“Brand positioning is a part of brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience, and that demonstrate an advantage over competing brands.”
Brand positioning can be defined as an activity of creating a brand offer in such a manner that it occupies a distinctive place and value in the target customer’s mind.
Brand positioning is an essential element of a winning branding strategy. The term brand positioning has two connotations – a vertical and a horizontal one.
In terms of the vertical connotation, the term refers to the order in which the product ranks relative to the products of the competitors in the minds of their customers in the industry niche.
1. History of Brand Positioning 2. Meaning of Brand Positioning 3. Definition 4. Concept 5. Components 6. Objectives 7. Need 8. Importance 9. Types
10. Process 11. Strategic Framework 12. Three C’s 13. Qualities 14. Reasons 15. Why Companies are Embracing Positioning? 16. Advantages 17. Disadvantages 18. Future.
Brand Positioning: History, Meaning, Definition, Concept, Components, Objectives, Importance, Types, Process and Advantages
Brand Positioning – History
Rosser Reeves propounded 1950s as the year of ‘USP’ (Unique Selling Proposition). He says that uniqueness of every product should be highlighted in the marketplace. It should also be constantly bombarded in the minds of the consumer. The uniqueness refers to Rational Appeal (BAF- Benefits, Attributes, and Features). However, USPs can be easily copied by the competitors.
With the advent of Japanese competition in the American markets, two advertising professionals from the Ted Bats Company, Al Ries and Jack Trout in the early 1980s coined the term ‘Positioning’. They argue that ‘Positioning is not what you do the product; it is what you do to the minds of the consumers’.
It is evident that positioning is more about the emotional appeal rather than the rational appeal. A simple punchline can talk about the positioning offer to the market. For example, Nike promotes its brand with the punchline ‘Just do it’ and MTV’s reads ‘Enjoy’. These brands are very powerful in the minds of the consumers and ward off themselves from the competition.
The Americans used positioning in order to build an emotional connect with their countrymen when the Japanese goods were invading the American markets. GM, General Motors’ famous line ‘Be American buy American’, was challenged by Honda which retaliated by Saying ‘You see the finest people driving a Honda’.
Thus, was born the modern positioning so as to differentiate the brand from competition and build a bond directly in the hearts of the consumer. Even after three decades positioning is still a powerful tool which is being used by the brand managers across the world.
Brand Positioning – Meaning
Brand positioning is probably one of the most confused concepts in the world of business today. A brand positioning is not a clever advertising idea, a cool tag line, a slick logo, a graphic standards manual, or a website. While these and other elements combine to contribute to your brand positioning, they are not the foundation.
The result of a brand positioning is the thought triggered in the mind of the consumer when he or she hears and/ or sees your name. A brand is far more than advertising. It’s the identity an organisation has internally and externally. It represents the values, the personality, and the experience that people associate with the company, product, or service.
A brand provides a point of difference—a reason to choose your company, product, or service over the competition. This is increasingly important in today’s parity-product environment. Brands help companies command a premium price because of the added value associated with brands. Brands promise quality; they boost earnings and cushion downturns in the economy. Most important, not only does a strong brand help customers understand your company, but it also imparts a sense of mission within the company. A good brand positioning provides guidelines for every action from product development.
A brand image of your company, product, or service evolves whether you are directly involved in shaping the process or not. Think of French people. Think of the little redheaded boy, the blonde cheerleader, Irish people, New Orleans, Nike, IBM, Intel, Starbucks, Ford, Firestone tires. Images immediately come to mind that describe each of these examples. Everything gets branded, whether by a disciplined process or by people’s perceptions over time. It’s a critical function of the marketing plan to help shape those perceptions.
Brand positioning then is a process of establishing and managing the images, perceptions, and associations that the consumer applies to your product based on the values and beliefs associated with your product. These are managed through application of the brand positioning elements, consistent with the product’s positioning, in all target market communication relating to your company, product, or service. The more effective you are in your brand positioning, the greater the value your brand holds for you. The value of the brand, above and beyond the cumulative physical attributes of the product itself, represents brand equity.
Developing a brand and building equity in that brand are the broad components of the branding process. In this process, you have one goal for the brand – to generate consistent purchase behaviour among a target base. In other words, you seek to build and maintain brand loyalty.
Consumers also have sweet spots. When your marketing or communications idea hits that sweet spot, your sales will go flying. The sweet spot is the place in the target person’s mind where you make the connection between a consumer’s insight and the product or brand insight.
Brand Positioning – Definition (Defined by Some Eminent Authors)
Brand positioning is the act of designing the company’s offerings and image to occupy a distinctive place in the target market’s mind. The perceived differentiation takes care of the competitive angle and the value aspect takes care of customer motivation. For example, Perk is positioned as a substitute for a snack, which can be, had anywhere, anytime. A brand must create an association and cling on to it. The bottom line for a position is that it must be valuable, credible, distinctive and suitable for the product in question.
According to Asker, “Brand positioning is a part of brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience, and that demonstrate an advantage over competing brands.”
