From The Collective – October 2017

This month I published my first book, Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition. The process has been extremely rewarding and even more so because I know my parents would have loved to see me go from writer to author. Hard to believe that at my age it still feels good to do something you know your parents would be proud of, even if they are not around to say so. And already I’m in the process of planning a second book!
My inspiration for this one, though, came from my clients. I have worked to help companies in the technology industry get traction for their products and services for decades. Over the course of my career, I was lucky enough to launch several innovations that changed the course of the industry including the video game Asteroids, the Macintosh computer, Pixar the company, the 68030 microprocessor, the desktop publishing revolution, the PowerPC, the first very light jet and the world’s largest lost and found among others. Each of these companies taught me a lot about the grit involved in changing the course of history and, in turn, I worked hard to help them position their innovations successfully in the market. These are the people who inspired me to write this book and the people who supported my framework and let me hone it on their dime. Thank you!
It came to be a book concept one day when I had a client ask me how I was going to help him with the process of positioning his product against an industry giant. I found the only answer that came to mind was this: “Well, I learn about your product and the market and then I figure out how to articulate a position for you that differentiates you from the competition.” He was taken aback. “You just ‘figure it out’”? he asked. “How???”
I realized I didn’t know how. I just did it like everyone else in my industry. I put my creativity into motion and developed compelling statements and taglines. But his question disturbed me. Why didn’t I know how I “figured it out?” He made me think about what I was actually doing and I saw opportunity in the journey of reverse engineering my “Ta Da’s!” If I could explain how I did it, then maybe other companies could benefit from the process and maybe some of those would become clients.
So I did just that. I locked myself in my office in downtown Palo Alto over a rainy weekend and emerged with a “positioning DNA” model that neatly organized all companies into three categories: Mothers, Mechanics and Missionaries—or Customer-focused, Product-focused and Concept-focused. I carefully reviewed all the clients with whom I had worked up to that point and realized that Customer companies organize themselves differently from Product and Concept companies. Product companies hire different kinds of people than do Customer and Concept companies. And Concept companies measure success differently from their Customer and Product brethren. 
I then dug deeper into each DNA type and realized there are only two directions to choose within each one—I call them genotypes—with regard to positioning. Customer companies position around Customer Segmentation or Customer Experience. Product companies position around Features or Value. And Concept companies position around either a Cult of Personality or the Next Big Thing—or sometimes both. I realized that once you know what your DNA is and you know your genotype, you gain two advantages. First you can align your operations against your DNA which is always an advantage. And second you can take your product or service to market much more authentically because your marketing will be consistent with your DNA. My motto here has become this: Know who you are so you can make something of it.
So this is a book for CEOs, boards of directors, marketing people, communications people and all people who seek to discover the DNA of their companies to create internal alignment and go to market with authenticity. My hope is that it helps executives answer the two most important questions in business: Who are you? And why do you matter? That is the essence of positioning and the raison d'être for my firm, Cunningham Collective. Everyone deserves to “get to aha” with their corporate positioning. And now there’s a framework to help you get there.

The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound.
Please help support the book by leaving a review on Amazon.

Upcoming events

Menlo College Oaktoberfest: In Deep with Angie Coiro Radio Show (Live Taping with Andy Cunningham)
Menlo Park, CA
October 28, 2017
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In Brand Positioning, Less is More, Brand Strategy Insider
October 4, 2017
Andy Cunningham

Core DNA and the corresponding genotypes offer an opportunity to narrow positioning choices while at the same time ensuring that a company’s position is aligned with its identity. Once you know your genetic makeup and the DNA “set” in which you thrive, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands (even potentially millions) of ways to position your product or service: gluten-free snacks for the toddler set, a temperature-sensitive tea kettle that also brews coffee, adventure tours for extreme skiers, light aircraft for commuters. Read more

Motherhood Isn’t For Everyone, McGraw-Hill Business Blog
September 26, 2017
Andy Cunningham

Customer experience isn’t for everyone. Really. If it’s not part of your corporate DNA, you shouldn’t make it the focal point of your business. That should be an expression of your DNA. If you’re truly a customer-oriented company, or a “Mother” (in the parlance of my new book, Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate the Competition), customer service should be paramount. But if you happen to be a product-oriented company, or a “Mechanic,” product features and value need to take center stage. And if you’re the bearer of a world-changing concept, or a “Missionary,” your Next Big Thing or Cult of Personality should reign supreme. Read more




Uber confirms CEO hire
San Jose Mercury News
August 29, 2017

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