By Jim McCarthy May 4, 2012 0 comments

Best Positioning Statement Ever…

In 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace because of a bribery scandal.  Because of this, President Richard Nixon had to pick a Vice President, and he chose the House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford.

Eight months later, President Nixon resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal and Ford became President.

Wow, imagine that trip.  Obviously, Ford was far from an unknown, but to go from being a Congressman that most of the general public had only vaguely heard of to the president in 8 months must have made his head spin.  He stumbled into a job that people devote their entire lives to trying to achieve and almost none of them ever does.  In fact, Ford was thinking he’d finish his term in the Congress and retire, until Nixon asked him to be VP.

The reason people liked Gerry Ford was that he didn’t ever seem to lose sight of the fact that he wasn’t that different from everyone else.  A lot of people would have taken these two truly remarkable strokes of luck (from his personal career point of view anyway) as a sure sign that they truly are superior to other people, just like they always believed.

Not Ford.  And when he first became VP, he said something that not only helped set the expectations people should have of him, but also stands for me as one of the most perfect positioning statements for any product, service, or person that I’ve ever seen or heard.

Here it goes:

“I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.”

Here’s a little marketing history to help.  Lincoln (as in the car) was (and is) the luxury line of Ford Motor Company.  Ford, of course, is the first company that built cars designed to be affordable and available to everyone.

Lincoln also happens to be the name of one of our very greatest presidents.

Ford was saying in six short words that he didn’t see himself as a peer of those great presidents, but at the same time, he could be counted on to do the best he could for the common person.  He put himself right there alongside normal people.

Brilliant.

If you as a marketer of anything can come up with something as succinct and powerful as this, it might be all you need for success, as long as the statement is a plausible match to reality.  I’m not kidding.  A friend of mine who used to work at Starving Students movers told me that the name alone “made their phone ring off the hook.”  They weren’t that inexpensive, but people thought they were.  Their movers weren’t students, but people thought they were.  The name did that work for them.

Come up with something like that, and you are well on your way.
(Yes, I know that Gerald Ford lost the election in 1976, but the fact that an unelected, previously obscure president who saw us through the end of Watergate and the Vietnam war even made it close with Jimmy Carter means that people didn’t exactly hate him.  Or perhaps the fatal flaw in his positioning statement is that he didn’t set expectations too high.  Either way, Ford never seemed to be focused on being President anyway.)

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