Brand positioning is an essential element of a winning branding strategy. The term brand positioning has two connotations – a vertical and a horizontal one. In terms of the vertical connotation, the term refers to the order in which the product ranks relative to the products of the competitors in the minds of their customers in the industry niche. In terms of the horizontal connotation, the term refers to the qualities and attributes the product represents in the mind of their customers, again relative to the competitors.
Brand positioning can be defined as an activity of creating a brand offer in such a manner that it occupies a distinctive place and value in the target customer’s mind. For example, Kotak Mahindra positions itself in the customer’s mind as one entity – “Kotak” – which can provide customized and one-stop solution for all their financial service’s needs. It has an unaided top of mind recall. It intends to stay with the proposition of “Think Investments, think Kotak.” The positioning they choose for their brand will be influenced by the competitive stance they want to adopt.
As the name implies positioning is ‘seeking a location in customer’s mind or market segment. Good brands always inform its consumer and help them to guide marketing strategy by clarifying what a brand is all about, how their brand is unique and what are the similarities between them and their competitors and why consumer should go for them’. – Dr. Y. Ram Kishen
Kotler, defines it as, “Positioning is the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the target market’s mind.”
Sengupta, holds, “The aim of product positioning is to create a perception for our brand in the prospect’s mind so that it stands apart from competing brands. We must cover that space in the consumer’s mind as if we had won a long-term lease. We must find a strong position in that mind and sit on it.”
Ries and Trout, define it as, “Positioning starts with a product a piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution, or even a person. But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”
From the above definition it can be inferred that:
i. Positioning is used to capture consumer’s mind space.
ii. Positioning explains to the customer about the brand.
Brand Positioning – Concept
In the increasing clutter of brands in virtually every product category, marketers are finding difficult to create a distinct place for their brands. The tangible route to build differentiation is not sufficient enough, given that every marketer has equal accessibility to technology. Hence what is required is a psychological way of differentiating the brand, cornering a space in the minds of the customers, so that the customers perceive it to be different.
This phenomenon of cornering space in the mind of the customer, such that he feels that there is no completely satisfactory substitute for the brand, is known as positioning. Positioning is, what is explained by Ries and Trout, the gurus of marketing warfare as the battle for the mind of the customer.
Brand positioning is at the heart of marketing strategy. Kotler defines brand positioning as the “act of designing the company’s offer and image so that it occupies a distinct and valued place in the target customer’s minds.”
Positioning involves finding the proper ‘location’ in the minds of a group of consumers or market segment so that they think about a product or service in the desired way. Positioning is concerned with finding the optimal location of a brand and its competitors in the minds of consumers to maximize potential benefit to the firm.
The object of positioning a brand is to cause people to feel that there is no completely satisfactory substitute for the brand. A brand can be positioned in several ways- offering a specific benefit, targeting a specific segment, price or distribution.
Benefit positioning can be used if the brand perceivably differs in its ability to deliver a specific benefit. The power of a benefit position will depend on how many people care about the benefit and how different the brand is in delivering it.
Target positioning requires that all a brand’s marketing be focused on a specific segment. The target may be defined demographically, economically, geographically, ethnically or attitudinally. To work, a target position should cause the people in the target to perceive the brand as superior in meeting their particular needs.
Price positioning puts the brand either at the top or bottom of the category. By being the most or least expensive brand in the category, the brand takes on a specific identity. Obviously the size of the customer franchise, brand image and profit margins will be affected by this strategy. It is difficult to defend a price position.
Price positioning by distribution is an often overlooked, but effective strategy. Placing a brand in a channel that is not used by competitors can effectively differentiate it and establish a unique identity. Being the first product of its kind sold in a channel of distribution can cause people to perceive it differently.
Brand Positioning – 4 Major Components
The four major components of brand positioning are as follows:
Component # 1. The Target Market:
Identifying the consumer target is important because different consumers may have different brand knowledge structures and thus different perceptions and preferences for the brand. Without this understanding, it may be difficult for marketers to say which brand associations should be strongly held, favorable, and unique. A market is the set of all actual and potential buyers who have sufficient interest in, income for, and access to a product.
Market segmentation divides the market into distinct groups of homogeneous consumers who have similar needs and consumer behaviour, and who thus require similar marketing mixes. Market segmentation require making trade-offs between costs and benefits. The more finely segmented the market, the more likely that the firm will be able to implement marketing programs that meet the needs of consumers in any one segment.
At least implicitly, deciding to target a certain type of consumer often defines the nature of competition, because other firms have also decided to target that segment in the past or plan to do so in the future, or because consumers in that segment already may look to other brands in their purchase decisions.
Competition takes place on other bases, of course, such as channels of distribution. Competitive analysis considers a whole host of factors including the resources, capabilities, and likely intentions of various other firms in order for marketers to choose markets where consumers can be profitably served.
Points-of-Parity (POPs) are associations that are not necessarily unique to the brand but may, in fact, be shared with other brands. It is driven by the needs of category membership to create category of POPs and the necessity of negating competitors’ Points of Difference (POD) to create competitive POPs.
