Positioning strategies in marketing

“Positioning is a strategy of differentiating your product from that of the competition, in the mind of the prospect.”

A positioning strategy may be developed from the product’s attributes, its specific uses, the type of uses, the product class or category, or the competition. Each of these represents a different approach to developing a positioning strategy. However, all of them have the ultimate objective of developing or reinforcing an image in the minds of the audience. Following are steps of positioning strategies:

1. Positioning by Product Characteristics/Consumer Benefits

a) This is commonly used strategy and consists in associating an object with a product characteristic or customer benefit.

  • “Colgate is a cavity fighter.”

The ability to fight cavities is a product attribute that translates into a consumer benefit.

b) Sometimes, a new product can be positioned with respect to product characteristics that competitors have ignored.

  • “The toothpaste with clove oil.”

c) A product can also be positioned along two or more characteristics at the time.

  • “Double-action pepsodent fights cavities and freshens breath.”

d) While it is tempting to include several product characteristics at the same time, advertising that tries to communicate too many things at the same time may not drive home the main message effectively. Beside, the resulting image of the product in the minds of consumers may be a fuzzy, confused one. E.g. Infocom – too many punch lines.

e) A positioning strategy based on product characteristics, could be based on physical characteristics, pseudo-physical characteristics, or benefits.

  • Physical characteristics are objective and can be measured on some physical scale: Temperature, colour, sweetness, saltiness, thickness, weight.
  • Pseudo-physical characteristics, in contrast, are characteristics that cannot be easily measured: Spiciness, greasiness, creaminess, shininess (Kiwi shoe polish)
  • Benefits represents to advantages that promote the well being of the consumer: Quenching thirst (Limca), not harmful to the skin, satisfying hunger, convenience.

2. Positioning by “Price-Quality”

The price-quality issue is so important in some product category that it is a positioning strategy in itself. On the one hand, there are certain product categories where high price is automatically associated with quality, or where low price is often considered to be synonymous with inferior quality.For eg. Perfumes, whisky, leather goods, stereo systems, designer clothing. Manufacturers of such brands charge more, partly to cover higher cost, and partly to communicate that they are of higher quality. Such brands should be positioned based on the price-quality approach, to communicate that higher price and higher quality goes together. On the other hand, there may be other brands in the same product category that try to appeal on the basis of lower prices. They offer more by way of features and performance and claim to be of quality that is comparable and is another way of positioning based on price-quality.

  • Videocon’s value-for-money positioning.
  • Zenith Computers: “MNC quality. Indian price.

3. Positioning by Use or Approach

Associating the product with a specific use is another commonly used positioning strategy. Sometimes, this type of positioning strategy may also be used to expand market for a particular brand. The example of “Arm and Hammer”, an international baking soda brand, mentioned earlier, is an example of this. Arm and Hammer successfully positioned their product as an odour-destroying agent in refrigerators.

  • Vicks: “Use Vicks when cold attacks.”
  • Dettol: The liquid protection against bacteria.”
  • Clinic All Clear: “The dandruff-control shampoo.”

4. Positioning by Product User

This is a strategy of associating the product with a particular type or class of user. One way of doing this is through celebrity endorsements.

  • E.g. Lux-earlier their positioning was ‘Filmi Sitaroan Ka Saboon’, now new Aishwarya’s advertise says that by using Lux you can also become a star.

5. Positioning by Product Class

Sometimes in order to counter the competition, some brands need to associate themselves with a unique classic example of this is “Seven Up, the uncola”, mentioned earlier.

Other relevant example is diet beers (Kingfisher) and ice beers (recently launched by united Breweries) that positioning themselves with respect to regular beer.

6. Positioning by Culture Symbol

This type of positioning strategy consist in identifying something that is very meaningful to people, and that competitors are not using, and then associating the brand with that symbol. Advertising is full of examples of this type of positioning strategy. A classic international example is Marlboro cigarette’ American cowboy, which helped differentiate Marlboro from other cigarette brands, and developed the Marlboro Man.

  • E.g. Onida’s green eyed devil also set Onida apart from the competition by positioning it as something that is envied and talked about by neighbours.

This type of positioning tends to have high recall value because of the use of meaningful and relevant symbols.

7. Positioning by Competitor

This type of positioning strategy consists in making consumers think that your brand is better than, or as good as the competitors. The competition is used as the point of reference. This positioning strategy can be used to advantage in certain cases.

  • First, when the competitor has an established image that has been built up over the years, this image can be used as “bridge” to communicate another image. For example, if someone wants to know where a particular office is, it would be easier to say it is net to the City Bank building rather than describing the various streets to get there.
  • Secondly, sometime it is not important how good customers think you are. It is more important that they think that you are at least as good as the competition.

Positioning with respect to competitors can also be done through comparative advertising.

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