In past posts we’ve talked about how worldviews influence the way people think about important issues and what we can do to change people’s opinions. What we’re really trying to accomplish in those situations is reposition someone’s reality; trying to make them see an important topic from a different point of view so we can find some common ground upon which to build better conversations.
Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of customers and how that brand is distinguished from a competitors’ products.
In 1969, Jack Trout, a marketing consultant and one of the founders and pioneers of positioning theory, stated that positioning is a mental device used by consumers to simplify information inputs and store new information in a logical place.
As readers of The Farmer’s Survival Guide know, we’re all about digging into the “mental devices” of brain science and showing you how to use that knowledge to influence and spark deeper connections with consumers. Effective persuasion and influence techniques rely on a solid understanding of how the brain receives, processes, stores, and retrieves information. Mental devices like heuristics and cognitive biases help the brain do just that: sort, simplify, and position your messages in the brain’s “logical places”.
We can use positioning as a tactic to help us shift how people think about agriculture, to frame information in a way that makes things clear from the start. We can then reposition the reader or listener’s reality proactively at the starting line instead of reactively at the finish.
Here are three ways you can do that:
Address biases – As mentioned above, positioning refers to the space a brand (agriculture) occupies in a user’s (consumer) mind – and the mind can be a funny machine. Learning about heuristics and cognitive biases can help you work with or around these mental shortcuts and non-conscious biases for better reception, sorting, comprehension, and retention of information.
Cognitive biases are an inherent part of what makes us human and, for better or worse, they’re not going away. The up side is that the better we understand them, the more often we can suppress them or leverage them for our own benefit. Basically, keep reading our blog to gain an insider’s look at the processes that lead us to think certain ways and how to mitigate them. (Shameless self-promotion plug!)
Framing – Framing “comprises a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies, organize, perceive, and communicate about reality.” That is, the way in which you present and/or word your message will trip off certain models and constructs in someone’s mind. For example, when President Richard Nixon denied any wrong-doing during the Watergate scandal he publicly declared, “I am not a crook.” Immediately, the word crook had lodged itself into the listener’s brain, lumping Nixon into the frame of ‘crook’ and positioning him in this frame of reference in subsequent reader/listener interactions.
The way information is framed is so powerful that whichever frame is activated first in someone’s mind will be the most dominant as the dialogue progresses. Saying that something is “90% efficient” sounds better than saying something has “only a 5% failure rate,” even though they are essentially saying the same thing. However, by using the former rather than the latter, you’ve framed your information in a positive light.
Framing and positioning go hand-in-hand since they both focus on meaning‐making and constructing identities. To present information in the way you want it to be viewed, you must first establish the frames within which you want your listener to receive the information. You also need to adapt your language to use words that conjure up the images and ideas of the position (frame) you want to create.
Reframing is not easy. You must be acutely aware of the words you use. The power of combining framing and language that resonates (see below) is summed up in the old adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
It will take time and practice to keep modifying your frame(s) until you hit on a successful combination. It can be such a precise science that organizations like the FrameWorks Institute research and publicly share “empirical guidance on what to say, how to say it, and what to leave unsaid.”
Use of language – Avoid using the language of the ‘other side’, especially negative language, since this will activate and strengthen frames that undermine your messages. Choose words that pique people’s natural curiosity and their thirst for knowledge, rather than their defense mechanisms, to help them think critically and logically through facts and arguments. Figure out what words and ideas/themes resonate with that particular audience to help them connect with your messages emotionally. Repeat the same word or words in successive sentences to build excitement and help position your ideas in the right brain drawer of your listener.
How would you use the power of [re]positioning to help generate conversational impact? Share your ideas with us using the hashtag #FSGtip.
 Jack Trout (1969). “Positioning” is a game people play in today’s me-too market place”. Industrial Marketing: 51–55.