In choosing points of difference, two important considerations are that consumers find the POD desirable and that the firm has the capabilities to deliver on the POD. Points of parity represent the attributes or benefit a product or service offers that the consumer can satisfy elsewhere.
Points-of-Difference (PODs) are attributes or benefits consumers strongly associate with a brand, positively evaluate, and believe they could not find to the same extent with a competitive brand. It is a term used for an outcome of product differentiation. Points of Difference (PODs) describe the individual factors of differentiation.
The key points of difference of a company are synonymous with its unique Selling Proposition (USP), and are critical in defining its competitive advantage and branding strategy. They must be attributes or benefits that consumers strongly, uniquely, and positively associate with the company’s brand; and not with any competing brand. Once points of difference have been clearly communicated to consumers, the company and its brand are set apart from its competitors.
Brand Positioning – 4 Main Objectives
The objectives of brand positioning can be explained with the help of following points:
If the business actually needs to make its services or products to gain the category of brands, it needs to make them accessible to people in such way that they start recognizing the brand name by the products or services it offer. It makes the brand to gain popularity and streamline the processes of sales in a well-defined manner.
It can also be taken as refurbishing or re-branding of the product in such a way that will make it different and uniquely defined than all other products of the same kind. This will really make the product to get under the exclusiveness category and it is a great thing to make the brand or product a renowned name in any industry or market.
It will go a long way in helping to measure the real strength of the brand. This can be considered as a form of stock taking strategy. This mode will help to know how far the business has gone and where it exactly reach in the competitive market. A proper understanding of present position of business will go a long way in helping it on the steps to take for moving its products and brand beyond the present state. It is in an effort to give all the popularity, which it thinks is good as a choice for making the brand to reach top position.
Brand positioning also strives to help the business to sufficiently judge the way customers judge its product in comparison with other very competitive brands available with the same products or services. Of course, the business will be accosted with strong competition as there is rarely any niche that does not require the right means to market and with the proper identification and implementation of brand positioning, it will be able to keep the brand in a position where it will rarely be affected by the impending disaster of strong opposition and competition.
The objectives of brand positioning:
1. To create a distinctive place of a product or service in the minds of potential customers.
2. To provide a competitive edge to a product or service, i.e., an attempt to convey attractiveness of the product or the service to the largest market.
3. Place an intangible service within a more tangible frame of reference.
4. Help influence both service development and the redesign of existing services.
5. Follow consideration of competition’s possible moves and responses so that appropriate action can be taken as.
6. To give the target market the reason of buying your services and then design the whole strategy.
7. To provide guidelines for the development of marketing mix with each element being consistent with positioning.
The ultimate weapon used by the marketers in niche marketing is positioning and through positioning analysis marketers seek answers to the following questions:
1. What is the current position of the product or service in the mind of the target market?
2. What position does the firm want to own, i.e., looking for positions or holes in the market place?
3. Who must the product or service out position (Manipulate what’s already in the mind)?
4. How can it be done (select the appropriate approach that will work for the target market?
The answer of above questions help marketers to recognise the market place, the competition and the customer perceptions on which they can position the new offers successfully.
Brand Positioning – Need
The need for brand positioning can be explained with the help of following points:
1. It measures the real strength of the brand in long run. This mode will help to know how farther the business has gone and where it exactly reach in the competitive market. A proper understanding of present position of business will go a long way in helping it on the steps to take for moving its products and brand beyond the present state. It is in an effort to give all the popularity, which it thinks is good as a choice for making the brand to reach top position.
2. If the business wants to make its services or products to gain the category of brands, it should make them accessible to people in a way that they start recognising the brand name by the products or services it offer. It makes the brand to gain popularity and streamline the processes of sales in a well-defined manner.
3. Brand positioning will also help the business to sufficiently judge the way customers judge its product in comparison with other very competitive brands available with the same products or services.
Of course, the business will be accosted with strong competition as there is rarely any niche that does not require the right means to market and with the proper identification and implementation of brand positioning, it will be able to keep the brand in a position where it will rarely be affected by the impending disaster of strong opposition and competition.
4. It can also be taken as refurbishing or re-branding of the product in such a way that will make it different and uniquely defined than all other products of the same kind. This will really make the product to get under the exclusive category and it is a great thing to make the brand or product a renowned name in any industry or market.
Brand Positioning – Importance of Positioning for a Business Firm
The importance of positioning for a business firms can be summarised as under:
1. Connecting Product Offerings with Target Market:
Target market helps the firm to identify the class/category of people for whom a product is meant for. At the same time, marketing mix helps the firm to identify the combination of 4 P’s to be alligned in the product offer for a target market. Thus, positioning acts as a linking pin between product offer and target market.
2. Brand Seeks a Locus in Space through Positioning:
In positioning, the consumer’s mind is viewed as a geometric perceptual space, with different product categories and brands occupying certain positions therein. These positions held by products/brands change as the available space is taken by new products/brands.
One can seek a position in the consumers mind through several routes/propositions. One may seek a position placing our brand against another ongoing brand, or one may place it against certain expectations the consumer nurtures.
