Here are four examples:
- “The project was late” vs. “Ted messed it up”
At one client I could do no wrong. If a project blew up, it was a bad project or circumstances changed or . . . they never thought it could be me. Now I did start with a series of success there so they expected “success” and “great results” from me and generally got them.
There was another individual there I’ll call “Smedley.” People expected Smedley to screw up. If something succeeded, it was despite Smedley. If something went wrong, well, Smedley was involved and “You know he screws everything up.”
- Executive versus Low Level positioning
Positioning is not just good or bad however. For example, if I am brought into an organization by HR or Training, I will never work directly with the executives. It just is not going to happen – I’m associated, positioned, with HR (who executives seem to hate even more than infosec!) or training (seen as a low level function).
If I am brought in by an executive, I can work “down” with others no problem, and am still positioned as a peer to the executives.
At DEC, a great and long term client, I was positioned as “Training” – specifically “Engineering Training,” and remained there. At Cisco I was brought in at a much higher level and had far more flexibility as to types of projects and influence.
- Picasso vs. some unknown artist
Imagine taking a piece of art from a Rock Star of an artist, and slapping a “Smith” or “Jones” on it. Most people won’t like it as much if “Smith or “Jones” painted it than if a famous artist like Picasso or Monet had.
I have a relative who is a somewhat renowned modern artist. Since he is very well regarded, his art must be good, right? My mother thinks so. Actually she says, “I don’t understand Laurent’s art.” In reality she thinks it sucks, but her mind cannot accept that so she just “doesn’t understand it” in her mind.
- Dom Perignon vs. some unknown Champagne
There are lots of phenomenal Champagnes available, and many have very different tastes – personal preferences matter a lot!
Still, to someone that knows nothing about Champagne, a famous brand like Dom Perignon or Cristal impresses. They are much more likely to like it than some equally good or better Champagne that they have never heard of like Krug or Jacques Selosse.
People get what they expect – this makes positioning so hard to change.