Surprise us: Seeking examples of SURPRISING positioning statements

We write a lot here, and we hope that it helps you. Now I’m looking for your input. Can you help? If you do, I will feature you on our blog. But I need the responses within 1 day!

The request

I am looking for examples of positioning that takes the buyer by surprise. The classic example of this is AVIS, as told and retold by Ries and Trout in their classic books on marketing and positioning. Avis: We are only #2AVIS was not the leader in its category, so it claimed a different position: “We are only #2, but we try harder.” Very few companies would be willing to admit that they have a #2 position, but AVIS did, and it was a successful move.

Why? Because Hertz – then the market leader – could not dispute the claim. “At Avis, the lines are shorter!” How could Hertz argue with that? Hertz is/was the leader, so they must have longer lines! (This was before the no-checking Gold service.)

I believe that positioning statements need to be surprising. Too many positioning statements are ineffective because they are boring, and frankly, not believable.

Some examples of useless, un-believable positioning:

  • your companies claim to be a leading vendor when you are really a trailing vendor in your space
  • you are not leading in the main space, so you say you are the leader in a space that no one cares about

Boring. Ineffective.

Can you help? Find examples of surprising positioning statements!

I would like your input here. Please comment below, or email me, with examples of positioning statements that are surprising, unique, and disarming.

Fame will be yours

I need your responses within 1 day. I will write an article discussing the responses. All the super-compelling examples will be highlighted on our blog, with a shout out to your LinkedIN profile, a picture of you if you like, or a link to a page or article about you.

– Alan


9 responses to “Surprise us: Seeking examples of SURPRISING positioning statements

  1. There are basically three different strategies for positioning a product. The Avis positioning exemplifies two of them:

    – Highlight the strength within your weakness.
    – Attack the weakness within the leading competitor’s strength.

    The other one is portraying your product/company as an antidote to a market problem.

    • Hi Roger – Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, those are the principles underlying Avis’ move, and straight out of the Ries and Trout textbooks. I’m looking for companies that have done a good job of it, particularly in ways that surprise the potential buyer. Actual examples. Enterprise software examples? CPG examples?

  2. Sorry, Alan, I know you’re looking for examples. If I think of one, I’ll post it 🙂

    In the meantime, I thought it was important to be explicit about the guidelines for positioning a product. Several blogs have recently addressed the topic of positioning (including this one), but I’ve been disappointed to see that none of them has explicitly mentioned the Ries and Trout guidelines.

  3. I’ve been surprised by the small response with specific suggestions. Thanks for weighing in.

  4. this reminds me of a talk I saw by Robert Cialdini, where he suggested that you’re message should start with the negative and end with the positive.

    my favorite example was the one he used for Lancome, who’s positioning was:

    “It’s expensive…but you’re worth it. “

  5. What about the manufacturer Ronseal in the UK, who uses the tagline “It does exactly what it says on the tin” ? I know, I know, we’re getting distracted by talking about tag lines and not positioning statements, but of course a true positioning statement is rarely going to be broadcast to the world as-is. In this case, Ronseal is positioning themselves as reliable and trustworthy by making transparent claims and NOT promising the world. Similar to your Avis example about not trying to say “we’re #1”. No hype, no bombast, no superlatives. (In truth, they do have their share of “uniques”, “ultimates”, and “ideals” in their copywriting, but the message is still pretty clear across all their products.)

  6. Perhaps the granddaddy of them all was the VW campaign (from, oh, 40+ years ago). It played on the unattractive appearance and reliability of the original VW with tag lines such as “Ugly is only skin deep”and “Stays ugly longer”. You may be familiar with the floating VW ad ( that was part of this long-running campaign.

    Here’s one discussion of the positioning technique, ( and a little more on the campaign itself (

    And finally, a link to an article about Bill Bernbach, whose groundbreaking agency created it. The article also mentions several other campaigns that would be enlightening to a student of positioning.

  7. As a product, Marmite, a toast spread popular mainly in UK, Australia and Singapore, has definitely surprised and polarized its consumers for many years. There are those who get addicted to its slightly burnt, bitter taste (like me). And others who can’t bear to be in the same room.

    Their marketing decided to actually acknowledge this fact and prominently talks about “I hate Marmite” in its ads and webpages. Very brave and interesting, IMHO.