3. Keeping Product in Pre-Determined Orbit:
Positioning is the specific task of taking the product to a chosen orbit in the minds of the target consumers. If the positioning decision is faulty, the product suffers heavy losses. It may take a long time and enormous effort to retrieve a wrongly positioned product. While repositioning a successfully positioned product at a later stage in the light of the changes in its lifecycle may be easy, it will not be all that easy to reposition a wrongly positioned product.
4. Product cannot be ‘Everything to Everyone’:
As a product cannot be ‘everything to everyone’ and has to be something to some segment so, need far positioning arises. Normally, some unique feature of the product, some special needs of the market or some noticeable gap in competing offers is picked-up and the product is positioned around that feature/or a combination of features for a particular target audience.
(i) Placing an intangible service within a more tangible frame of reference.
(ii) Helping in influencing both service development and the redesign of existing services.
(iii) Providing a competitive edge to a product or service, i.e., an attempt to convey attractiveness of the product or the service to the target market.
Brand Positioning – Top 4 Types
Type # 1. Normal Positioning:
Positioning creates a distinctive image in the mind of the customer. Normal Positioning aims at differentiating its product and offerings from the competitors. It communicates these differences to the customer is an effective way so that the target customer is able to recollect and recall the brand.
For example, Raymond positions itself as ‘The Complete Man’, this range is targeted at achievers, not necessarily conformists. Though metro sexual they are shown to be grounded in their values and culture.
Type # 2. Re-Positioning:
Re-Positioning is usually done when a particular positioning is not working for the brand or is not relevant. With changing markets and upgrading customers the brand may also try to upgrade itself and thus a change in the positioning may be required. For example, Lifebuoy was earlier positioned as a masculine bath soap; it was later changed to the soap which protects the entire family’s health.
In another example, Visa Cards changed its positioning to stay relevant in the market. It initially had a positioning of ‘Pay the Way the World does’ (1981). This positioning was chosen keeping in mind a global appeal for the brand. As the competition started increasing it changed its positioning to ‘World’s most Preferred Card’ (1993). And today it continues with its position ‘Visa Power’ (1995). It clearly focuses on the services and the benefits enjoyed by the card users.
Type # 3. Over Positioning:
Excessive promotion and over stating the deliverables of the offerings lead to over positioning of the brand. This may induce trial but, does not succeed in the long run. Marketers need to be very clear about the product attributes and features before deciding on the positioning.
Over positioning results due to improper understanding of the target segment. For example, IIPM Management Institute has its positioning as ‘Think beyond IIM’s’ but, in reality the students get dissatisfied as the Institute is not able to deliver that quality. In Pune, the students revolted and asked the institute to refund their fees.
If we consider, Xerox they advertised the brand so much that it became a generic brand. It is a brand that has been advertised and over positioned and thus, it becomes like a commodity. It also increased the sale of the competitors.
Type # 4. Under Positioning:
Sometimes the brand cannot afford the big budgets required for positioning and hence, marketers will launch the brand in the market without hype and it is called a soft launch. Sometimes the marketers would also go for a soft launch deliberately as that particular category or domain is in controversy and creating more hype at that particular point would lead to problems. This is called as under positioning a brand.
The brand is not able to mark a position for itself, it is seen just another product in the market place. For example, Volvo has positioned itself as ‘Drive safely’ whereas, it could have a created a better niche for itself and positioned itself as a premium brand as it owns premium car brands like Rolls Royce, Audi, Volkswagen Beetle, etc.
There are different types of positioning strategies used by companies:
Value-based positioning has two approaches and both are based are very much dependent on the quality of the product. They use a psychological approach which exploits the belief that more expensive something is, the better it is. This increases the value in the minds of the customer and the product is positioned as expensive and useful and good.
Alternatively, you can also position your brand as providing high quality and high value-priced products or services. It is essential in value positioning that the company should first establish the values of the product in the market for themselves to sell.
An excellent example of a strategy would be Southwest airlines which are offering affordable flights to people along with free check-in luggage. Thereby Southwest airlines establish its value in the minds of the customer.
Positioning with the help of an important parameter like quality can be a very challenging positioning strategy. Although it can be combined with other strategies and positioned easily. Every business in the market nowadays is trying to establish quality and its commitment to maintain it.
One unique way to distinguish your products amongst the competitors would be to narrow the focus to a particular area of expertise and use that as branding strategy in terms of quality positioning. For example, when it comes to audio everybody knows that Bose audio is the best, they have positioned themselves in that way. There worked only on one parameter significantly rather than working on all parameters simultaneously.
This makes them specialized in one feature thereby ensuring proper focus on the quality of that particular feature. Another example would be BlackBerry mobile phones which used by selective few in the market but seen as one of the best phones when it comes to security.
Since the competition has increased companies are taking this strategy to demonstrate the superiority amongst all other available competitors in the market. Right from insurance companies to mobile phones every company establishes its supremacy by comparing their products or services to other companies or direct competitors.
