The Art of Product Positioning – Do you know the right position?

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[Part of ‘Marketing Tips for Small Businesses’ series started by Mayank, head of marketing at Redbus.in. This article demystifies the concept of product positioning.]

What is a Position and what is Positioning?

Position is, as the word suggests, a perception in someone’s mind and, without getting too technical about it, positioning is all that you do to create that perception.

How do you get Positioned?

If you look around, you can categorize your colleagues as per your perception of their traits. Some are funny, some are dull, some are smart, and some are just plain boring. So, when you’re bored, you’ll go to the funny guy and hope to have a good time. However, the funny guy may or may not know that you find him funny. But you do. Perhaps your other colleagues think so too. He’s been positioned as the funny guy.

What did he do to get positioned as the funny fellow?

He probably cracked a joke at the lunch table, or he probably forwarded some hilarious e-mails to a group, or he just looks funny and is usually jovial. What he definitely didn’t do is go around telling people that he’s a funny guy.

That’s exactly how brands get positioned too. It could be the tone of the ad, the smell or your product, the packaging, the color of your website – each of these elements positions your brand in a customer’s mind. Be careful.

art of product positioning - stand out
Art of Product Positioning - Stand out in the Crowd

What do Iconic Brands do to get Positioned?

Which is the largest e-books store in the World?

Did you just say Amazon.com out loud in your mind? Well, they never claimed that. Then why do you think of them every time you think books? I’m sure there are many other sites that sell books online. So, what is it that Amazon did to make you believe that they are the largest e-books store in the World? Think about it. That’s exactly what you need to do with your brand.

The most difficult thing that the marketer needs to do about positioning is not to think of a slick statement/marketing line, but to get the organization to “walk-the-talk”. That’s what great brands do. If you can’t do that, I strongly recommend that you don’t use a positioning line. It may just piss customers off if they feel that you don’t live up to your lofty claims.

Can I communicate something without saying it?

Which is the most macho bike in the World?

Do images flash in your mind? Do you see big moustached hunks riding a Harley in a group? Hear the thud of an Enfield? Did Harley Davidson or Royal Enfield ever claim that they are a macho bike? They definitely didn’t. But it was implied from their ads, from the design of the product, the sound of the machine, from the people that actually rode them and suddenly every guy wanted to own one. So, it’s not necessary to claim something that can be communicated without saying it. However, you can engineer every move in a way that implies that positioning.

Royal Enfield - Early Bird
Royal Enfield - Early Birds (Art of Product Positioning)

There’s a reason why Femina sponsors crores at the Miss India pageants. It’s just another way of trying to claim their authority on Indian beauty. But people still buy Vogue / Cosmo to know about fashion and beauty.

So, don’t claim something you’re not just because you know it’s what people are looking for. If you want to claim it, first be it.

The best way to think about positioning is to think of a brand / company / person for each of these questions and then think what they did to get positioned that way. That’s what you need to do to your brand.

– Which is the largest website in the world?

– Which is the fastest website in the world?

– Which is the best website in the world?

– Who is the most suave bollywood actor?

– Who is the most wanted bollywood queen?

– Which is India’s most respect IT company?

One thing is for sure. No matter what your answers are, none of these brands / companies / people ever claimed these superlatives themselves.

Where do I start?

You can read Al Ries and Jack Trout for more on positioning. It’s an interesting read.

In my opinion, it’s important to understand what matters to your customers from a product perspective. Till you don’t put your finger on that, you haven’t found your positioning cause. And it may not be easy to zero-in on it. Each product has various segments and each segment may have a different need. Like most marketers you surely don’t want to run the risk of alienating any segment by bending towards either. By claiming the lowest price you may alienate the guys that look for quality service and vice versa.

So, what do you do? You wish there was a magic formula, but there ain’t.

Some of the angles you may want to consider are about what a customer wants and needs, what your product’s USP is, what your company’s strengths are, what customers perceive your product and company’s strengths to be and what your competitors claim.

Needless to say, you need to differentiate and stand out. How you do that can either be by claiming to be different or by actually being different. If you actually are different, then claim what differentiates you. If you aren’t different, then you’d be running a big risk by claiming something you aren’t so, think about what can differentiate you and that differentiator better be something that a customer cares about.

Do I own that word?

Every category has a word and you need to work towards owning that. The most banal, but best example is that of Xerox. That brand literally replaces the category of photocopiers with its name. Infosys / Wipro are the first names that come to mind every time you say IT. Levi’s probably owns the word jeans. Volvo owns the word luxury buses in India. Do you own the word that represents your category?

You’ll find tons of agencies and case studies that will help you achieve this and it’s easy. But if you want to extract something invaluable from this article, it would be my suggestion to create the walk before you do the talk”.

Product excellence is the start and the end of great positioning, because customers aren’t stupid.

What’s your opinion?

Read the earlier articles:

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