The debate between Larry Light (McDonald's) and Jack Trout (Positioning Legend) is one that can generate some good old fashion marketing dialog and debate.
McDonald's has seen some success recently. Larry Light, Executive Vice President - Global Chief Marketing Officer for McDonald's has attributed it to his 'Brand Chronicle' theory.
Basically, conveying the idea that McDonald's will be everything to everybody.
When doing this, he downplayed the idea of Positioning, which resulted in a response by Jack Trout in Ad Age stating that the perfect marketing and positioning statement for McDonald's was sitting right under the golden arches: " The world's favorite place to eat."
So, who's right? Well, let's consider the state of the burger industry. Trout points out Burger King just closed hundreds of locations throughout the country. Where'd those burger eaters go?
Probably to McDonald's.
When your competition pulls out, you are likely to pick up business. It's just how it works.
I remember in 1993 or so, picking up Ad Age and reading that Branding was dead. In the following weeks, the industry went crazy and the revitalization of the phrase grew and grew and is now more than ever a staple term for our industry.
Positioning is a theory that plays off of our brain's capacity to only hold and recognize a certain amount of information.
I'm going to go out on a limb. Jack Trout is correct, if McDonald's keeps trying to attract young, hip folk into their establishments with a clown and a playground on site - I can't see how they can make it cool.
The place doesn't match the marketing I'm seeing. Which is another problem. I am nothing like the people I see in the marketing for McDonald's - so why am I seeing it. It's in the wrong place. I'm 34, married with three children looking at twentysomethings taking off their shirts?!?
Call it whatever you want: Branding, Positioning, Brand Chronicles.
Products must mean something, or they mean nothing. Each person will have a different relationship with your product, but you cannot control it.
Back in the 1950's Rosser Reeves continually showed that some advertising reduced sales (let's see what happens next quarter). You might say to me that "it's not the 1950's." To that I would say, people's brains still work the same.
I truly believe that if a company other than McDonald's followed their lead and diversified their key selling message/proposition, the results would be declining sales, customer disconnect, lower traffic - unless its competitors decide to close up shop and customers had fewer choices.
We'll see, but for now, I'm on Jack Trout's side.