What Security Executives Should Know About Marketing

A Q&A with Wharton Professor Jagmohan Raju on selling security to corporate leaders


For a product launch, the marketing mix is traditionally referred to as the "4 Ps" - product, price, place, and promotion. Each of these four dimensions, and perhaps a few others, must be addressed in designing marketing plans. The product itself, its pricing, where it is offered, and the promotions that are used to support it will all affect its success. In launching new initiatives internally, the product might be thought of as the design of the initiative itself. Pricing is a little less directly applicable, but there are questions about what participating in the initiative will cost a given manager or employee. How much time is involved? Are there other direct costs? Do business units need to invest in new equipment or training? The price of participation will affect the uptake of the initiative, so making sure it is not more than the market will bear is critical. Place is also a concern. Where and how should the initiative be rolled out? Should it be in a large meeting or individually, top-down or bottom up? Finally, there is the question of promotion. What are you going to give to participants in the initiative to encourage them to participate? These could range from simple T-shirts or mugs to promote the initiative to more substantial offerings. You need to ask what will be the most effective approaches.

What is positioning, and how is it relevant?

Positioning identifies the target segment, the point of difference, and a frame of reference. Who is the target audience of the initiative? How is it different? And what is the context for it? Markets can be segmented in many different ways, including geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioral segmentation. The goal is to identify an attractive segment for the product or initiative, a few key benefits that the customer values and a position that is defensible. When Procter & Gamble initially launched Pringles, it was targeted toward heavy potato chip consumers, differentiated based on being less greasy, unbroken and healthier and positioned against other potato chips sold in bags. Of course, P&G later had to rethink this positioning, but this illustrates some of the key elements of positioning a new product or initiative. Positioning might be thought of as choosing the right pond. Am I in the right pond? Am I the biggest fish in this pond?

The positioning statement should focus on a unique selling proposition or value proposition for the buyer. It should be mind-grabbing and clearly stated in 30 seconds or less. It also needs to be defensible. It is not advertising or branding, but something broader.

Why is positioning important?

By itself, a great product or initiative is not a guarantee of success. You may have a better mousetrap but the world does not beat a path to your door. The initiative sometimes will not speak for itself. You need to present it in a way that clearly has value for the target audience if you want them to adopt it. Sometimes good positioning can make a winner out of a loser, and many good ideas go nowhere because of poor positioning. The cost of bad positioning can be quite high.

About this series: The Wharton/ASIS program superbly stimulates security improvement through educational reform by promoting better business comprehension and decision making by security executives. If you are interested in this program, please call 800-255-3932, ext. 4401, or send an email to execed@wharton.upenn.edu. Interviews with professors from the Wharton/ASIS security executive managment training program will be featured regularly on SecurityInfoWatch.com.