The messages are usually straight, clear and address the competition directly although some may- use an indirect reference to their competitors. An example would be, in 2017 iPhone X was launched with the notch in the mobile for the first time in the industry. Samsung mocked Apple by creating an ad in which a person if the notch stands in the line to buy new Apple iPhone while a person who just switched from Apple to Samsung is depicted to be happier. This was an indirect reference to Apple and its new phone while mocking its shortcomings.
In 2018, Google launched Pixel 3 with a premium feature called Night Sight. To promote that feature during the launch event of the phone the company experts compared of pictures clicked by phone then directly and side by side with a picture clicked by Google pixel 3 with night sight. This would be an example of direct competitor-based positioning.
Working with the benefits of attributes and communicating those benefits to the customer has been an old strategy followed by many brands. The strategy highlights the benefits of the product or service to the customers and cream that no computer can copy them since their unique to that particular brand. Sensodyne is an example which uses benefit positioning and today is a premium toothpaste in the market of oral dentistry and oral hygiene. It has positioned itself as an oral medical solution provider which customer can use on a day-to-day basis to get rid of oral problems.
While other kinds of toothpaste focus on whitening and reducing the bad breath Sensodyne has focused on medical aspects of oral hygiene which is a unique benefit in the market and that has helped them to stand out.
Many brands present themselves as a solution provider to the problems of the customers. The ideology behind such positioning is to demonstrate that this particular brand can help you solve your problems instantly and efficiently. Banks, Insurances, and loans have started themselves to a position as a solution provider.
Often advertised as ‘Need a loan? Contact us and we will get the loan Approved within Minutes or Seconds with minimum documentation’ is the claim which is followed by many banks thereby acting as a solution provider to the financial problems of the customer.
As much as quality plays an important role in the product success price is an equally important factor which determines the enormity of success of a particular brand. Why is there are expensive brand positioning themselves as unique and niche, the appeal to a very limited segment of customers who can afford to purchase them? There still remains a major bulk order chunk of customers who are not able to purchase those nice products or services. It is to appeal to these customers that price positioning is done by many Brands. One such example of price positioning is Air Asia, which is the South Asian airline service, whose operations are based in Malaysia.
The airline has successfully positioned itself as an economic service appealing to the middle class and lower middle class and making foreign tours possible for them. While they may compromise on the quality sometimes, the fact still remains that they are seen as the first choice by every first-time flight travelers who cannot afford to travel by a luxury brand like American airlines.
Using celebrities as a spokesperson to endorse a particular category of product or services has been a popular way for a long time. The aim of celebrity-driven positioning is to get the attention of people and increase brand awareness and recognition by associating the product or a brand with the glamorous personality of the particular celebrity. This is often an expensive affair for the companies but they knowingly choose this method of splurging because of the fact of familiarity and popularity of the celebrity.
This association of celebrity with the brand inspires many buyers who follow the celebrity to buy the same brand and make them feel psychologically associated with the celebrity.
Very few companies have opted for this route since to declare a market leader you would require your brand to be the best and unique in the market. Many companies start with this positioning but as competition increases, they fall out and the strategy needs to be revamped.
The best examples of long-term leadership-based positioning are done by Facebook. In the segment of social media, Facebook is unique in terms of the services it provides and has the greatest number of users associated with it.
Why there are other players like Instagram which is owned by Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat, none of the services overlaps in the category of services provided by Facebook wild Facebook, on the other hand, provides part of services that all of these provisions. With recent acquiring of Instagram and WhatsApp Facebook has become the unrivalled leader in the industry of social media.
Brand Positioning – 6 Important Stages in the Process of Positioning
The process of positioning takes the form of following stages:
This step requires broad thinking. Competitors may not be just those, whose products and/or brands fall into our product class or with which we compete directly. The marketer must consider all likely competitors, as well as the various effects of use and situations on the consumers.
Once we define the competitors, we must determine how they are perceived by consumers. Which attributes are important to consumers in evaluating a product and/or brand? As we might expect, for many products, a wide variety of attributes or product benefits may be considered – most if not all of which are important. Much of marketing firm’s research is directed at making such determinations. Consumers are asked to take part in focus groups and/or complete surveys indicating which attributes are considered important to them in their purchase decisions.
Having determined the relevant attributes and their relative importance to consumers. We must determine how each competitor (including our own entry) is positioned with respect to each attribute. This will also show how the competitors are positioned relative to each other. Consumer research is required to make this assessment.
Segmentation distinguishes among groups of consumers, including life styles, purchase motivations, demographic differences, and so on. Each of these segments may have different purchase motivations and different attribute importance ratings.
One way to determine these differences is to consider the ideal brand or product, defined as the object the consumer would prefer over all others, including objects that can be imagined but do not exist. Identifying the ideal product can help the marketer identify different ideals among segments or identify segments with similar or the same ideal points.
After going through the first four steps, the final positioning decision to be made. Such a decision is not always clear and well defined. However, conducting research may provide only limited input; in that case, the marketing manager must make some subjective judgment.
These judgments raise a number of questions:
i. Is the segmentation strategy appropriate?
ii. Are there sufficient resources available to communicate?
iii. How strong is the competition?
iv. Is the current positioning strategy working?
