Product Positioning is about consistency in consumer perception. It is a marketing concept popularised by Ries and Trout in their 1980s book ‘Positioning: The Battle for your Mind’. Very simply, Positioning is about creating an identity in the mind of the consumer; Consumers have vast choice of products and the overall perception of the product is critical in getting consumers to purchase a specific product. Ries and Trout however suggest that consumers look for consistency in product associations and once an impression has been formed of a product, repositioning a consumers perception of a product is very difficult. Positioning is equally important for brands as for products.
Car brands have very strong Positioning characteristics. When we talk about Volvo, Rolls Royce or Honda we have a preconceived impression. For example, what if Rolls Royce started to market a budget small car to rival the Nissan Micra? Rolls Royce is positioned as a luxurious and exclusive brand which has certain associations such as high cost of ownership and expert workmanship; potential buyers of the budget Rolls Royce will be put off by the impression that servicing will be expensive and, at the same time, traditional Rolls Royce buyers will be concerned that the exclusivity will be compromised.
New market segments can however be successfully entered if Positioning is carefully managed; Aston Martin is set to release a Toyota iQ based car renamed the Cygnet; the Cygnet however will only be sold to existing Aston Martin owners and will be costly (therefore retaining the Aston Martin exclusivity Position). Aston Martin knows that it must maintain its Positioning however is also conscious of the need to diversify its product offerings.
Brand Repositioning – the Burberry Problem
Of course, sometimes it may be extremely difficult for a company to control brand Positioning; the Burberry brand was significantly damaged when football hooligans in the U.K. started to wear Burberry. The Burberry Position as an exclusive and upmarket unisex brand was repositioned as a brand for young and rough males (Chavs). Burberry has since needed to invest significantly in attempting to reposition the brand to its former Position.
All successful Brands and Products have a Position
Everything to do with branding is about Positioning. The colours of a product, the packaging, pricing, the advertising, where the product is sold and so on is all about enforcing Positioning. Positioning is about how products (and brands) are perceived and the message must be consistent. Next time you are in the supermarket take a look at the products on the shelves and where they are Positioned (in the mind of the consumer); Clairol, Pantene and Dove all sell shampoo but are Positioned at different target markets …