Why you may need to reposition your product

There may be times in a product or brand’s life cycle that it needs to be repositioned in the mind of consumers. A famous example is Listerine which was first sold as a general household detergent and which is now sold as a mouthwash against tooth decay and gum disease.

The most difficult thing with repositioning a brand is removing the existing brand image and expectations from the minds of target consumers. The longer a product or brand has been around, the harder it is to reposition.

Skoda cars is another example of good repositioning. For years, when Skoda models were produced under the Communist Czechoslovakian government behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, the cars were seen as cheap, poorly built, inefficient and unfashionable. When the Warsaw pact fell apart and Czechoslovakia became part of the EU Skoda was purchased by Volkswagen Audi. The Skoda brand was repositioned as a fighter brand; a cheaper version of a standard Volkswagen. today, with models like the Yeti, Skoda is a mid-market car brand showing good build quality and good value for money.

There are four reasons why you may need to reposition a product or brand:

  1. A competitor produces a product which is positioned in direct competition to your product and is therefore taking market share from your brand. The need to reposition may be strong if said competitor is larger and better resourced than your organisation. A larger competitor may be able to quickly take control of your market niche.
  2. You may need to reposition as consumer preferences change. In the UK food preferences have changed as our diet has become more international. In the 1950’s you could only buy Olive Oil at pharmacies where it was used to clear ear wax. Then, following the boom in Mediterranean package holidays exposed British travellers to the food of Italy, Spain and Greece. Olive Oil is now a staple in the UK diet and our consumption of animal fats like dripping and lard has reduced. Animal fat producers have had to repurpose their brands to meet the consumer preference for vegetable oils and fats.
  3. There may be new customer preferences. For many years Lucozade was marketed as a health drink for invalids. Advertising often included a glass bottle of Lucozade in it’s plastic wrapper on a hospital bedside cabinet. Today, given the expansion of fitness brands, Lucozade has been reformulated as an isotonic energy drink for athletes.
  4. A mistake was made with the original positioning. Ready Brek is an example where the product was repositioned because the original marketing strategy failed. Ready Brek was first marketed as instant porridge. It was rejected by those who liked porridge for breakfast. They saw the product as fake, they didn’t like the taste. Some rejected Ready Brek as it was ‘too easy to make’. Ready Brek was repositioned as ‘central heating for kids’ a warming breakfast for kids during the winter months.

Repositioning is risky. Changing consumer perceptions may alienate existing consumers and the new target customers may not accept the new definition of the product or brand. New positions may end up lees attractive than the former position. Continually trying to shift consumer’s perceptions of a brand, non-stop repositioning, may only cause confusion.

There are three sub-divisions of repositioning:

  1. Repositioning for Existing Customers: This is possibly the safest form of repositioning. You reposition the product with existing customers by offering new ways of using the product. This is why many larder staples come with recipes printed on the pack. This is a good way from shifting a product from being a standard item in the cupboard to one which is keeping up with new ideas.
  2. Repositioning for New Customers: Try to develop a new image for your brand amongst people who do not normally use it. Ugg sheepskin boots began by being marketed to male surfers to keep their feet warm when they had come out of the water. Now they are retailed as a female fashion item.
  3. Repositioning for New Uses: Often consumers will find new uses for a product. Astute businesses will spot these new uses and use them to promote their products. Powdered Gelatine was a food additive, but now it is also used as a way for women to strengthen their finger nails. Super glue was first created as a way of sealing wounds on the frontline during combat. That is why it is so good at sticking your fingers together. Today, it is marketed as a strong general purpose glue for repairing household goods.

All repositioning carries a degree of risk. If a product is selling reasonably in its existing market, it may be better to leave its position alone. A better option may to be to create a new product or brand to meet new customer perceptions. However, if your product is losing ground to your competitors, repositioning may be the best option.

Anyone who was around in the late 1980’s will remember the disaster of ‘new recipe’ Coca Cola. The recipe change was an attempt to reposition the Coca Cola brand in response to increased competition, particularly the success of Diet Pepsi. The repositioning strategy was an utter failure and caused Coca cola significant reputational damage.