Brand Positioning

Monday, October 26, 2009

Product positioning is an important strategy for achieving differential advantage. Positioning reflects the "place" a product occupies in a market or segment. A successful position has characteristics that are both differentiating and important to consumers.

Every product has some sort of position — whether intended or not. Positions are based upon consumer perceptions, which may or may not reflect reality. A position is effectively built by communicating a consistent message to consumers about the product and where it fits into the market — through advertising, brand name, and packaging.

Positioning is inextricably linked with market segmentation. You can’t define a good position until you have divided the market into unique segments and selected your target segments. Three key research issues must be addressed:

What is your current position?

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What does the "space" look like — what are the most important dimensions in the category?

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What are the other products in that space and where are they?

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What are the gaps, unfilled positions or "holes" in the category?

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Which dimensions are most important?

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How do these attitudes differ by market segment?

What position do you want to have?

Some of the positioning opportunities for a product include:

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Finding an unmet consumer need — or at least one that’s not being adequately met now by competition

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Identifying a product strength that is both unique & important

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Determining how to correct a product weakness and thereby enhance a product’s appeal. (e.g., legitimate "new & improved")

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Changing consumer usage patterns to include different or additional uses for the product

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Identifying market segments, which represent the best targets for a product

How do you create a new positioning?

Creating a new positioning can come from two sources:

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Physical product differences

Communications — finding a memorable and meaningful way to describe the product (e.g., calling 7-Up the "Uncola"). As Ries and Trout point out, "Positioning is not what you do to a product; positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect."

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Competitive Positioning

What sets your product, service and company apart from your competitors? What value do you provide and how is it different than the alternatives?

Competitive positioning is about defining how you’ll “differentiate” your offering and create value for your market. It’s about carving out a spot in the competitive landscape and focusing your company to deliver on that strategy. A good strategy includes

  • Market profile: size, competitors, stage of growth
  • Customer segments: groups of prospects with similar wants & needs
  • Competitive analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the landscape
  • Positioning strategy: how you’ll position your offering to focus on opportunities in the market
  • Value proposition: the type of value you’ll deliver to the market

When your market clearly sees how your offering is different than that of your competition, it’s easier to generate new prospects and guide them to buy. Without differentiation, it takes more time and money to show prospects why they should choose you; as a result, you often end up competing on price – a tough position to sustain over the long term.

One of the key elements of your positioning strategy is....