A couple of recent news reports – about T-Mobile and McDonald’s – tell the same story. To steal market share, you must be positioned against the market.

T-Mobile, which has been marketing itself lately as the Uncarrier, backs up that claim by offering iPhones at a cheaper rate with no contract. In a study by YouGov BrandIndex, T-Mobile has risen in the consumer perception measurements because of it.

tmobile_uncarrier_720What that means is that, in this study, T-Mobile is in the considered set more often than before, while AT&T has become less considered. Now, that doesn’t always translate to increased market share, but it is a good sign for T-Mobile.

And it’s the result of a smart strategy.

The Uncarrier claim suggests that T-Mobile is unlike anyone else in the category, and has the offerings and services to prove it. (The no contract offer is key.)

When you are positioned against the market, you can steal share.

But what happens when you are the market leader? Usually, the market leader becomes the default choice when everybody else is the same.

That’s one of the reasons why McDonald’s has been on top of the fast food chain for so long. But McDonald’s reported that sales dropped .2 percent in 2013, with the number of customers declining 1.6 percent.

While those are small numbers, it speaks to what is happening in the fast food arena. There are more competitors than before, and some are getting better at stealing share. Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s, mentioned healthier fare at other chains, but he also mentioned the opposite. There are some who are embracing the bigness of a fat hamburger. Notice that Hardee’s has taken this approach and has seen its market share rise.

When the competition starts positioning itself against you – especially, as in the case of McDonald’s, you try to be everything to everybody – you must be different and better to steal market share.