COVID-19: Positioning and the Battle for Your Mind

Marketers Al Reis and Jack Trout wrote the human brain only has room for one dominant position for any one topic.

Food or Poison. Pain or Comfort. Friend or Foe.

Pause for a moment. Answer these questions and say your answers out loud, please:

  1. Name a fizzy, dark soda?
  2. What’s the safest automobile?
  3. Your favorite college sports team?
  4. The sweetest fruit?
  5. Best laundry detergent?

When we are done here, call a friend or relative. Ask them the same questions.

How different we all are.

Let’s try another set:

6.‘Liberal’ or ‘Conservative’ values?

7. Stonewall Jackson Statue: remove or keep?

8. ‘Open Carry’ or ‘Why do you need a gun’?

9. ‘Mask’ or ‘No Mask’?

10. ‘Vaccine’ or ‘Hell No’?

Questions 1 thru 8: they take time to unfold. They are not immediate cause and effect actors on your health. You can live to fight another day if forced to drink Coke instead of Pepsi.

The problem with question 9 and 10: one answer mitigates your risk of death. The other may accelerate it dramatically. 

The decision to get vaccinated or not was made well before COVID closed our borders, wrecked our economy, and tragically stole our friends and family from us.

Our brain decided our position before the pandemic decimated our health care system, highlighted the extreme importance of sound leadership, and showed the value of government in protecting public health. Tragically, the die was cast before this monster drove our communities further apart than was thought imaginable.

When George Washington, in 1777, made the decision to mandate inoculations so Smallpox would not kill our army as our country was being created. We had these same conversations.

To get jabbed or not was decided well before our elders ran to the front lines to protect themselves and their communities from polio, measles, and mumps.

Pause and consider this: the Sages of advertising, public relations, and communication research have developed the art and science of marketing to find ways to stake out a position in our minds.

Positions so strong that we will die on a hill for our preferred Brand or team: Chevy or Ford, Coke or Pepsi, Cowboys or Steelers. We have fights over Thanksgiving Dinner that fragment our families over political parties and sports teams. Look at us.

Brands are called Brands because they were originally the way cattle farmers kept track of their steer. A hot iron, an unmistakable mark, seared into the side of an animal hide. Can you hear it?

In 1981 before the barrage of social media, Al Reis and Jack Trout wrote the book “Positioning.” They believed our brains were under attack by messages then.We faced an onslaught of messaging trying to stake out a place in our minds. To win. To become the preferred brand of choice. Now, we have more attacks on our awareness. Dramatically more. Algorithmically, digitally, dopamine-based, exponentially – more.

As much as we want to position ourselves and our intellect above all else: the human brain is very basic. We want to live. So, our brain is wired to choose, learn, and not forget.

Our beliefs regarding other things are influencing our decision to be jabbed today.

Today, I do not have an answer or a recommendation on the next step towards improved public health.

How do we close the gap? How do we create ‘Trust’ again?

Until then. Until we figure that out. Here is my request: ask a medical professional you trusted before the pandemic with your health how to avoid COVID.

The reality I see and hear is that we don’t want COVID. Let’s avoid COVID until we all know more.

So please, ask a medical professional you trusted before the pandemic with your health how to avoid COVID.