Monday, January 30, 2017

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

The Battle For Your Mind
By Al Ries and Jack Trout
Published by McGraw Hill
$20 ($10.08 at Amazon)

Normally I don't talk about the 'business' books I read. Mainly they don't often offer enough material that I'd be able to relate to gaming. Now that's often my weakness as opposed to the book, but Positioning is one where as I was reading it, I could see how it actually sometimes worked in how games are presented.

For example, Dungeons and Dragons is one of the oldest role playing games around. It's taken the title of "grandfather" of games and it's used that as a means of staying if not number one, easily number two in a field that is very crowded.

One of the rules of positioning? Get their first. Or at least make it seem like you're first. Get their first and stay viable? When ads sing "Coke is the Real Thing", well, that's a positioning bit talking about the age of it.

Another one that's good? Anyone remember the old Rolemaster Ads that had specific instances of criticals compared to "You hit and do 6 points of damage?" This would be the "against" position. In this case, the specifics of Rolemaster are being put directly against the genericness of Dungeons and Dragons. In relating itself specifically to the rules of another system, it 'positions' itself for those who want those specific rules and aren't getting them in Dungeons and Dragons.

Mind you, this whole trick was used against Rolemaster at a later time when Rolemaster jokingly became known as 'Chart Master'. What's good for the goose...

I don't know if the book's themes always pan out in role playing fields though. For example, it talks about the dangers of line expansion. About how if you're not first and not filling a specific niche, then if you take your brand and make it cover too much, you're brand doesn't stand for much of anything. On one hand, Dungeons and Dragons does this well.

Most of the other games that covered different genres had different names, even when they used the same rules. For DnD specifically, you have Greyhawk, Spelljammer, etc... When they didn't cover the same rules, you have Alternity, Star Frontiers , Gamma World, etc... But those often didn't do that well.

Part of that may have been the positoning in and of itself. For example, while Alternity did have a setting, there were parts that it branched outside of it. Weakening the brand?

On the other hand, what about generic game engines like GURPS and Hero? Did Star Hero weaken the brand while Champions, with it's unique and distinct history behind it, stay the pack leader? Or is it super heroes are more popular than generic science fiction?

Positioning is a fascinating look at how marketing can work and if you're and older gamer like me, a great way to look at how different advertisements work and don't work in the gaming field.

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