Positioning (marketing)

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Positioning is "the place a product occupies in consumers minds relative to competing products".[1] Not to be confused with product positioning. Where the Journal of Advertising Research defines product positioning as a "brand’s objective (functional) attributes in relation to other brands".[2] It comes down to the effectiveness of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) strategy that the marketer uses as to how compelling the message is deciphered by the consumer. Which in turn, creates the position the brand/product occupies within the consumers mind. A well-positioned brand should accommodate the needs of the targeted segment and offer differentiation from other competing brands, where value proposition is achieved.[3] Effective product positioning has the potential to create a powerful brand; however, if done poorly it can ruin a brands reputation, which will crush a businesses success.[4]

There are different strategies that can be used to entice the segment the marketer is trying to reach which will help consumer’s position the brand in their mind. Communication clutter (noise) can get in the way of messages from a brand, which will hinder a consumer’s ability to effectively position a product or service.[5] Therefore, a message must be clear, concise, communicated, and targeted correctly.

Marketers have the power to create marketing strategies that can be more appealing to specific target market groups. Which is related to the way consumers position the brand in their minds; the more consumers that prefer one brand to another, the more that brand will dominate the market. This is generally achieved by the brand having a differentiated marketing strategy that is sustainable and communicates a message effectively through communication clutter.[6]

Positioning is a marketing strategy, which aims to differentiate a brand in relation to competing brands in order to gain market share.[7] It is the act of designing and creating the company’s image and communicating the benefits of the company’s products, so it gains a distinct place in the market.[8] This can be done by highlighting the main features of the brand or through advertising channels. Each brand differentiates itself differently to gain customers and to create a distinct position in the mind of the consumer.[9] The essence of this marketing strategy is for companies to create a story that facilitates the growth of their business and indicates how their business desires to be perceived by the stakeholders.[7] After a brand has been positioned, it is very challenging to reposition the brand without demolishing the image or integrity of the brand.[10]

Positioning strategies are generally used to differentiate the brand from its competitors; however, the positioning strategy needs to be flexible so it can adapt to changes in the external environment.[11] The strategies that businesses develop need to be simple; multiple concepts may confuse the customers and weaken the effectiveness of the strategy. Using a unique brand name that reflects the vision and objectives of the business will allow for a superior competitive position.[10] This will help businesses secure financial returns from the targeted market.[12] The three techniques used in positioning include brand, product and price.[13] The combination of these will contribute to a successful positioning strategy.

Positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands, in the mind of the customer. Companies apply this strategy either by emphasizing the distinguishing features of their brand (what it is, what it does and how, etc.) or they may try to create a suitable image (inexpensive or premium, utilitarian or luxurious, entry-level or high-end, etc.) through advertising. Once a brand is positioned, it is very difficult to reposition it without destroying its credibility. It is also called product positioning.

Positioning is one of the most powerful marketing concepts and the meaning of positioning was rather limited in the earlier years when marketing was just getting started which focused on the concept of reputation. Positioning then became "the place a brand occupies in the mind of its target audience".[14] Under this meaning many companies now use the concept of positioning as a part of their everyday marketing activities or strategies and is also used as a tool for explaining how consumers can relate to foreign markets easier.[14]

Enis & Cox [15] explain to us that word positioning was introduced by an advertising executive in his 1969 article which was published in "Industrial Marketing" and "Advertising Age" Jack Trout, an advertising executive. A few years later in 1972, Jack Trout teamed up with Al Ries who was another advertising executive, in order to write an article called "Positioning cuts through chaos in marketplace" which was also published by "Advertising Age".[14] In the early 1970s, positioning became a popular word with workers within marketing, especially those that were working in the area of advertising and promotion. Positioning continues to be a frequently used term in marketing literature as Maggard [16] states positioning provides us with a valuable conceptual vehicle, which is effectively used to make various strategy techniques more meaningful and more productive.[16]


The first description of positioning, published in 1969 by Jack Trout in the paper "Positioning" is a game people play in today’s me-too market place" in the publication Industrial Marketing, in which the notion is made that a typical consumer is regularly overwhelmed with unwanted advertising, and therefore has a natural tendency to discard all information that does not immediately find a comfortable (and empty) slot in the consumer's mind. It was then expanded into their ground-breaking first book, "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind," in which they define Positioning as "an organized system for finding a window in the mind…It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances" (McGraw-Hill 1981).

