What Are Marketing Positioning Strategies

Marketing Positioning Strategies have to be the single most important part of any marketing strategy. The goal of the positioning strategy is to create a lasting impression about your product or services in the mind of your target audience. Creating this positive sentiment will give you an advantage over your competitors and will increase brand loyalty.

Being able to differentiate your product from that of your competitors is the key to establishing a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Positioning strategies define how you are going to differentiate your product, who your target market is, and how you will reach them. For example, a retailer may choose to position its store as being convenient to customers while providing great value on clothes by offering frequent sales. This offers convenience for potential customers as they don’t need to shop at multiple stores, and it allows the store to better compete with other fashion retailers for customers.

What is market positioning?

Branding and digital marketing expert, Phil Kotler (also known as the “father of modern marketing”), defines market positioning as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”. In general, strategic positioning is used to influence the perception of an organization or product about others in the market. The idea is to create an image and identity that audiences recognize as being a certain way.

Perception is complicated. You see, they vary from person to person, and like reputation, it’s fragile – it can take years to craft and seconds to shatter. But if it’s so temperamental, why are professionals investing millions into strategic positioning? Well, there are several very attractive advantages to benefit from, including (but not limited to):

  • Heightened awareness
  • Differentiation
  • Charging premium pricing
  • Increased recall
  • Improved market and customer-centricity
  • Helping companies to bounce back from crisis
  • Increased brand equity

With advantages like the above, it’s pretty understandable why so many teams strive to have a clear-cut brand positioning strategy. If you’re wondering how you can too, you’ve come to the right place. During this article, we’ll walk you through all you need to know about strategic positioning so you can reap the above awards also!

How to kick start your market positioning strategy

Conduct a competitive analysis

To create a unique positioning in marketing, you first need to understand how you compare to other companies in your space. This can be achieved through strategic competitive intelligence and assists you with understanding aspects like:

  • Who are your main competitors?
  • How much influence does each of your competitors have on each other?
  • What key themes are associated with each competitor?
  • Are certain competitors thought of more favourably?
  • What does the consumer like and dislike about them?
  • Where they’re performing and where they’re falling flat?
  • How is the industry performing?
  • Where do the opportunities and threats lie?
  • How does your organisation compare and contrast amongst others in your category?

Once you have the answers to the above questions, your competitive positioning will become clearer. We don’t want to sound like a broken record and repeat past competitive analysis tips we’ve already shared, so instead, you find useful resources on this topic below:

media intelligence dashboard

Positioning Perceptual Maps

Businesses can create a perceptual map of the positioning of the dominant brands in a marketplace to identify any gaps and opportunities in that market.

The positioning map compares brands competing in a marketplace by illustrating consumer perceptions of those brands by using two key variables.

For example, businesses can apply price and quality for most markets; but the map should focus on the primary consumer needs or product benefits you want to understand, which will vary depending on the market. See below for an example of a positioning map.

In conclusion, your positioning in the market determines where your brand sits relative to competitors. It is important for brands to have a point of difference and to emphasize it in their marketing.

Create a positioning statement

positioning statement is a document one or two sentences long that succinctly identifies your business’ unique value about your competitors.

Before you begin writing your positioning statement you need to ask:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What category does your business belong in?
  • What’s the biggest benefit your business provides?
  • Can you prove that benefit?

If for example, you were a business-like Etsy you’re positioning statement might read:

“Etsy is the number one online maker’s market, focused on unique handmade or vintage items and craft supplies.”

Your positioning statement is what you’ll use to guide the key marketing and advertising decisions that positively impact your target audience’s perception of your brand, so it’s vital that your positioning is clear, to you, your team, and the public.

Once you have a positioning statement in mind, before you unleash it onto the world ask yourself the following questions:

Does it do a good job of differentiating your business from competitors?

  • Does it share your business’ unique value proposition?
  • Is it focussed on your target market and their needs?
  • Is it consistent across all areas of your business?
  • Is it easy for someone outside the business to understand?
  • Does your statement promise something you can realistically back up?

If the answer to all of the above is yes! You’ve got yourself a solid positioning statement.

If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

There’s a whole section dedicated to positioning in Product Marketing Core, and tons of tried and tested templates in our membership plans.

Pricing

More often than not, price is a key factor in the customer journey decision-making process and what customers come to expect from a business is usually determined by this signal. While the old saying “you get what you pay for” is cliché, audiences truly believe in this mantra. Because of this, marketing teams use their pricing strategy, be it low or premium, to occupy a distinct image and dictate how prospects perceive the value offered.

Positioning solely on price is dangerous territory though. As John Michael Morgan explains in his book ‘Brand Against the Machine’, “one of the problems with trying to be the cheapest price is that it’s far too easy for someone to come along and price their product or service lower. Low price positioning means your business might as well be standing on quicksand. There is no loyalty for businesses positioned on the low end of price as the customer will go to who is offering the lowest.” With this in mind, marketing professionals rarely use pricing as a key differentiator.

Luxury store showcasing handbags

Perceived quality

Price and perceived quality usually go hand in hand, which is why they’re often the go-to attributes for perception maps amongst scholars. Consultant and Professor, David Aaker, states that perceived quality has three prongs:

1. Objective quality, which is based on the performance of the brand
2. Manufacturing quality, which is based on how defect-free the brand is
3. Product-based quality, which is associated with features/ parts/ ingredients/ services

Say you have two TVs, one is a 4K plasma smart TV with after-sales care and the other is a bog-standard entry-level model. You may think that the entry-level TV will naturally be perceived as being lower quality as it has fewer features, but truth is, positioning in marketing requires you to have an understanding of what quality means to different customer segments. If certain audiences prefer to look at the manufacturing spec/ materials used and the entry-level TV comes out top, consumers will deem that to be of better quality regardless of the product attributes of the plasma TV. Moreover, the plasma TV may be produced by a company that has a history with product recalls, in which case, consumers are likely to think that entry-level TV is still better quality. 

