What is Market Positioning

A product's position is the way the product is defined by consumers on important attributes - the place the product occupies in consumers' minds relative to competing products. Thus Tide is positioned as a powerful, all-purpose family detergent, Radion removes odours, and Fairy is gentle. Skoda and Subaru are positioned on economy, Mercedes and Jaguar on luxury, and Porsche. Saab and BMW on perf ormanc e.

A firm's competitive advantage and its product's position can be quite different. A competitive advantage is the strength of a company, while a product's position is a prospect's perception of a product. A competitive advantage, like low costs or high quality, could influence a product's position, but in many cases it is not central to it. For instance, low costs and access to Heathrow are two of British Airways' competitive advantages, but its position is based on popularity and its global network, 'The world's favourite airline'. Similarly, Toyota's low costs are a significant competitive advantage, but its products are sold on quality and technical excellence, not price.

Consumers are overloaded with information about products and services. They cannot re-evaluate products every time they make a buying decision. To simplify buying decision making, consumers organize products into categories -

product position The way the product is defined by consumers on important attributes -the plave the product occupies in consumers' minds relative to competing products.

Positioning; when-yon think of car safety, what brand comes to mind? Volvo has positioned itselfpowerfully tm stxfety.

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that is, they 'position' products, services and companies in their minds. A product's position is the complex set of perceptions, impressions and feelings that consumers hold for the product compared with competing products. Consumers position products with or without the help of marketers. But marketers do not want to leave their products' positions to chance. They plan positions that will give their products the greatest advantage in selected target markets, and they design marketing mixes to create these planned positions.

Positioning was popularized by advertising executives Al Ries and Jack Trout.11 They saw it as a creative exercise done with an existing product:

Positioning starts with a product, a piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution or even a person ... But positioning is not about what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position products in the mind of the prospect.

They argue that current products generally have a position in the minds of consumers. Thus Rolex is thought of as the world's top watch, Coca-Cola as the world's largest soft-drink company, Porsche as one of the world's best sports cars, and so on. These brands own those positions and it would be hard for a competitor to steal them.

Ries and Trout show how familiar brands can acquire some distinct!veness in an 'overcommuiiicated society', where there is so much advertising that consumers screen out most of [he messages. A consumer can only know about seven soft drinks, even though there are many more on the market. Even then, the mind often knows them in the form of a product ladder, such as Coke > Pepsi > Fanta or Hertz > Avis > Budget. In such a ladder, the second firm usually has half the business of the first firm, and the third firm enjoys half the business of the second firm. Furthermore, the top firm is remembered best.

People tend to remember no. 1. For example, when asked, 'Who was the first person successfully to fly the Atlantic Ocean?, people usually answer, 'Charles

Lindbergh'. When asked, 'Who was the second person to do it?', they draw a blank. That is why companies fight for the no. 1 position. In reality, the first people to fly the Atlantic were Alcock and Brown, but Charles Lindbergh won the publicity batde.

Ries and Trout point out that the 'size' position can be held by only one brand. What counts is to achieve a no. 1 position along some valued attribute, not necessarily 'size'. Thus 7-Up is the no. 1 'Uncola', Porsche is the no. 1 small sports car and Foster's is Australia's top-selling lager. In the United States, Heineken is 'the1 imported beer because it was the first heavily promoted imported beer. The marketer should identify an important attribute or benefit that can convincingly be won by the brand. In that way brands hook the mind in spite of the incessant advertising bombardment reaching consumers.

According to Ries and Trout, there are three positioning alternatives;

1. The first strategy they suggest is to strengthen a brand's current position in the mind of consumers. Thus Avis took its second position in the car rental business and made a strong point about it: 'We're number two. We try harder,' This was believable to the consumer. 7-Up capitalized on not being a cola soft drink by advertising itself as the Uncola.

2. Their second strategy is to search for a new unoccupied position that is valued by enough consumers and grab it: 'Gherehez le creneau', 'Look for the hole'. Find a hole in the market and fill it, they say. Vidal Bassoon's Wash & do was based on recognizing that the fashion for exercise meant that people washed their hair frequently, quickly and away from home. By combining a shampoo and hair conditioner in one the company was able to fill a latent market need. Similarly, after recognizing that many housewives wanted a strong washing powder to treat smelly clothes, Unilever successfully launched Radion.

Across Europe new 'newspapers' have filled a down-market gap left by the traditional press. In Britain the Sunday Sport started as a weekly paper reporting on sensationalist stories — 'Double decker bus found in iceberg' -sport and sex, but has now grown into a daily paper. In France the new Infos du Monde reached sales of 240.000 a week after just two months. 'Our readers don't want "dirty" news', says Infos. It instead seeks the hixarre in ordinary life; fairground freaks are popular - 'Four-legged woman from Cannes looks for love'. Another sensationalist publication is the German-owned Void, a glossy scandal sheet full of show-biz personalities. Infas has sent some of its staff to the United States to learn from their Weekly World News, a maga/jne specialising in blood, sex and gore. Some newspaper vendors arc embarrassed about the newspapers and the established press sees the new publications as distasteful. They also worry about the disturbing misinformation they monger. But, as a Gare du Nord news kiosk seller says: 'If people lead such dull and boring lives that their day is brightened by reading about a man with an axe stuck in his head, what's wrong with that?'12

3. Their third strategy is to deposition or reposition the competition. Most US buyers of dimierware thought that Lenox china and Royal Doulton both came from England. Royal Doulton countered with ads showing that Lenox china is from New Jersey, but theirs came from England. In a similar vein, Stoliclmaya vodka attacked Smirnoff and Wolfschmidt vodka by pointing out that these brands were made locally, but 'Stolichnaya is different. Similarly, it is Russian.' Guinness, the world's leading brown ale, has strong Irish associations. However, the focus on individuality in its Rutger Hauer 'Pure Genius' campaign has allowed Murphy's and Beamish to attack Guinness's

Iomega disks depositions its generic competitor: floppy disks.

Beer Promotion Girls

Irish heritage. A final example is Kaliher no-alcohol beer drunk by people who want a good time or, as Billy Connolly says in its ads posted next to those for Wunderbra, 'Hello girls!'

Ries and Trout essentially deal with the psychology of positioning - or repositioning - a current brand in the consumer's mind. They acknowledge that the positioning strategy might call for changes in the product's name, price and packaging, but these are 'cosmetic changes done for the purpose of securing a worthwhile position - in the prospect's mind'.

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