It is widely accepted that positioning (perception) is something that happens in the minds of a target market. Perceptions can be held for a range of entities, including individuals, products and companies. It is this perception that a market has of a particular company, product or service that can lead to a secondary perception in relation to their perceptions of competitors in the same category. One of the most important concepts in positioning is that it expects that consumers will compare and analyze products that they are interested in within the marketplace. These comparisons could be based on features of the product itself (quality, multiple uses, etc.), price, and/or packaging and marketed image. These comparisons will occur between companies, irrespective if the company employs a proactive, reactive or passive approach to their positioning. Individual companies can positively influence a consumer’s perception through making enlightened, strategic marketing actions.

A company, a product, or a brand must have a positioning concept in order to survive in their individual competitive marketplace. It is common for a ‘core idea’ to be confused with a ‘positioning concept;, however it is important to recognize the differences between the two. A Core Idea Concept simply describes the product or service that a business provides. Its purpose is merely to determine whether a potential consumer would be interested in the business. In contrast, a Positioning Concept attempts to sell product to the consumer, through highlighting the benefits of the product, through targeting the potential consumer’s rational or emotional needs. In order to create a positioning statement, a clearly developed positioning idea must be formulated, and will often be tested with a group of potential consumers first. The Positioning Statement is a business person's analyzation of the target audience, qualified idea that can be put forward and used to develop a creative brief for an agency to develop a successful advertising or communications strategy. Another key advantage in positioning a potential consumer is through offering a point of differentiation.

Differentiation in the context of business is an advantage that is unique to a company and a quality that other companies do not have. A differentiation can range from being a price advantage (e.g., one product is significantly cheaper than it’s competitor’s), or having a new form of technology not available to other companies, other companies can credit themselves with being the first or the fastest in their field. Whatever it is a business can use to stand out from the rest is called differentiation. In today’s growing markets, differentiation is a business imperative, not only in terms of a company’s success, but also for its prolonged survival.

Communicating a Point of Interest (POI) / Brand Personality[edit]

The positioning of a brand (or, Point of Interest/Brand Personality) is the process of investigating, understanding, and implementing levels of capability, for the brand, to possess lasting sources of competitive advantage over its competitors. It is by use of this methodology in which a brand/company/product differentiates itself from a competitor, and decides which market niche to fill. The continued accumulation and dominance of messages within the market creates what is known as Brand Equity.[17] How stakeholders and consumers perceive a Brand greatly involves how that brand communicates itself to its target niche market. The perception is aggregative through a combination of short, and long term messages the brand has delivered, in deliberation to achieve its desired regard. A brand can be semi-lucid, in that in the short term, its perception is constant, but to change, will exert careful resources to change its image. It’s often used as a metonym, as it’s the balance of opinion consumers deduce as a whole – but also can be legally protected, known as a trademark.[18] "Communication has been variously defined as the passing of information, the exchange of ideas, or the process of establishing, a commonness or oneness of thought between a sender and a receiver".[19] Communication occurs when the customer interacts or meets the brand (also referred to as ‘touch points’).[20]

How a company communicates to its customers that it exists on a level of its competitors, depends on a company’s ability to understand and convey its Point of Difference (cumulative competitive advantage), and the careful strategies moulded to communicate this. The concept of positioning relies on the idea that consumers will compare/analyse the brand in relation to the marketplace around them.[21] The Brand Personality is a distinctive image of a brand’s characteristics or benefits, which leave an engrained image in the mind of the consumer. If a brand is able to capture a niche mindset of a consumer, they are less likely to encounter risk.[22] Successful positioning depends on understanding risk, namely – quantity vs quality: How many differences should I promote? Rosser Reeves once said that a company should aspire to develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), for each brand – and stick to it. Simply put, keep it simple, and understand a singular group in which it dominates the marketplace (i.e. integrity, camera quality, customer service, delivery expectations, etc.) and promote as ‘number one’ in the marketplace. This is to make the brand identifiable to erect emotions towards the product/service/idea that they encounter in other aspects of their life.[23] Many advertising professionals today argue that previously, products used to have tangible and genuine differences between them, and, therefore, USP was a good unit of measure. However, today there are many products/brands flooding the marketplace whose quality standards are also good. This makes achieving USP difficult, as categories are becoming fewer. Advertising professionals now trend towards using Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP), or the Unique Emotional Proposition (UEP) models.[23]

