Obviously Awesome by April Dunford [Actionable Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford (part of the business book summaries collection). Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Tight, to-the-point book on product positioning without unnecessary fluff or gimmicks. Obviously Awesome will make you dangerously good at framing your products and cutting through the noise. The author, April Dunford, is an expert in making complicated services easy for customers to get. In this read, she shares her field-tested approach that will show you how your products can finally be perceived by your customers as (obviously) awesome.

The Core Idea:

Nothing is more important than product positioning. Even if what you’re selling is useful, if you can’t correctly communicate this with your potential clients, all of your efforts will be wasted. Obviously Awesome will help you think about your product from the perspective of your clients. Then, make the necessary changes to your message, and adjustments to your product roadmap, so customers can finally figure out why they should buy what you offer.


  • It doesn’t matter what type of product you have. If it’s not properly positioned and placed in the right context. People still won’t care.
  • If people don’t get what you’re selling, they won’t buy. You need to make your features obvious in the eyes of your customers.
  • How you think about your product will also impact how your product will evolve. Misinterpret what the market wants, and you’ll waste years creating something others will not want.

6 Key Lessons from Obviously Awesome:

Lesson #1: Why Positioning is Important and What Happens When You Don’t Do It

The first time product positioning was mentioned was in 1981. In a publication by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

The reason this concept became necessary for brands was the uprising of products that copied other products. While users were previously able to choose between one or two items in a category. Suddenly, the market was crowded and buyers were overwhelmed with the available options.

Simply launching a product wasn’t enough. You now had to figure out how to present your offering in the best possible way, so your strengths can appear as superior to your competitors.

And as technology advances, this need to showcase what you offer in the best and simplest possible way is getting even more important.

The author argues that when customers see a product they have never seen before, they immediately start to look for clues. Similarities in the packaging, the message, the overall feel, and compare these with what they already know from other products. These observations help them answer the following questions: What is this? Who it is for? Should I care about this?

April Dunford illustrates product positioning as similar to an opening scene in a movie. As the first few minutes are crucial for a movie because they set the expectations of the viewer. The same is true for product positioning. You want, right from the start, to associate your product with other similar products in the right category and also to set the right expectations. If you fail to do so, viewers, or as in your case buyers, will walk away confused, disappointed. Or worse, not interested at all.

But that’s not the only problem. The market is constantly changing. Even if you put a lot of effort into positioning your product in the best possible way, this framework will probably become obsolete a couple of years from now. Meaning that it’s a continuous effort towards defining how you’re better than the rest.

“If we fail at positioning, we fail at marketing and sales. If we fail at marketing and sales, the entire business fails.” April Dunford

Lesson #2: World-Class Products Positioned Poorly Will Fail

Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed violinist, who sells out concerts in minutes, was asked to play the violin in a busy subway station in Washington, DC.

The Washington Post, conducting this contextual experiment wanted to see if people will appreciate his skills regardless of where he was playing – positioned.

Would people heavily support his efforts and match his regular paycheck which is around $300 per ticket, or they will simply associate him with “another” street artist? That was the main question.

It turned out to be the latter.

Reportedly, Bell performed for around forty-five minutes and earned $32.17 in total. More than 1000 people passed by him and out of those people only 27 gave him money and only 7 paused to fully appreciate his talent.

In interviews after that, most people said that he’s “just a guy trying to make a buck.”

What does this experiment tell us?

When Joshua Bell is positioned in a concert hall, people see his skills and his overall performance as more valuable. When he’s performing in a subway station, things look very different.

The product – his music – is absolutely the same. However, how people view and comprehend the value of his work shifted.

As you can see, the contextual association is something of great importance.

It’s critical to place your products in the right context and environment. Right from the start, you should help potential customers make sense of what you’re offering and also explain why they should care.

“If you’re a baker, aking bread, you’re a baker. If you make the best bread in the world, you’re not an artist, but if you bake the bread in the gallery, you’re an artist. So the context makes the difference.” Marina Abramovic

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