Before getting into the specifics of horizontal vs vertical brand positioning, let me start with some examples.

Since at least early 2014, Esurance has been running a new campaign with the tagline, “7 1/2 minutes could save you on car insurance.” And although the Beatrice ad does amuse me, I want to explain why the thinking and strategy behind these ads are flawed.

But to do that, we first need to talk about impotence.

How Cialis stole share from market leader Viagra

When Viagra launched, it quickly became a billion dollar brand by giving guys with erectile dysfunction a 4 hour window to…well, you know. The blue pill quickly entered the pop culture arena solidifying Viagra’s market dominance.

Then along came Cialis who wanted to challenge market behemoth Viagra. Cialis’ scientists had created a formula that gave men a 36 hour window instead of 4 hours to…um, again you know.

The decision on how to market that difference was pivotal in Cialis’ history.

Now please bear with me for this next part while I discuss horizontal vs vertical positioning.

Cialis’ marketing team could have taken a vertical position and gone head-to-head with Viagra by saying, “We’re better than Viagra because we last 36 hours.”

But they were smarter than that. See, they had done their research and understood the role that the partner plays in lovemaking. Erectile dysfunction isn’t just about the guy. It’s about the girl too and creating an intimate experience for them both.

Viagra’s 4 hours often created rushed or pressured lovemaking due to the narrow window.

Cialis instead took a horizontal position by saying, “We’re different than Viagra because we allow you to be ready when the time is right.”

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They selected a different product attribute to be known for and that seemingly simple difference was very powerful and the reason why Cialis quickly stole market share from heavy hitter and incumbent Viagra.

Esurance is taking a vertical position with Geico

Esurance’s message is simply, “We’re faster than Geico at giving you a quote.” That’s a purely vertical position. They have chosen to directly attack Geico’s tagline “Save 15% in 15 minutes.”

I cannot disagree more with this decision.

Besides lacking creativity, it lacks a benefit for the consumer. Remember that rather than emphasizing the 36 hours, Cialis focused on the benefit of those 36 hours – no pressure lovemaking.

For Esurance, the problem with just saying, “It takes as little as 7 1/2 minutes instead of 15 minutes,” is that the statement is a feature not a benefit. What do I gain? How does a faster quote improve my insurance and quality of life?

There is nothing compelling in that claim. It lacks any emotional connection with the consumer. That’s not how any of this works.

It’s a plea for attention and business.

And I’m not buying it.

Be like Cialias, not Esurance

Take your your key customer benefit and help the customer understand why your product or service is different and more compelling, not just longer, bigger, faster, blah, blah, blah.