Case Study: Whittaker's Chocolate New Zealand Ltd[edit]

Consider Whittaker’s Chocolate in New Zealand, and its brand position: "good honest chocolate".[24] To reinforce the brand’s personality, the company utilises a variety of ways to achieve messages which are consistent, frequent, and leave an impressionable ‘they’re honest with me’ image.

Despite cocoa beans greatly swelling in price in 2009, they (Whittaker’s) don’t lower the good price, but decide to increase the cost of their bars, and (alongside with the brand personality) communicate to consumers why, and how much, the product’s needed to be increased by.[25] In contrast, Cadbury (competitor), reduced the cost of their products and combined palm oil with cocoa butter. Consumers were outraged by Cadbury’s decision, and due to the historical ties with Whittaker’s, chose to buy their products over Cadbury’s, in spite. Whittaker's strategy is to maintain premium quality and value resonated and stayed in the minds of consumers, despite the increased price crisis. By maintaining consistency, the brand has lowered its risks. "We have a policy of better before cheaper".[24] As a result, the market shows favour towards ‘more is better’ principle, according to the NZ Facebook and Twitter user feedback during these times.[25]

Whittaker’s lets its customers know that its chocolate goes through a ‘5-folding’ process, akin to the international Swiss chocolate brands - such as Guylian Chocolate. This direct communication reinforces an ‘honesty’ position. Whittaker’s attest openly that all ingredients (where possible) are sourced from local suppliers, and production is in New Zealand. Their sugar is endorsed with the Fair-Trade certification (appealing to social justice advocates), and the company uses less sugar than competitors (such as Cadbury NZ).[26] The product is enveloped by NZ Gravure Packaging’s glimmering inks which deliver a "real metallic sheen",[27] which provide a sensory impact of luxury when consumers view the product on the shelf. There’s a substantial range of product options, from as little as 25g sticks, to larger 250g slabs.[26] Additionally to provide an effortless and convenient product, the product is only sold in Supermarket chains, and convenience stores. Most of Whittaker’s promotions for their products revolved around peripheral emotional impacts (possibly catering to a female/family environment). They focus largely on creativity, and effective timeliness of media placement.[28] Whittaker’s recently shifted advertisements towards Honest, Indulgence, and Humour,[24] and the newest product releases are timed with indulgent trends - amongst youth have unprecedented demand.[29] Whittaker’s doctrines its consumers value with its brand of quality assurance, open honesty, local ownership, trust, availability, and innovation; many of these qualities aren’t easily matched by the competition.

Effective Brand Positioning[edit]

Effective Brand Positioning is contingent upon identifying and communicating a brand's uniqueness, differentiation, and verifiable value. While "me too" brand positioning contradicts the notion of differentiation, this type of "copycat" brand positioning can work if the business offers its solutions at a significant discount over the other competitor(s.) According to Lamb, some companies position their brands "as being similar to competing products or brands"; a few examples are "margarine tasting like butter" and "artificial sweeteners tasting like sugar".[30] This can also be seen in reactive marketing when companies reposition more than just products: after Target added food and grocery items to become a "supercenter", certain grocery stores (such as Texas chain HEB) added retail products to become supercenters as well. Another example would be the iPhone spawning several competitive smartphones - differentiated from Apple, yes, but not as significantly as Apple would prefer based on the patent infringement lawsuits filed by Apple.[31] The conclusion seems to be emulative, but do not duplicate. As the Harvard Business Review notes when discussing positioning and strategy, "A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve."[32]

Importance of positioning[edit]

