Market Positioning

Positioning, in the context of a marketing battle plan, has three overlapping objectives.

First, positioning has an enterprise perspective. The enterprise scans the market environment and decides to position itself with products that specifically address the needs of a chosen target market. Second, positioning has a competitive perspective. The enterprise has to differentiate and distinguish itself from its competitors. Third, positioning takes the customers’ perspective. Positioning is the way the customers perceive the enterprise and its products or services in their minds. The stronger the overlap is in these three perspectives, the more defined the positioning of an enterprise is in the marketplace.

Enterprises can establish their positioning either by starting with their own product creations or with their customers’ outcome expectations. The competitors will always be part of the positioning equation, whether the enterprise starts with the product or the customer perspective. After all, marketing warfare takes place in a competitive arena.

The competitive landscape of the enterprise, relative to its market, can be clearly mapped out by laying out both the latitudinal and longitudinal market dimensions. 

Latitude lays out what is important to the different customer segments from their differing points of view. Certain customers may claim that what is important to them are the quality features of durability and functionality. Other customers may be looking for style, design, and aesthetic appeal. There would be customers who do not have the purchasing power to afford any of the above quality definitions. They would buy lower-priced products with lesser quality. 

Longitude in the marketing map represents the product features and attributes of competitors in the marketplace. Most competitors would be offering product features, which the major customer segments want to buy. A few will focus on niche customers who are not in the mainstream. The latitudinal and longitudinal dimensions will draw the parameters of the map, locating both the customers and the competing enterprises in their respective positioning.

In determining its positioning, the enterprise should be mindful of the main value proposition (MVP) to its customers relative to its competitors.

In determining the MVP, the enterprise must assess its products from the customers’ viewpoint. It must evaluate the other six Ps of marketing to find out if they complement and reinforce one another. Price might be out of line with the promotion message, or the people chosen might be the wrong message carriers. Each of the Ps of marketing must communicate something to the customer.

The enterprise should carefully assess whether its chosen MVP is the most sought after by its targeted market segment. Some enterprises have discovered that their intended customers are not the ones buying their products but some other segments. Their choice, then, is to either reposition their products toward the unintended customers or to reinvent their products to fit their intended customers. Sometimes, all that is necessary is a change of message but, most of the time, what is required is an overhaul of the marketing mix.

To establish the positioning of its various products in the marketplace, the enterprise endeavors to build the brand of each product. Branding serves three purposes. First is to differentiate the product from other products. Second is to avoid a commodity image for the product. Third is to fill a space in the consumer’s mind that would prevent other products from occupying the same space.

Once a space gets filled in the consumer’s mind, it is very hard to change. We all remember the first man on the moon, the first person to circumnavigate the world, and the first murderer, but we do not remember the second. Number two will only be remembered if it makes a big thing out of being number two like Avis. People know that as the ‘number two’ car rental company, Avis, “tries harder.”

Branding and brand equity development should go hand-in-hand with positioning. Volvo stresses its safety brand positioning by crashing their test cars into brick walls to dramatize the minimal effect on the owner-driver.

Powerful brands have become the generic name for their product categories like Kleenex, Band-Aid, Xerox, and Scotch Tape. It is hard to separate these brands from their permanent positioning in the marketplace. These brands have also been able to extend their good image to their other product lines. Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble, Pfizer, Ayala, and SM have been able to leverage their enterprise brand image to all of their product lines. These enterprises have assumed the reputation and image of top-caliber establishments whose magic wand can transform new products into instant successes.