MSNBC to go liberal! Miller Lite to taste great! Target to get cheaper!

In a crowded market, differentiation is key. Instead of slugging it out over a hotly-contested position, it’s better to find unoccupied ground and plant your flag there.

Today I read that, in response to Fox News’s success in owning the “conservative” position, MSNBC is repositioning itself as the “liberal” news network. (I’ve always thought CNN was the liberal one so it’ll be interesting to see what they do in response.)

Meanwhile, we’ve all been scratching our heads over how MillerCoors should differentiate its two titular brands now that they’re under the same roof. Well, today news hit that Miller Lite is going back to the old “less, filling, tastes great” tagline. Since Coors Light has been doing explosive business from the “cold refreshment” position, this makes their overall positioning strategy clear: Miller light tastes good, Coors Light will refresh you.

From the complete other end of the spectrum comes news that Target is going after Wal-Mart’s value position. This goes against everything in the book; Target owns the practically uncontested “better living through design” position — why abandon it to go after Wal-Mart for the hardest territory to get or defend? Naturally, Target execs see this as simply emphasizing the “cheap” part of their “cheap chic” brand. But I suspect that, like me, Target execs are masochists.