To develop a strategic marketing plan, there are a number of stages.
- You need to analyse the environment in which you will operate. This is the wider macro-environment of politics, economics, societal trends, technology, environmental concerns and legal concerns. It is also the micro-environment represented by Porter’s five forces model of organisational stakeholders – competitors, suppliers, staff, stakeholders and new entrants.
- You need to analyse the internal operations of an organisation, its skills, resources and capabilities.
- Once you have analysed the environment, you need to analyse the market. You need to examine where market gaps exist and you need to confirm that those market gaps can offer sustainable competitive advantage.
- You then need to analyse the consumer base of the market. Who buys the products in the market? What is their spending power? What are their expectations and perceptions of the market? How will their needs be satisfied?
- Only once you have carried out all this analysis can you develop you’re preferred market position.
- Once you have decided on a market position and you design a marketing mix aimed at meeting the consumer need whilst fitting the competitively advantageous market gap. And remember, the mix is two-pronged; it has to be able to compete against other market players; but it must also defend your place in the market.
Crucial to the development of a marketing mix and its associated communications strategy is the development of a positioning statement which fits your chosen integrated marketing objectives.
A positioning statement must be clear and concise. It should clearly state what your brand stands for and differentiate your offer from that of competitors.
There are two approaches to a positioning statement:
- A functional statement which clearly shows brand benefits, e.g. Gorilla Glue is the strongest adhesive on the market
- An expressive statement – which shows the ego, social and hedonistic satisfactions of a brand, e.g. Smirnoff vodka being the spirit of choice for party people.
In managing positions, you need to:
- Determine the positions of your competitors: using tools such as perceptual mapping
- Examine the position of a focus brand in a market (the market leader or the brand with the greatest share of voice; the brand which consumers will use to evaluate your offer).
- Confirm that your desired market position is feasible. Can you defend it, do you have the resources to achieve it and will it offer sufficient returns in the long-term?
- Develop your positioning strategy
- Implement your marketing mix and communications programme to achieve the desired market position
- Continue to monitor consumer perceptions so as to evolve with the market.
There are three broad approaches to developing a position based on the market, the customer profile and the appeal of the brand.
From these three basic approaches a range of strategies can be developed. Often there is a need to develop a hybrid approach using one or more of these strategies. Examples are:
- Product Features: This is a commonly adopted approach. Examples include Dyson promoting vacuum cleaners on the basis of improved suction or the Halifax promoting the ease of making small payments with their debit card.
- Price/Quality: Again a commonly used approach. Examples include Aldi advertising how much you can buy in their stores compared to buying branded goods at other supermarket chains (for no apparent loss of quality). Price itself can be a good indicator of quality. Sainsbury’s used to advertise using the slogan ‘Good Food Costs Less’; Stella Artois Lager is ‘Reassuringly Expensive’. An Audi car costs more than the equivalent Volkswagen despite both brands sharing hundreds of components.
- Use: Informing consumers as to how a product should be used. For example, Readybrek was ‘Central Heating For Kids’, a nutritious hot breakfast for winter mornings. Kellogg’s are currently trying to reposition Corn flakes as not a breakfast cereal but a snack food which can be eaten at any time of day. Belvita is doing the opposite and trying to make biscuits a breakfast food. After Eight chocolates are the wafer thin mint to finish off a dinner party. Wash and Go is the shampoo that is quick and easy to use and suitable for people with busy lifestyles.
- Product Class Dissociation: This position is often taken in markets which appear humdrum or boring. It is often used where competitors have taken all available positions. You disassociate yourself from your competitors. So if you produce margarine, you compare your product to butter, not other margarines, e.g. I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter. You compare your brand to a higher quality offer.
- User: You position yourself by clearly defining target users. So Sheila’s Wheels was car insurance specifically for women drivers. Often celebrity endorsements are used as a shortcut to defining the user. Hence the proliferation of fragrances which use the names of pop stars. Sports endorsements often try to link brands to users. Nick Faldo used Mizuno golf clubs, Tiger Woods links to Nike, Justin Rose uses TaylorMade, etc.
- Competitor: You position yourself against your main competitor. Pepsi uses its ‘taste challenge’ to directly place itself against Coca Cola (and does so without naming Coke). Avis Car Rental ‘Tries Harder’ i.e. is better than Enterprise. Qualcast advertised their lawn mowers as ‘A lot less bovver than a hover”; a direct comparison to Flymo.
- Benefit: You position your brand by proclaiming a benefit. So Sensodyne toothpaste reduces or eliminates sensitivity from hot and cold foods. Voltarol gel relieves pain and allows you to be active.
- Heritage or Cultural Symbol: Some brands use coats of arms to indicate heritage (although this can be a risky tactic as UK heraldry bodies regularly prosecute for the misuse of heraldic symbols). Bass beer’s red triangle is the oldest registered trademark in the world. Lyle’s Golden Syrup and ‘From Great Strength Comes Forth Sweetness’ is a similarly long-lived brand. Many businesses state ‘Established since’ in advertising. Kronenberg 1664 lager uses the date in the brand name to indicate longevity. These dates and symbols infer permanence and depth of experience.
Whatever position you choose, it must be supported and expressed across your communications and across your marketing mix. You must be consistent.
If you promote a high quality position, your product and service quality must be better than your competitors. Land Rover markets a position as a tough off-road access all areas vehicle, yet they also have a reputation for mechanical faults. Land Rover’s position has often differed from the experience of consumers. A troubling situation.
If you are promoting a position of exclusivity, that will directly affect your communications mix. You will be less likely to use sales promotion and advertising will be in carefully chosen publications. Your messages will infer affluence, particularly visually. A family car will be shown being driven down a local high street; A luxury car will be shown motoring in the Cote D’Azur and arriving at an exclusive restaurant or nightclub overlooking a marina of luxury yachts.
Dimensions of your position must be relevant and important to the target audience of your communications. Image cues must be believable and considered credible.
Market Positions must developed over the long-term if they are to prove effective; but they must also be flexible enough so as to cope with changes in the market environment and consumer expectations.
Often it is necessary to reposition a brand within a market. Technology means that consumer tastes are changing rapidly as is their behaviour. Market positions therefore must evolve at an equivalent pace. technology also allows new substitute offers to proliferate.
Market positions are frequently being challenged in the minds of consumers. If your position has strong foundations and it is continually reinforced; if your position can be communicated by clear, simple messages, there may be little need to change your original market position. otherwise, situations will arise where you will need to reposition. This may be as a result of market opportunities and developments such as takeovers and mergers. Buyer preferences change. This may make an existing position untenable. Repositioning will therefore be necessary.
Repositioning is difficult, and risky, but it can be successful. often consumers have entrenched positions as to brands.
To reposition successfully, the old market position needs to be suppressed so that consumers no longer relate to it. Consumers also need to learn the new position.
These two processes can be complimentary as by weakening the old position you can reinforce the new position.