, and insights. 

Today, we’ll talk about one of the pioneers of “positioning” in marketing.

Keep reading to learn more about this industry expert and how his principle revolutionized the way marketing is done nowadays.  

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Marketing Marvels 

Marketing is a fast-paced industry. Every day, lots of changes are happening (whether expected or unexpected) and influencing how consumers perceive a brand or business. 

For instance: Just when people got used to Instagram marketing in the early 2010s, Snapchat started burning up the charts… and as time passed by, other social media platforms like TikTok, Twitch, Discord, etc. also became prominent. 

Another example? 

Before, we only had what we call, “video production.” Now, with new technologies in place, we have live video, 360 video, and augmented reality (AR). 

With these innovations coming at such a breakneck pace, it’s important that marketers know how to make their brands or offerings stand out… and one of the industry leaders who pioneered an interesting concept about this topic? 

Al Ries

Photo from The New York Times

Alfred Paul Ries (November 14, 1926 – October 7, 2022) was a marketing professional and author, and the former co-founder and chairman of consulting firm Ries & Ries along with his daughter, Laura Ries. He is credited with pioneering the idea of “positioning” in the field of marketing. 

He graduated from DePauw University as a mathematics major in 1950. After that, he worked at the advertising department of General Electric before founding his own advertising agency, Ries Cappiello Colwell, in New York City in 1961. 

American advertising executive Jack Trout joined Ries in his new firm in 1967 and that partnership led to them writing a 3-part series of articles for magazine company Advertising Age in 1972. 

The themes they discussed in those articles inspired them to co-author the book, “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind,” in 1981. 

Photo from Creative Supply

Positioning in Marketing 

One of Ries’ most important contributions as an industry leader is the concept of “positioning.” This refers to how businesses create a unique and compelling position in the minds of consumers, differentiating themselves from their competitors. 

For Ries, successful businesses focus on building a position that is both distinctive AND compelling, and they stick to it over time, even as the marketplace changes.

His ideas about positioning have been influential for a couple of reasons: 

  • First, positioning helps businesses focus on what truly matters in their marketing efforts, creating a clear and compelling message that resonates with consumers. 

This can be especially important in a crowded marketplace, where businesses may be vying for attention from the same pool of customers.

  • Second, positioning is grounded in human psychology. Ries’ ideas are about understanding what motivates people to make purchasing decisions. 

By focusing on the basics of consumer behavior, Ries was able to help businesses create effective marketing campaigns that stand the test of time.

Here are the 6 positioning principles discussed in Ries and Trout’s book, “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind”

  1. Find an open hole

In the 20th century, marketing was considered “communications”—marketers studied their product, its features, and competitors, then prepared ads that explained why their offering was better than the competition. 

Ries realized the need to change this approach, which led to him coining the term, “positioning.” According to him, marketers should focus on the minds of their prospects instead of focusing on their product. 

  1. Narrow your focus

Some brands are too broad in scope to fill a hole in consumers’ minds. Either these brands have too many features and benefits, or appeal to too many different market segments. 

Ries believed enterprises need to have a narrow focus… and through positioning, businesses can build or refocus their branding around a singular idea or concept. 


  • Federal Express (FedEx) – Overnight delivery 
  • Zappos.com – Free shipping both ways under a 365-return policy 
  • Dell – Sells directly to businesses and consumers 
  1. Your brand name is foremost

Ries said every brand needs 2 names: A brand name and a category name. 

According to him, some marketers tend to overlook opportunities to create a new category, yet many brands owe their success to this strategy. Ries also added that divergence in the business landscape is creating countless chances to establish new categories. 

This means the first businesses to launch new brands and take advantage of new market segments will become long-time winners. 


  • Chobani – The first Greek yogurt 
  • Red Bull – The first energy drink 
  • Fresh Express – The first packaged salad 
  1. Create a visual hammer

Aside from a name, Ries said brands need to have a visual hammer or a logo that will leave a lasting impression on consumers’ minds. 


  • Tropicana’s straw inserted in an orange fruit
  • Coca-Cola’s contour bottle
  • KFC’s Colonel Sanders 
  1. Establish a verbal battlecry

Ries said words alone are not enough. Every brand needs to convert an ordinary slogan into a memorable battlecry. 

There are 5 literary techniques marketers can use for this positioning strategy: Rhyme, alliteration, repetition, reversal, and double entendre. 


  • M&M’s “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (alliteration)
  • Folgers’ “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” (rhyme)
  • DeBeers’ “A diamond is forever” (double entendre)
  1. Branding is more about public relations (PR), not advertising

Ries believed one mistake businesses normally make is to try to put a new idea into prospects’ minds through advertising. Here’s the thing: Advertising doesn’t have the credibility to do that

Instead, businesses should use PR to establish their positions in the marketplace. In Ries’ words: 

“PR first, advertising second.” 

According to Ries, high-performing brands are those that are simple, memorable, and distinctive. They are built on a strong foundation of unique features and benefits, and are able to create an emotional connection with their customers.

Overall, it’s clear that Ries had a profound impact on the world of marketing and branding. His ideas helped shape the way businesses think about their marketing strategies, and his books and articles have become must-reads for anyone interested in the field. 

So, whether you’re a business leader looking to improve your marketing efforts or a marketing student looking to deepen your understanding of the field, Al Ries is a name you need to know! 

He is, without doubt, one of the most prominent gurus of strategic marketing. 

We hope you learned lots of positioning insights from today’s “Marvel!” 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Monday Marketing Marvels”

Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy. 

… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.

The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole. 

What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?

At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success. 

Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators. 

However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place (compliments of Valens Research’s finance group) in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.

We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make our mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.

Hope you found this week’s marketing marvel interesting and helpful. 

Stay tuned for next week’s Monday Marketing Marvels!


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
Powered by Valens Research

View All

You don’t have access to the Valens Research Premium Application.

To get access to our best content including the highly regarded Conviction Long List and Market Phase Cycle macro newsletter, please contact our Client Relations Team at 630-841-0683 or email client.relations@valens-research.com.

Please fill out the fields below so that our client relations team can contact you

Or contact our Client Relationship Team at 630-841-0683