Positioning can be defined as a foundation upon which all other marketing mix decisions are built. Moreover, it involves a decision to emphasize or highlight certain aspects of a brand, so positioning is not what you do to the product, but is how you influence the mind of the consumer through marketing communications. Just as ‘segmentation’ involves the decision to aim at a certain group of customers but not other, the positioning involves a decision to stress only certain aspects of our brand, and not others. The key idea in the positioning strategy is that the consumer must have a clear idea of what your brand stands for in the product category, and that a brand can not be sharply and distinctly positioned if it tries to be everything to everyone. Such positioning is achieved mostly through a brand’s marketing communications, although its distribution, pricing, packaging, and actual product features also can play major roles.
As said before, that positioning is not what you do to the product, but instead it is what you do to the consumer’s mind, through various communications; many products in the over-the-counter drug market for instance, have identical formulas but are promoted for different symptoms, by using different names, packaging, product forms, and advertising. The strategic objective must be to have segmentation and positioning strategies that fit together: a brand must be positioned in a way that is maximally effective in attracting the desired target segment. A brand’s position is the set of associations the consumer has with the brand. These may cover physical attributes, or life style, or use occasion, or user image, or stores that carry it. A brand’s position develops over years, through advertising and publicity and word of mouth and usage experience, and can be sharp or diffuse, depending on the consistency of that brand’s advertising over the years.
A brand’s position in a consumer’s mind is a relative concept; in that it refers to a comparative assessment by the consumer of how this brand is similar to or different from the other brands that compete with it. Think of every consumer as having a mental map of the product category. The location of your in that map, relative to that of your competitors, is your position, and the locations of all the brands in that map are determined by the associations that the consumer makes with each brand.
A positioning strategy is vital to provide focus to the development of an advertising campaign. The strategy can be conceived and implemented in a variety of ways that derive from the attributes, competition, specific applications, the types of consumers involved, or the characteristics of the product class. Each represents a different approach to developing a positioning strategy, even though all of them have the ultimate objective of either developing or reinforcing a particular image for the brand in the mind of the audience.