So to summarise, it’s important to achieve perceived quality on a dimension that consumers consider important. Want to learn more about better understanding your target audience and their decision-making process? Check out our Audience and Consumer Insights tool!

Corporate endorsements

Another positioning signal often leveraged by marketing and branding pros is corporate endorsements. While McDonald’s is known as being a fast-food company, they tried to dispel their unhealthy image through their London 2012 Olympic sponsorship. Despite the sponsorship confusing people at first, it gave McDonald’s the publicity and platform they wanted to raise awareness around obesity. In line with their sponsorship, they unveiled a large-scale promotional push that took place throughout The Games and included activity toys with Happy Meals and vouchers for sport sessions. As a top-tier International Olympic Committee sponsor, McDonald’s was also the only branded food in the Olympic Park and the Athlete’s Village. The messaging strategy? If a Big Mac is good enough for the world’s top athlete’s it’s good enough for you (in moderation… of course)!

McDonald's chips

Influencer marketing

Following on from the above, influencer marketing can also significantly help to position efforts. Since consumers often find influencers more credible as the message doesn’t directly come from a company, it’s a great strategy to use for those wanting to influence how their organization is perceived amongst those they’re targeting. With that being said, choosing the right influencers to endorse your brand is critical. Make the wrong decision and your business can end up being positioned in a different direction than what you set out to achieve. Thankfully we don’t have to rely solely on our gut feeling when choosing influencers as there are tools out there that can do the job for us. Meltwater’s Social Influencer Management solution is one example.

Thought leadership

Think Marketing defines thought leadership as a “communication strategy that positions your brand as a leading authority on a specific industry/category/subject”. Lots of companies choose to include thought leadership in their content marketing strategy and frame their executives as experts on certain topics knowing this has a positive effect on product positioning too. Thought leadership is useful for all organizations, but it’s especially helpful for those wanting to break into a new category as it can make employees seem more credible and trustworthy.

There are thousands of examples of thought leadership online, but as an animal lover, one of my favorites has to be Lush cosmetics. To strengthen their cruelty-free product positioning and brand promise, Lush often gets involved in lobbying for animal rights. They even have their award, The Lush Prize, which is the largest prize fund in the non-animal testing sector, awarding £250,000 to support initiatives that end or replace animal testing.

lush store

Distribution

Your distribution strategy can say a lot about you and your positioning. For example, choosing to sell your goods in convenience stores doesn’t scream luxury. Moreover, products sold in convenience stores also tend to be lower in price as they need to match the consumers’ browsing mindset. It’s unlikely that customers will pop out to get a pint of milk or loaf of bread and come home with a £1,000 TV – but if it’s lower-priced, you might just trigger that impulse buy!

When selling goods through retailers, businesses also have less control over promotional efforts. This is why it’s rare to see extremely exclusive brands in department stores – yes, even the fancy ones! Such companies prefer owning their stores, and in most cases, rarely offer promotions – a strategic tactic that helps strengthen their exclusive market positioning too!

Measure if you’ve successfully influenced positioning in marketing with these 3 methods

Now there’s no use in putting all this effort into strategic positioning if you’re not going to measure whether or not your decision has successfully moved the needle. As mentioned earlier, perception is complicated – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be analyzed. Below you’ll find 3 marketing analysis strategies to lean on when trying to understand if you’ve influenced how your target audience perceives you.

Media Monitoring

Use media monitoring and measurement to see if the thought leadership angles you’re targeting and tactics used are resonating. You can do this by measuring how many times your organization is mentioned alongside conversations related to the thought leadership angles you set out to drive. You can even measure how prominent your company is within the conversation, for example, are you mentioned in the title of the article or alongside a bunch of competitors?

Audience analysis

Use a consumer analysis tool to understand if there’s a difference in the types of tribes following you on social media. This can be achieved by looking at dimensions such as audience affinity, how your target audience describes themselves in their bios, other types of companies they follow, and so on. This is especially useful if you want to measure whether you’ve successfully changed the type of target audience you’re marketing to.  

a graph showing audience inights

Hold a focus group

Brand salience is the degree to which your company is thought of or noticed by consumers when they make a purchase decision. Focus groups are a great way of qualitatively measuring brand salience. For example, you can ask the consumer what company comes to mind when they think of marketing analytics. If they recall yours, it’s a good indication that you have strong positioning.

Hopefully, by now you have a better understanding of what is meant by positioning in marketing, understanding your competitive positioning, how to write a market positioning statement, as well as the types of strategies and tactics you can use to change how your business is perceived. To wrap things up, I wanted to share one example of a brand that did this well…

Back in 2012, Kodak was on the brink of extinction – but only 8 years later, it’s a force to be reckoned with. When Danielle Atkins, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, joined the company in 2014, she helped Kodak reignite its relevance and gave it the breath of fresh air needed within the youth demographic. By harnessing the latest trends, collaborating with influencers, and captivating audiences, Kodak now has a new lease on life! Ever the curious ones, Meltwater partnered with Atkins on a webinar so we could better understand the steps she took to achieve this! Curious too? Listen to the on-demand recording and hear Danielle explain how you too can re-energize your brand, in both the B2B and B2C spaces, with a carefully put-together marketing strategy. 

Conclusion

The marketing positioning strategy you choose is crucial to determine because it will help you distinguish what products and services are unique, while also being able to spotlight your product as a leader in its industry. Depending on the market you’re dealing with, there are numerous types of marketing strategies that can be implemented. Some specially tailored for products and others for service-related products.

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