Once a position has been established, it is necessary to monitor how well this position is being maintained in the market place. Tracking studies measure the image of the product or firm over time. Changes in consumer’s perception can be determined with any slippage immediately noted and reacted to. At the same time, the impact of competitors can be determined.
The company must not only develop a clear positioning strategy, it must also communicate it effectively. For example, company chooses the specific user positioning; it must specify the specific user and should also make endorse the product by the existing user if any or technical person.
If the company choose the quality positioning strategy, quality should be communicated by choosing those physical signs that people normally use to judge quality. High quality can also be communicated through using the signal of high price. The product quality image is also affected by packaging, distribution, promotion etc.
A good positioning helps customers to resonate with the values and concepts of brand and helps them to associate with it on a deeper level which is beyond buyer and seller relationship. A positive positioning helps the brand to stand out amongst competitors and gain a competitive advantage along with the added market share.
Brand Positioning – Strategic Framework for How to Choose a Positioning Strategy
Positioning is very important part of the branding process. Defining a proper positioning strategy and implementing it effectively is very critical for the brand’s success.
Given below is a strategic framework to select how to choose a positioning strategy and implement it:
1. What to position in the branding process?
Positioning can be done on various platforms; it can be the company, a product, people or the entire portfolio. The markets decided what they want to bank on and create a strategy accordingly. If we look at the following examples — GE has always positioned itself as a Company thus, they have built a brand GE; Nivea has been positioned as a Product; it does not speak about where it belongs to or which company. The advertisements only talks about the product.
Richard Branson is a good example of positioning on people. Virgin Group owner has been positioned very well in the market place. The company benefits from the positioning of the owner. Uniliver positions itself and advertises as the entire portfolio, they speak of themselves as a whole.
2. Why position the brand?
Brand Positioning is required to differentiate the brand from the competition. It also helps to gain recognition for the brand and thus high recall, i.e. TOMA. For example, when Alpenliebe was launched initially in the country, its advertisements repeated the name of the brand 5 times to ensure that it got registered with the customers.
Also, it was done purposefully to teach customers how to pronounce the name of the candy as it got a feedback that it was difficult to pronounce. Positioning also helps in Brand Extensions. For example, Taj Hotels have successfully extended themselves into Taj President, Taj Mahal, from Mumbai.
3. Where to position the brand?
The place of positioning is important in deciding the strategy and communication. A company can decide to position itself in a specific region or country. The positioning can also be done using the place of origin. Here, the example of air-conditioning brand, ‘Daikin’ comes into play when they say ‘With love from Japan’. They are emphasizing about their place of origin for their positioning.
Also, companies may change positioning with expansion in business operations. If we take the example of Airtel, it used the positioning of ‘Express Yourself’ but, now as it operates in many countries it has gone for an international branding and a new positioning has been adapted ‘Dil jo chahe paas laye’.
4. How to Position the Brand?
There are two things involved in any positioning strategy; the type of position a brand wants to take and the positioning strategy.
i. Types of Position – A brand can choose to take Normal positioning, Re-positioning, under positioning and over positioning.
ii. Positioning Strategy – There are 7 positioning strategies and the brands follow either of these. They can position by the competition, product attribute, user class, use or application, product category, etc.
5. Combine a Judicious Mix of Both:
The marketers need to decide how to use the effective mix of both the positioning elements to target the desired customers and markets. The most important thing is to find an empty place in the market, a place that has not been taken by any of the competitors.
6. Implement the Positioning Strategy:
The integrated marketing communications are used apart from the mainstream advertising to position the brand in the consumers mind. IMC tools include Sales Promotion, PR (Public Relations), Direct Marketing, etc. Either of these tools can be used for implementing the strategy. For example, Rolls Royce only uses PR for its brand. In this case the PR is sufficient enough to generate word of mouth and generate equity for the brand.
7. Follow up or Tracking of Brand Positioning:
After implementing the positioning strategy, it is equally important to follow up and measure the effectiveness of the campaign. Tracking is usually done through qualitative research. Dipstick surveys can also be used to understand if the consumers have understood the brand and what is the recall for the brand. For example, Maharaja the dishwasher was positioned as ‘Your guests get Swiss cheese, Italian Pizza … You get stained glassware’.
But this strategy failed and after the survey it came out that Indians did not prefer this product due to cultural reasons. So, to appeal to the Indian housewife they changed the positioning again to ‘Bye Bye … Kanta Bai’. After tracking the positioning it was changed from a sophisticated, aristocratic product to one that is functional and relevant to the Indian housewife.
8. Favourable Impact in Consumer’s Mind:
A successful campaign leaves the desired impact on the consumers. If the consumers can recall the brand and understand what does the brand really stands for it fulfills the purpose of positioning.
Brand Positioning – 3 C’s of Positioning (Customers, Competition and Company)
Positioning requires a thorough understanding of three Cs as Customers, Competition, and Company.
