Positioning: Mind Over Matter

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2945 , Published on 05 May 2012

Positioning has become the buzzword of marketing. It has become the handiest tool in this age of niche marketing. Product was a rave success!! Great positioning! Product failed. The brand was not positioned properly. So what is this POSITIONING?

POSITIONING can be simply defined as the image of the brand we want to project in the mind of the prospect/customer/consumer. Positioning is how we differentiate ourselves in the mind of the prospect, how we manage to have a larger share of his heart.

Often many people confuse positioning with superficial changes made to product, such as the price, packaging, or even name. Positioning is the reputation of the brand in the mind of the customer.

As famously said by Walter Landor and I quote- “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind”

Why Positioning

Today marketplace and market-space is shortening with every minute. With the advent of Globalization and internet (online marketing) the world has become a global village. There are just too many products, too many companies and too much marketing noise. This obviously is creating confusion in the mind of the customer. The strategies of the past don’t work any more. We have to differentiate ourselves in the mind of the customer and this is where Positioning comes into the picture.

Positioning has completely transformed the way marketing and advertising were done in the past decades. It’s not about sugarcoating yourself as a brand anymore; it’s more about the comparatives. Its about how you are different; it’s about how you propose a better customer perceived value than the other competitor. It’s about how you place yourself in the mind of the consumer.

When Avis went with the advertisement “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So why go with us”, they differentiated themselves from their competitors. They gave reasons to their customers and the line which took the cake was -”The line at our counter is shorter”.

Similarly Seven-up came with the tagline “Seven-Up: the uncola.”  It differentiated itself from cola drinks and the giants Coca-cola and Pepsi. It ignited a thought in the mind of the prospect - “how does this uncola taste?” They positioned themselves in the mind of the consumers.

Mind over Matter

Be the first. If somebody asked “Who was the first person to put foot on Moon”, all hands go up in the air: “Neil Armstrong”. Who was the second, almost all hands go down. Why?

Because human beings are psychologically wired to do so. ”Xerox” became synonymous with photocopying. Just as “IBM” with computers and “Microsoft” with software. In advertising it’s best to have the best product but it’s better to be the first.

In marketing, Perception is reality. It is necessary to understand the psychology of an average person. This person is already bombarded with so much information in a day that is not possible for him to even retain anything; forget changing his mind over it. Any advertising which tries to change the mind of the people is headed for disaster. The consumers do not want to be dictated, they don’t want to be told that they are wrong. But they can listen and perceive news. So give them news. Give them the difference between you and your competitor and they will use the left side of their brain. They will use logic to see your point. Position yourself there -in the mind of the consumer.

The trick is to simplify your messages. Less is more. We have to find out the points-of-difference (PODs), points-of-parity (POPs) of our product and brand and the ambiguities to simplify our message and simplify some more to make a long lasting impression. It’s about owning a word in the mind of the customer. For example Volvo owns “safety”, BMW owns “driving”, and FedEx owns “overnight”. We have to use this word for the maximum impact.

Marketing Strategies

Consumers are like chicken. They are much more comfortable with a pecking order that everybody knows about and accepts.

When two brands are close, like Pepsi and Coca Cola, McDonalds and Burger King, at some time one or the other is bound to dominate the market. The simple fact is when a 800 pound gorilla wants to sleep, it can sleep anywhere. Hence the market leader can do anything they want to.  As it is said in wrestling “You cannot be pinned if you are on the top”. Same is the case for the market leaders. They are invulnerable like HUL, Procter and Gamble, Coca Cola, unless you find a mistake. The most important thing for the leader to do is keep on evolving and innovating.

Widen the gap between themselves and their competitors. The leaders should work on:

  • Strategies for maintaining Leadership
  • Keep reminding customers why you are so special: Rubbing it in.
  • Covering all bets. Should know their weak points and constantly work on it
  • No room for complacency: Reacting Rapidly to any kind of competition
  • Become multi-branded: Not risking the brand image of the company or a successful product

The most important strategy of positioning is to always remain differentiated from the competitor, be it price, promotion, place or newer products. In the below diagrams we can see that : In second graph the market leader is actually compromising and coming at par with the competitor. This gives a wrong signal to your customer as it portrays you as a substitutable brand. But in the 3rd graph the market leader actually widens the differences (it may be price, it may be promotion strategy etc). This will be perceived by the customer as a brand true to its value - inimitable and non substitutable.  You will have special space in the customer heart and mind. Eg are brands like Apple, Facebook, Honda Engines etc.

Here a competitor has a little more trouble because he was not the first. They should work on shortening the gap between them and the leader and as well as surpass them.

The most important strategy is not to forget their positioning and what made them successful.

The example here is again Avis. Avis decides that they were no longer satisfied with the No.2 position and ran an advertisement saying “Avis going to be No.1”, now it had strongly positioned itself in the mind of the people as an underdog working hard. There was sympathy for this underdog and sales increased but as they ran up the next ad, it suggested bragging and boasting. This ad backfired on Avis.

Hence a follower should stick to their guns and only take a leap when they are absolutely sure that they can beat the leader in the game.

The following strategy can be applied by a competitor:

  • Attack the leader before he gains the share of mind of the customer
  • Look for the hole and fill it. Try to find out if the product by the leader has any flaws.
  • Keep your price higher :to gain confidence for quality
  • Keep your price lower to gain market access and market share


There is a plethora of products in every product category imaginable to the Marketers. The only way to reinvent yours brand and product is repositioning.

Repositioning Communications activities to give an existing product a new position in customers' minds and so expanding or otherwise altering its potential market.

Product repositioning: refining the product and/or its associated marketing mix in order to change its positioning either: (a) to bring it closer to the customer's ideal; or (b) to move it further away from the competition.

For example Lifebuoy had targeted only one major segment of the rural market in the past i.e. the working class. But with time Lifebuoy changed its strategies and repositioned itself as a health brand. With Lifebuoy Healthplus it’s positioned itself in the mind of the “Lady of the house”. They understood that the mother/wife is the most worried person in the average Indian family for the health of their family members and Lifebuoy understood it and repositioned itself as a product in the health sector and not just soap anymore.

Take the example of Titan watches. They are now repositioned as gift items. Before there was this psychology among people that you don’t own more than one watch buy with the rise of the middle class and disposable income people can afford to have more than one brand. Titan with its new collections like Raga, octane, Orion etc asked the customers how many do you own.

They propelled the customers to buy more than one, Made them gifted due to the attractive packaging. After that they again repositioned themselves as a premium brand by introducing the Titan Nebula Celeste. They ventured into the European market with these premium watches priced around $ 12000 each. With this repositioning they entered the international Markets.

Positioning is a very useful term in today world of advertising and marketing. Its getting perhaps more and more relevant in today’s world’s chaotic marketing and numerous product and varieties. In future the phenomenal success and the unbelievable failures in advertising history of a brand/product is going to be determined by how well it is placed in the mind of the customer or how is it positioned.

The article has been authored by Pratik Panigrahi from Fore School of Management.

Image: posterize / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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