A critical element in the planning of marketing mix strategies, including promotional communications, is the management of your market position.
Market positions operate in relation to two dynamics:
- who is the target audience – i.e. your chosen market segments; and,
- how that audience views your offering – either through their understanding of how the product works or through their understanding of your communications. i.e. how their minds interpret your message.
One of the roles of marketing professionals in a business is to research these two dynamics and to develop a position which maximises the offering in relationship to them.
Most marketers use the following process to develop distinct market positions:
- Examine the positions of a business’s competitors. This usually involves the development of perceptual maps taken from customer market research. Perceptual mapping helps determine consumer attitudes and perceptions.
- They then determine the position of the focus brand. This is the process of finding gaps in the market which are commercially viable or where competitors are seen as vulnerable.
- You then determine the positioning strategy for your brand. Where in the market do you want to be.
- The next stage is critical. You must determine whether that market position is viable in terms of the competition and your budgetary constraints. I do a presentation on strategic marketing planning which includes a section on positioning. I use the example of a private jet catering company. Despite being in existence for a number of years, the company has never made a profit. The owner of the firm believed he had identified a clear position in the market which was not being catered for (sorry bad pun) by his competitors. However, it was clear why his competitors had not filled that market gap – there wasn’t enough income to be generated to cover the high costs of the segment. In choosing a market position, it must be viable in the long-term.
- Once an appropriate market position has been chosen, you should develop an appropriate marketing mix which will maximise opportunities.
- You then need to continually monitor the market position; to defend against entrants to the segment and to adjust your offering to account for changing consumer tastes.
You need to develop a position which your intended customers can relate to and understand. This means developing distinct brand attributes and values.
There are numerous approaches to developing marketing positions based upon factors in the market, customer profiles at through brand redefinition e.g.
- Product features: For example, mobile phones are sold on features such as software apps, storage capacity and the quality of the built-in camera.
- The price/quality ratio: Price is often a strong signifier of quality. You don’t get cheap designer watches or clothes. For many years Stella Artois lager was sold using the strapline “reassuringly expensive’.
- The product class association: Dove is not a soap, it is a ‘beauty bar’. Head and Shoulders began its life as an anti-dandruff shampoo, not it is sold as the UK’s favourite shampoo. Listerine began life as a multi-purpose household detergent, now it is sold as a mouth wash to prevent bad breath.
- The product use: A few years ago, Kellogg’s ran a highly successful advertising campaign where their cereals were redefined not simply as breakfast food but as snack foods to be eaten at any time of the day. They also ran a campaign advertising their cereals to people dieting to lose weight where they replaced either lunch or dinner with a bowl of cereal. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were originally sold as a health food. The original formulation of Coca Cola was sold as a medicinal tonic, not a soft drink. Lucozade was a drink for invalids but its use was successfully re-interpreted as a drink for sportsmen and sportswomen.
- The User: Products which are designed for carefully chosen consumer groups. This is common in the market for fragrances. Firms such as Unilever and Estee Lauder develop perfumes with pop stars such as Britney Spears and One Direction to specifically target their fan base.
- The Competitor: For many years Tesco and Sainsbury’s battled to be the UK’s top supermarket chain. They would watch each others activities closely and develop very similar offerings in terms of own brand products and specialist ranges. Before their demise, Saab competed with Volvo as to who produced vehicles with the highest level of safety features.
- Benefit: Sensodyne toothpaste is marketed as the toothpaste for people who suffer from porous tooth enamel. Daewoo for many years marketed the fact that you could buy their cars directly without a dealer as a middle man. Eliminating the dealer was seen as a benefit as it reduced vehicle costs and increased the consumer’s power in the deal.
- Heritage or cultural symbol: A unique aspect of heritage in the UK is the display of Royal warrants, the fact that your firm supplies goods and services to the Queen and Royal family. It is no accident that Universities are marketed using their coat of arms. Firms proudly display that they were ‘established in 1803’ and there are brands such as Kronenbourg 1663 lager which use a date as an indication of longevity and quality.
Whatever the position chosen for a brand or product, it must be relevant to the target customer group and have a consistent marketing mix. It must be believable and credible to consumers and supply chain partners. It must be developed for the long-term. It must be adaptable to account for changing market conditions and customer tastes.
If you are looking to reposition an existing brand or product (such as Listerine) you should do so not from your own perceptions but from the viewpoint of consumers. You need promotional and marketing activities which suppress the old market position so that the consumer dissociates the product with its existing position. You also need to promote the new position so that consumers are educated about the change. It is important that these two activities are complimentary i.e. the activities which weaken the old market position should strengthen the new market position.