A product cannot be successfully positioned unless the answer to this basic question is known – “What is target customer’s most pressing problem?” Notice that this question asks about the problem, not problems. Although it may be tempting to think of a product as a Swiss Army Knife, don’t, because it is doomed to fail.
The prospects are overwhelmed by communication in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. They get so many marketing messages – somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 per day – that they have become experts at filtering them out. Besides customer concerns, other psychographics such as industry and technology trends can affect his message strategy.
A good grasp of demographics is critical to successful positioning. But some companies feel they have to sell to everyone, and often fail to communicate effectively with the ultimate decision-maker. It may surprise anyone that it is relatively easy to adapt a good positioning statement to different target audiences, if a company really needs to communicate to more than one buyer.
Differentiation is critical to successful positioning of a product. In the marketing context “Positioning is the Battle for one’s Mind.”
According to A1 Ryes and Jack Trout, “Knowledge of competitor’s positioning is just as important as knowing one’s own.” Ryes and Trout lament the fact that “too many companies embark on marketing and advertising as if the competitor’s position did not exist. They advertise their products in a vacuum and are disappointed when their messages fail to get through.”
One can often discover how a competitor is positioned by analyzing its print advertisement and website. A positioning statement, idea, or theme frequently appears in the first paragraph of an advertisement or on the homepage of the website. It is a good idea to become familiar with the competitor’s messages in other marketing communication, such as direct marketing pieces, brochures, press announcements, and tradeshow materials. If there is consistency and continuity, one can gain a competitive advantage just by recognizing the realities of his competitors.
Through company analysis a firm attempts to identify its strengths and weaknesses to satisfy its potential target customers’ needs and expectations. The fit of the product/ service to the firm’s mission and goals is as important as the fit of the product/service to the target market.
Marketers focus on understanding the company’s cost structure and cost position relative to competitors, as well as working to identify a firm’s core competencies and other competitively distinct company resources. Core competencies are particular strengths relative to other organisations in the industry which provide the fundamental basis for the provision of added value.
A core competency can be the technical/ subject knowhow, a reliable process, close relationships with customers and suppliers, the product development process or the firm’s culture (e.g., employee dedication). The firm’s resources include all the assets, capabilities, organisational processes, firm attributes, information, knowledge, etc., that the firm controls.
They overall evaluation of a firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is called SWOT analysis. It starts with the definition of an objective and aims at identifying the internal and external factors that are key to achieving such objective. Ideally the SWOT analysis should be conducted by a group representing a broad range of perspectives throughout the company.
Brand Positioning – 7 Main Qualities to Make a Successful Positioning
There are seven qualities that help to make a successful position:
Positions that do not focus on benefits that are important to people or reflect the character of the product will fail. Often in their search for differentiation marketers seize upon some attribute in their product which is different but in reality is of little concern to customers. This is a waste of time and money.
A position should be easy to communicate and quick to comprehend. Difficulty in either suggests that a position is to fuzzy to be of value to the brand leading to the phenomenon of confused positioning or doubtful positioning.
People have few needs that are unfulfilled, and have many choices to fill the needs they have. If a brand’s position lacks distinctiveness, it will be forced to compete on the bases of price or promotion which are expensive strategies that will not build brand equity in the long term.
There should be one common voice through all the elements of the marketing mix if the marketer wishes to create a strong position. A brand which boasts of technological superiority and premium image, but using a low price strategy may not exactly adhere to the coherent norm.
This is especially required for a brand which is positioned for a specific target segment. In spite of threats of alienation of some segments of the population as a price of clearly communicating to the desired target, the marketer should stick out to its commitment for the specific target segment.
The position for a brand is not build or accepted by the target segment on the first day of its launch. Continuous reinforcement and patiently adding on to the position procures results. Impatient marketers often get disillusioned after a period of time and tend to look for a new position which result in a fatal mistake.
It goes without saying that adopting a strong brand position requires bravery. It is much easier to defend an appeal to everyone with a rather generic sales pitch. The marketer must believe that the position makes strategic sense for the brand and then rigorously work towards it.
Brand Positioning – 6 Major Reasons
Brand positioning exercise may be due to the following reasons:
This is one of the top reasons. If sales are dropping, it is important that firms take a step back and figure out why this is happening. It could be that brand needs to be refreshed.
Over time, companies change. They add new products, refine old products, expand the business, and so on. This helps them to stay relevant, fresh. But after adding and changing offerings up over a long stretch of time, it is very likely that the branding strategy they started with no longer reflects what brand really is. It is out of sync, and it needs to be changed.
Rest assured, the competition will eventually render initial position of the firm ineffectual. They will either do this by making it seem ordinary over time, or new competitors will come with something way better. In that case, it is keep up or get left behind.
A company with generalized, poor, muddy, inaccurate positioning will almost certainly suffer from disoriented staff members. Proper positioning drives clarity – both inside the organisation and in the marketplace. That clarity ensures everyone in the company is moving in the same direction, delivering on the promises of the brand every day.
The value of any company is based on the certainty of projected cash flows in future years. The larger the cash flows and the more certain those future cash flows are, the more valuable the company. Larger margins mean larger cash flows. And sustainable-differentiation helps to ensure those margins will continue.
