The How-To on Product Positioning

Depending on who you talk to, positioning is a marketing term that has come to mean different things to different people so today we’re going to stick with my definition and I define positioning as how the customer perceives your product versus comparable or competitive products.

In its most simplistic explanation, positioning is what the customer thinks about you. Are you cheap or luxury or middle of the road? Are you the healthy or non-healthy option? Are you convenient or slower than a snail? Are you a good guy or a bad guy? What space in the mind of the consumer do you occupy?

The reason that positioning is important is that once it’s set in a consumer’s mind, it is extremely difficult to change it.
The consumer gets the idea that you mean one thing – and cannot easily get their head around you meaning another.
All the more reason to ensure your positioning is right to start with.

3 Steps to Create Your Market Positioning.

Product attributes are the qualities or characteristics of that particular product. Here are some examples:

  • Toothpaste attributes might include fighting plaque, whiter teeth and fresher breath
  • Car attributes might include safety, reliability, cheap to run, status, speed
  • Insurance attributes might include peace of mind, fast claim service, market value replacement


If you’re the first product in your product category, choose the most important attribute for your brand and promote your product on that attribute. If you’re not the first, find one that is available (in other words, no-one else is using it). Don’t copy your competitor, you need an attribute that sets your product apart so you can be seen to be different. (The rule of the follower is to do the opposite of the leader so you can provide the consumer with a genuine alternative.)

If you are the first in the product category, your positioning message should include a leadership statement. “The world’s first (whatever) for (whoever)” “Fastest Growing (whatever)” “The biggest supplier of (whatever)” “Australia’s No. 1 choice for (whoever)”.

If you’re not the first in the category, but you are the first to grab an available attribute, run with the attribute, for example, “the toothpaste for whiter teeth”. Then you need to explain why whiter teeth is important.

The use of Taglines or Slogans.

Taglines (or straplines) are the short statements that usually appear with business logos and there are many very famous examples around. The most effective taglines should achieve one of two things and that is to either assert your leadership or position your business by repositioning your competitor. For example,

Coca Cola’s “The Real Thing” establishes its leadership – it’s the genuine article and it was first to market

Avis Car Hire’s “We Try Harder” establishes its challenger (or underdog) brand status behind Hertz and implies that Hertz doesn’t really try to please customers. (This tagline was supported by some very famous advertisements including one where Avis openly acknowledged that it was the Number 2 brand and invited customers to come to Avis because its queues were shorter.)

Pepsi Cola’s “The Choice of A New Generation” which implies that Coca Cola drinkers were the older generation (which at the time they were).

Other Influencing Factors in the Consumers Mind.

Brands/products must have a personality. The elements of a personality include its name, packaging, price, its advertising and what it does and where it is bought. Its personality ultimately becomes its image and this image should work to reinforce its position.

So don’t have an old fashioned logo on a “modern” product; don’t use “boring” packaging on an “exciting” product. And especially don’t regularly change your brand since you’ll only confuse your customers, most of whom don’t like being confused.

How can You Change Your Positioning If You’ve Made A Mistake?

If no-one knows your brand, it’s easy to change because no-one has any preconceived idea about what you stand for. If people do know your brand, you have a problem and the best way to resolve the problem is to create a new brand.

Let’s look at an example.

The average consumer believes that McDonalds are not a healthy option even though the business is selling deli options, salads and so on. It’s easy to see why McDonalds is trying to shift the community’s perception about its products. The fact is there is a much higher degree of community concern with obesity – and McDonalds is a large business and thus falls victim to finger-pointing because of the product range it sells. The organization suffered a second public relations blow with the release of Supersize Me, a globally-released film that questioned the nutritional value of McDonald’s food.

Despite the introduction of healthier options, does your average consumer believe that McDonalds is healthy? Probably not. Consumers on the whole are simple creatures and once they’ve made up their minds about you, it’s a hard and expensive slog to try to get them to change their minds.

Want more?

Check out more of my posts on brand and digital marketing.


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