The pre-position proposition

Bringing a great idea to fruition is difficult. Either you have trouble convincing people to make your idea (James Dyson for the life of him could not convince Hoover, Electrolux, or any other large vacuum manufacturer to make his vacuum so he had to do it himself) or the thing gets made, but all the little decisions along the way so corrupt the original intent that the final output is not a success (see Pontiac Aztek.) So many great ideas get lost between the original concept and the final output. Is there anything we can do to help shepherd our innovations so they become everything we know they could be?

Traditionally, a new offering will be designed, developed, and at the end, positioned. That’s where a marketer figures out how to create a place in the consumer mind. (What’s a car? Why, it’s a horseless carriage. What’s a BMW? Well, it’s the ultimate driving machine. What’s an iPod? A thousand songs in your pocket. You see what I mean.) At gravitytank, we pull that forward in the development process and do something we call pre-positioning. Basically, instead of a position that guides how to sell, a pre-position guides what to make.

No matter what the development process, idea path, or stage gate implementation looks like, it all boils down to this: when you’ve got a great idea, first your company has to buy off on it, then customers have to actually buy it. The first thing hinges on confidence, the second on a unified vision. We’ve found that pre-positioning helps with both.

We don’t just create one pre-position for an idea, we try a bunch of them. We explore multiple angles on the actual solution, and different takes on how to talk about it. We use direct consumer interaction along the way to iterate and refine, so that by the time we have the pre-position we want to use the organization has confidence in that specific value proposition and way of framing it for users.

A pre-position also provides unified vision as the concept makes its way through a company. It becomes an organizing principle that aligns thousands of actions and decisions. Feature-prioritization, material choice, engineering specifications, packaging, pricing, channel strategy, branding, and everything else are aligned with the core insight behind a concept at every step of its creation. We find that with our clients, the pre-position is a great tool for keeping the organization aligned across silos and throughout the development process. It works regardless of whether we’re creating a product, store, experience, service or technology.

Kind of like bumpers in bowling that keep the ball out of the gutter, pre-positioning helps each decision-maker in the design and development chain make the small choices that serve the larger goal, and ensures that good ideas become great realities.

written by: Gigi Gormley and