6. Bringing in New Customers:
One reason of brand repositioning is attracting new customers for the brand or product. Repositioning helps in bringing in new customers and their retention. Customers want different products according to their need, and firms use this chance as a factor for customer attraction.
Brand Positioning – Why Companies are Embracing Positioning?
i. Easy Connect with the Consumer:
Positioning helps in connecting with the target segment. It clarifies what the brand is all about to its consumers. Once the consumers know the brand, they can relate with it in a better way. For example, Moov launched their campaign ‘Aah se aha tak’ to define its effectiveness in relief from backaches which the customers were able to connect with rather than their previous stand of knee pain and ankle pain.
ii. Ultimate Differentiator from Competition or Cutting Edge Tool from Competition:
Positioning is used to differentiate from the other brands competing in the same segment. The companies use positioning to define that their brands are better, more competitive and different from the rest of the products available in the market. For example, BMW by saying ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ conveys that it is the best among its competitors, a combination of luxury and performance.
iii. It can Highlight Functional Attributes of the Brand:
Positioning tells the customer what to expect from the brand. If the company wants to bank on the product quality and there is conviction about the features, they may decide to go for highlighting functional attributes in the brand. For example, Ujjala when it was launched in them market said ‘Chaar Bodoon Wala’, and the advertisement showed 4 drops giving a shirt a bright new look. This is used when the company tries to capture the market in a short span of time.
iv. Increases TOMA and Creates a Permanent Spot in the Minds of the Customer:
Brands fight for TOMA (Top of the Mind Awareness) as it is related to the sales that the company generates. It is usually seen that the top brands in recall are the ones which the customer is more likely to buy. Thus, to create a permanent spot in the consumers mind brands choose their positioning to differentiate and avoid the ‘me- too’ tag. For example, Bournvita used ‘Tan ki shakti, man ki shakti’ which was a very successful campaign. It also highlighted the brand’s nutritional value.
Brand Positioning – 5 Main Advantages
Positioning helps to differentiate the product from other competitors in the same market segment. It helps the consumers understand what value the product is offering them. For example, Hotel Orchid has positioned itself as India’s first Ecotel Hotel.
Positioning helps to protect the market share for the brand. The brands that are already market leaders, positioning helps to increase brand recall and reinstate its leadership position in the minds of the consumers. This helps in the brand strength and faith that the consumers have on the brand. For example, Exide Batteries say ‘India runs on Exide’; SBI says ‘Banker to the Nation’.
Positioning statement also helps in creating a niche for the brand and a new segment within the already existing market place. It caters to the specific needs of the brands and delves deeper into consumers’ understanding of their motives and desires thereby expanding the market by clearly differentiating the brand. For example, BMW says ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’.
A brand changes its target market as it progresses on its product Life Cycle. The brands usually opt for a makeover in the Maturity Stage of Product Life Cycle and in the process change their target market. This was excellently done by Cadbury’s Dairy Milk when it changed its target from children to adults. In another famous example, Marlboro changed its target group of females to males by changing its positioning.
Brands can challenge the competition by strong positioning statements. For example, Intel dominated the computer chip market by emphasizing on its positioning statement ‘Intel Inside’. It cleverly attacked the dominance of its rival AMD chips.
Brand Positioning – 3 Major Disadvantages
The positioning statement should be decided keeping in mind what is the target segment. The customers in that segment should be able to relate to the brand by positioning it appropriately. For example, Maruti when they first launched Alto they positioned it as ‘The hottest car in the town’. But, it did not click with the middle income group. It was only after they changed their positioning to ‘Let’s go’ that it succeeded.
The positioning should be clear to the customer; at times when the brand is trying to position itself on more than one attributes it can lead to confusion. For example, when Dettol launched its toilet soap it was positioned as beauty bar. This was not in line with the core values of the parent company. It was relaunched as ‘germ-kill’ soap which saw acceptability in the market place.
The positioning has to be told to the market. If the customers cannot differentiate your brand and do not know about it then the brand image will suffer. The brand image will be formed in the way desired by the marketers. For example, ‘The Indian Express’ launched the financial paper ‘Financial Express’ but, it could not generate desired readership, as the customers could not understand what it stood for.
Brand Positioning – Future
The brand positioning will continue to be the base of developing a strong brand. Positioning will merge with the strategy and the brands will try to create more and more experiences that are according to its positioning. The brands will keep on getting clearer scope of their journey as they are able to decide their positioning and tread on the path well.
The future of brand positioning would take a different angle as brands are getting on the board of digital platforms and social interactions sustaining the interest and loyalty would be the most difficult job of any brand. The brand should carefully position themselves so as to be re-called on any touch points the brand is engaging with the customer and a uniform positioning platform will not lead to chaos and confusion in the mind of prospect.
MTV is a classic example of how the brand transformed from traditional television to the digital space as well the social media space and cleverly connected with its target group. The brand is also embarking on the mobile media space which would be the next key driver in the brand communication strategy.