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The Greatest Positioning Of All Time

June 4th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

I am always engaged by footage of American G.I.s storming the beach at Normandy.

It engenders a sense of pride. Yet, it is war at its worst…and, given the courage of those men, at its best, if there is such a thing.

This is how a powerfully produced commercial that I saw last night, starts. Film rolling, the voiceover says,

We didn’t wait for someone else to storm the beaches at Normandy.

Cut to footage of a civil rights march in the Deep South in the sixties and then to the Washington Mall and the “I had a dream” speech by Martin Luther King.

The music is dramatic, compelling. The voice over continues,

We didn’t wait for someone else to guarantee civil rights,

Or, footage of the first moon landing

put a man on the moon.

And, shots of a toxic sky,

we can’t wait for someone else to solve the global climate crisis

We need to act and we need to act now.

Join us. Together we can solve the climate crisis.

The ad is part of $300 million advertising campaign promoted by Al Gore and sponsored by The Alliance for Climate Protection.

This is positioning at its most brilliant: position global warming with the three most revered occurrences of the twentieth century – the invasion of Normandy, Martin Luther King’s I had a dream speech and the first man on the moon.

Truly inspired.

There is just one little problem: the advertisement, in all its positioning glory, promotes a falsehood.

Global warming is a myth; temperatures have been cooling for over a decade. And carbon dioxide is what helps plants grow. Don’t get me wrong, environmental problems abound on this planet. But carbon dioxide is not the source of them, and this is becoming increasingly evident to the public as a growing hit parade of studies that made that claim are now being exposed as fraudulent.

But my point here is this: if there’s one cardinal rule in advertising, it’s don’t lie to your public. Look what happens when you do. The following graph was taken from a poll by Gallup.

From 2008, when the above advertising campaign started, to March of 2010, the percentage of people that think the seriousness of global warming has been exaggerated has increased from 35% to 48%. The uptrend starts before that, but the major upswing is in the last two years.

It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature (even if you’re Al Gore.)

The rule holds even more stringently in public relations. A current example is playing in the headlines as I write this: Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, who is running for Chris Dodd’s U.S. Senate seat, has often spoken about his service in Vietnam and how he and other troops were mistreated when they returned home.

Enter the New York Times, which turned up an inconvenient truth, Dickie Boy never served in Vietnam – in fact he managed to acquire 5, count ‘em 5, deferments.

His poll numbers have crashed.

I am not a fan of Bill Clinton. But let’s be honest, he presided over the longest period of economic expansion in American history. Still, Arkansas’ favorite son will always be remembered first and foremost for his sexual escapades in the White House and then lying about them.

Clinton was known to be a philanderer and was still elected. He was impeached for perjury, not for violating his marriage vows and embarrassing Hillary to the rest of the planet.

Several of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies have been sued by state and federal regulators and have had to pay billions in fines and penalties because they lied about their drugs’ uses or effectiveness.

Notice, by the way, the use of the politically incorrect verb, “lie.” When Blumenthal, caught on video tape saying he had served in Vietnam when he was never within thousands of miles of the place, he held a press conference and apologized for having “misspoken.”

No, Dude, you lied.

“Misspoke” is the euphemism du jour when someone is caught on a live mic (thought to be off) or on “film” lying or saying what they really think.

The real message is this, it doesn’t matter how good your positioning is if it is false.

But as long as you are promoting something that you can deliver, when surveys are done that enable you to craft a unique position for your product, the clouds part, the angels sing and the cash register chimes like the bells of Saint Mary’s.

And that, of course, is exactly what we have been doing for nearly a quarter of a century. We conduct surveys that drive sales.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your marketing, call us directly or visit us on the worldwide web at the address below.