Frequently, I gain valuable insights by applying principles in one area to another seemingly disconnected area. A great example is the concept of ‘positioning’ in marketing how it can work with mindfulness. When combined, mindful positioning is integral in how people operate both at work and in life.
In the world of marketing, one of the most time-honoured concepts is positioning: the place that a brand occupies in the mind of the customer. This is felt to be a crucial component of successful modern marketing. A lot of thought and effort goes into successfully positioning a product, service, company, etc. to emphasize its distinguishing features and create permanent associations in people’s minds.
There are several early examples of positioning before the concept was formalized. For example, in the 1950s, Dove was positioned as a beauty soap for women though it could have just as easily been marketed as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands. It has been argued that above all else, positioning has been the reason for the success (and failure) of most companies in the last few decades.
Ries and Trout, in their highly successful book, Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind (McGraw-Hill 1981) kickstarted our modern approach to positioning. Notably, they speak to the concept of positioning one’s self to make sure others in the workplace have a clear sense of your market/organizational position. It’s fair to say that personal branding/positioning has become increasingly popular even outside of the corporate world. Just recently a manager at Ernst & Young told me that he responds to any electronic message within ten minutes. The reason being that her wants responsiveness to be a key part of his personal positioning.
But I believe the true strength of positioning does not lie in the world of marketing – it lies in the world of mindfulness.
At its core, mindfulness is about knowing one’s ‘Self’. It is about reaching a state of mind that is at peace and distanced from distractions. In such a state, the parts of one’s Self and their interactions become more clear.
To reach such a state, the concept of positioning, and therefore mindful positioning, is extremely powerful. The strength of mindful positioning lies in understanding that we are constantly positioning ourselves in our internal dialogue. We are telling ourselves how we are different from others and how we are different from our past and future selves. As in the world of marketing, we readily enhance and modify memories to fit our perceived position. We do not merely position ourselves in our social interactions, on Instagram and Facebook. Every time we process a memory or make a decision, we position ourselves to ourselves both in positive and negative ways.
This constant internal positioning is highly adaptive and allows us to survive dire circumstances. As it evolved through the millions of years of our hunter-gatherer history, it is focused on our protection and tends to be narrow-minded and avoidant. But, by becoming more aware of this internal marketing through the techniques of mindfulness (namely meditation), an indescribable sense of freedom develops.
In the marketing world, once a position is established, repositioning can be difficult. This is also true with our internal positioning and can often make us inflexible. For example, if our internal dialogue positions us as ‘always prepared,’ it can readily lead to perfectionism and generalized anxiety. Noticing and starting to modify these internal dynamics can be truly liberating. Upholding our perceived Self with more mindful positioning gives us the freedom to modify our dialogue to achieve more balance in our affairs, leading to a healthier, more peaceful life.
We have become increasingly aware of the effects of marketing on our society and cultural values. We are now at a point to start to notice the effect of our internal marketing on ourselves and our individual values. A crucial step towards genuine happiness.