Part 3: Mastering the Two Critical Marketing Topics

August 3, 2016

By Roderick M. McNealy, ANA Faculty

Honestly, there are two critical marketing topics. Get these two right and you have gone a tremendous way in differentiating your brand, organization, or persona in an age of sameness. Yet many organizations and individuals either fail to master these concepts or mistakenly believe they understand them when they really don’t. 

The first is positioning. Positioning is everything – the sine qua non of marketing. Specifically, positioning refers to where you stand in the minds of your customers compared to your competition. Every organization should have their positioning statement on the wall of every conference room and above the desk of each employee. In reality, many would be challenged to find even a shared positioning document in the building. 

The second critical marketing topic is insights. Most marketers think they know what insights are, but they often confuse them with data or with “faux” insights. Moreover, no organization has any quantitative data provided by a third party that their competitors do not possess. This was true even during my time at Procter & Gamble, and they have the largest marketing department in the world.

What differentiates marketers is their ability to discover real consumer insights. And these insights are never about products or services. They are not wants or needs. They are the things that wake you up in the middle of the night. They are not bland and boring wishes like, “gee, I wish I owned an annuity for my retirement.” Rather, they are the sweat-inducing true insight, such as, “Will I outlive my money?” Address that insight in your communications and you will speak directly to a consumer entirely focused on your message, because you are speaking directly to them and their psyche.


Rod McNealy is a Princeton University American History Major and Harvard M.B.A. with 35 years’ experience at Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. He is the author of two books and has taught over 5000 students. At his upcoming ANA workshop, Rod will share the three key idea components and cover the vital role insights play in ideas and breakthrough messaging.

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