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Like many of us I try to make my way through the traffic every morning to drop the kids at school, and then onwards to the office or an appointment. While the distances are relatively short, there are amany challenges on the way caused by road works, potholes and of course other road users, including motorists, trucks, buses, taxis, pedestrians, sheep, goats and cattle with their herders. As there are almost no sidewalks, everybody uses the main road and although roads have been widened, one or two of the lanes are effectively not available for cars as they are occupied by parked vehicles and pedestrians, not to mention the competing minibuses. No problem though as we endure each other and go through the daily routine, some of us more patiently than others. What often surprises me is what happens at roundabouts, a structure which is meant to allow smooth passage of traffic coming from all directions. I see cars driving on the inner lane, while they want to exit from the roundabout only meters away. I also see drivers doing the opposite, remaining on the outer lane for a 270 or even 360 degrees circumnavigation of the circle. Traffic policemen do their best to control and direct the traffic, but their efforts are impatiently honked away by the motorists, who think they have waited long enough. Anyway, the driver of the car on the inner lane has put himself or herself in a poor position to make a smooth and fast exit. As a result, others are cut off and pushed aside, while a way is forced through to the outer lane and the exit. Anticipating the exit, an earlier and more gradual move from the inner to the outer lane would have been more effective.
Last Wednesday evening I watched one of the World Cup qualifying football matches and saw England take the lead only a few minutes into the game. While the goal was not that brilliant in itself, what impressed me was the way in which the England striker managed to get a touch on the ball, which then somehow rolled past the goalkeeper. It was his anticipation and position in between the defenders which allowed him to be there first and which saw to it that his name was displayed on the scoreboard.
Now, what has all this to do with doing business? It brings me to the issue of positioning. Strategically, that is. Developing a positioning strategy depends much on how competitors position themselves. The question is then whether you want to develop a “me too” strategy and position yourself close to your competitors so customers can make a direct comparison when they want to make their purchase, or whether you want to develop a strategy in which you position yourself “away from the competition”, offering superior benefits. Ultimately, positioning is about how you want consumers to perceive your products and services and what strategies you adopt to reach this perceptive goal. So, while positioning begins with your product, it is really about positioning that product in the mind of the customer. The easiest way to get into the consumer’s mind is to be the first. For most people it is easy to remember who is first and much more difficult to remember who follows. Even if the second offers a better product, the establishment who moved first has a large advantage that can make up for other shortcomings. Historically, the top three brands in a product category occupy a market share in a 4:2:1 ratio. This means that the number one brand has twice the market share of number two, who has twice the market share of number three. And the success of a brand is mostly due to the fact that a company was the first, less to the level of marketing. 
To maintain the market leadership position you should do certain things. What you should not do is boast about being number one. Instead, the advertising campaign should reinforce this fact, following a multi brand strategy and the company must be willing to embrace change. When new market opportunities open up, a successful firm will consider entering the new market so that it will have the first-move advantage.
Second-place companies are often late because they have chosen to spend valuable time improving their product before launching it. However, it is better to be first and establish leadership. And if a product is not going to be first, it then must find an unoccupied position in which it can be first (in price, for certain people, time of day, location and quantity, for example). It will be a mistake to try and appeal to everyone. A product that seeks to be everything to everyone will end up as nothing to everyone.
Other strategies that are used include:
Repositioning the competition in case there is no unique position to carve out; this is done by convincing consumers to view a competitor in a different, often negative way.
Choosing a memorable name that conjures up images and will help position the product.
In conclusion, the concept of positioning applies to products in the broadest sense. Services, tourist destinations, countries can all benefit from a well-developed positioning strategy that focuses on a niche that is unoccupied in the mind of the consumer.
We should be able to capitalize on all that Ethiopia has to offer and is unique in and position Ethiopian products strategically indeed. And while Ethiopia may still be perceived negatively by many as a result of the past, this may seem a tall order, but it is not impossible. We have 13 months of sunshine after all.