Commentary

Stop Putting 10 Pounds Of Copy Into A 5-Pound Page

The Conditional Positioning Principle: The less absolutely a brand is defined, the more that customers, especially older customers, will define the brand in terms of their unique self-image, personality characteristics and individualized perceptions of need and desire.

Baby Boomers are more resistant to absolutism. Absolute positioning (putting ten pounds of copy into a five-pound page), aims to push the product and generate uniform perceptions of a brand while Conditional Positioning allows individual diverse perceptions/interpretations of a brand. It is a powerful marketing tool based upon research about how people respond to absolute statements vs. conditional statements.

The younger minds tend to see reality in simpler terms than aging minds do, and they tend to see things in terms of absolute states or conditions: either something is or it is not. In contrast, Baby Boomers typically tend to have greater appreciation for the finer definition that nuance and subtlety give a matter. This bias results from a combination of experience, imagination and age-related changes in how the brain processes information. The older the person the higher the likelihood the person will show greater resistance to absolute product positioning than a younger person is likely to reflect. 

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Psychologist Ellen Langer has conducted many studies concerning the stimulation of imagination for defining objects. She has found that the more absolutely someone defines an object for others, the less creatively they will perceive it. In marketing, the takeaway is: To get customers to put their imaginations to work to define a product a brand’s positioning should be more about the customer than the product. The message should reflect the company’s product/service as a gateway to meaningful experiences.

Langer's work in the study of the role of creative thinking holds important lessons for marketers, especially those striving for a larger share of Baby Boomer markets. When offering a product or service, knowing how to employ the customer's imagination to engender positive responses is the psychological equivalent of how a judo master works. 

The judo master leverages the strength of his adversary to achieve his purposes. Using Conditional Positioning (less can be more), the marketer allows the prospect to interpret the message based upon her/his history of individual experiences likely imagining richer positive attributes about the product/service than can be portrayed in any ad following the principles of Absolute Positioning(tell ’em everything)

Moreover, the Baby Boomer’s more mature personality typically has a greater capacity for applying his or her imagination to product definition than existed earlier in life because greater experience gives the older person more images in memory to which they can key their imaginations. Adopting a Conditional Positioning approach can provide marketers the ability to move from net fishing to fly fishing. From creating ads that attempt to push all the features of a product or service to try to meeting everyone’s needs and wants, to pulling the customer into the ad using their own imagination.

Cognitive research has shown that the human brain will finish incomplete pictures or fill in missing information based on personal experiences. That is part of the power of Conditional Positioning. A conditionally positioned brand projects human values rather than product or company claimed characteristics, leaving consumers to infer product or company characteristics from the values projected.

Conditional Positioning also respects customer autonomy. It projects willingness to let customers largely define your message. But, it also makes it possible for more customers to connect with the message because they, not the copywriter, determine what the message says. This approach presents your brand in a customer-centric manner, rather than with a product-centric focus. 

Finally, Conditional Positioning focuses less on demographically defined types of customers and more on types of customer motivational factors, especially as various levels of psychological and sociological maturity influence them. Through Conditional Positioning you make the messaging and imagery focused on the consumer and their needs, not on your brand and its features. Conditional Positioning deserves greater attention from marketers because Baby Boomers generally depend more on themselves to determine the value of a brand than on values espoused by a copywriter.

2 comments about "Stop Putting 10 Pounds Of Copy Into A 5-Pound Page".
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  1. Patricia Friedlander from Word-Up!, July 6, 2015 at 10:58 a.m.

    This needs to be proofread! The "that" in the lede is unncessary and no matter how important you think conditional positioning is, it should not be capitalized. (And baby boomers in caps is questionable.) That's for starters. Hard to read this--very clunky sentence structures.

  2. Brent Green from Brent Green & Associates, Inc., July 8, 2015 at 11:18 a.m.

    Conditional Positioning as Jim Gilmartin conveys the concept here, originates with David Wolfe, author of Serving the Ageless MarketAgeless Marketing, and Firms of Endearment (as co-author). It can be the discretion of an author/thought leader to elevate common nouns to proper nouns (or, more properly, common names), thus a form of conceptual branding (ergo, Guerilla Marketing--a brand--rather than guerilla marketing--a process). Jim is paying some homage to our mentor who has had enormous influence on our understanding of marketing to older adults. 

    Further, I have for over twelve years disagreed with those who treat Baby Boomers as a common name, thus "baby boomers." Originally the notion of this generational segment was merely a newly observed demographic phenomenon, as delineated by Landon Jones, former managing editor of People magazine, through his 1980 bellwether book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation. Many media organizations still adhere to describing the generation as "baby boomers."


    Baby Boomers, as used widely today, has become a descriptor (or brand) for a particular generation, thus a "name of a particular person, place, thing, or event" ... in this case, a particular "thing." Every other generational designation is conveyed as a proper name: Lost Generation, GI Generation, Silent Generation, Generation X, Generation Y (or Millennials), and Generation Z. After thirty-five years, it's time for media organizations and grammar police to accept that the generation referred to as "Baby Boomers" is rarely conveyed as merely a descriptor of a demographic phenomenon but rather as a proper name, a two-word conceptual summation of 76 million Americans born from 1946 through 1964.


     

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