Positioning is very important as it establishes a competitive strategy for the product and creates a comprehensive marketing mix.[11] Establishing an effective value proposition is the outcome of a successful positioning strategy. Chowdhury,[11] states that positioning creates a distinctive perception of the products brand and identity through the eyes of the customers. Successful positioning is determined by how much risk a business is willing to undertake. By sticking to their unique positioning strategy, their brand will be more identifiable and consumers will be more likely to make a repeat purchase[23] There are three types of positioning strategies: brand, product and price. They all work together to create a competitive advantage, in order to gain and sustain superior performance.[8]

Brand Positioning Strategy[edit]

A brand positioning strategy is a framework for establishing consumer perceptions, involving the company’s characteristics and products in comparison to its competitors (Sengupta, 2005). It is what differentiates businesses from each other; it plays a vital role in building touch points.[13] Two basic approaches of brand positioning are fixing a brand in the minds of consumers in the target market and for consumers to recognize the brand from competitors.[11] The first step of a brand-positioning process is to create a specific frame of reference and to communicate the value proposition.[8] The values need to be identified and the company needs to recognize the brands main vision and objectives.[10] They also need to recognize who the company’s main competitors are and what their values are, allowing for the creation of brand identity. The main competitors and target segments are determined by the business. Establishing brand points of parity (POP’s) and brand points of difference (PODs) is the next step. According to Keller,[8] associating products with similar products allows the brand to emphasize points of parity. POP should contradict the points of difference for competing brands and should demonstrate category credentials, in order to create a strong position in the market for the brand.[8] Points of differences are used to highlight the benefits of the product that customers enjoy in comparison to competitors. By developing unique POD, the product will become more desirable to the consumer and will be more deliverable by the brand, making it easier to differentiate it from competitors.[8] It is evident that consumers will compare a brand in relation to the other competitors in the marketplace. In the interest of sustaining a competitive advantage, the PODs must be reliable, distinctive and up to date.[8] Establishing brand mantras, which are short 3-5 word phrases are usually designed to capture the brands point of difference and must clearly delineate the brand image[8] The final step is to communicate the brand image and its core values, which is done through channels such as advertising, public relations and media[11]

Case study: Coca Cola

Consider Coca-Cola, the world's leading manufacturer, distributor and marketer of soft drink and its brand positioning strategy[33] Cokes competitive frame of reference is a soft non-alcoholic drink that is cola flavored. The POD’s are the distinct taste profile and the positive view on life portrayed. Coca-Cola uses the theme song "open happiness" to emphasis this message. Classic symbolism and imagery are also PODs and are evident in Cokes advertising. For example, the glass Coca-Cola bottle, which has been recognized internationally and is now a symbol associated to their brand.[33] Examples of Coca-Cola’s POPs are the refreshing flavour and how they are known to be contemporary and up to date. "Coke Side of Life" is the brand slogan for Coca-Cola. Brand Mantras have also been established, for example, "sharing", "happiness" and "tasty". Coca Colas main competitor is Pepsi, although their products are very similar, Coke has positioned itself differently, leading to a net income of $2 billion more than Pepsi[33]

Product positioning strategy[edit]

Product positioning strategy is the process implemented by marketers to differentiate products and discover the best way to communicate the product attributes to the target market.[9] The best chance a product has at surviving in the market is if it has a sustainable advantage and a unique offering over its competitor’s[9] According to Karadeniz,[7] product positioning focuses on marketers creating an identity for the product. For example, products can be positioned as the most accessible, durable, reliable, reparable, the best quality or the lowest price.

How positioning is understood by consumers[edit]

Communication clutter can cloud a consumers mind with information about products and services, in order to make the buying process more streamline consumers categorise and ‘position’ the product in their minds.[1] The way a consumer positions a product is determined by personal understanding, impressions, feelings and perception of the product; as apposed to the competing products.[1] Positioning concentrates on the process of fabricating and adjusting perceptions consumers have about a product or service.[34]

For a brand to be positioned well in a consumers mind, the marketing strategy needs to make the brand appear attractive to the consumer.[9] For a brand to be sustainable Sengupta (2005) communicates that a brand must offer distinctive and persuasive customer value to the consumer to be able to be preferred over its competitors.[9] According to Kotler and Armstrong (2012) marketers need to determine what attributes are important to consumers in the target market, and analyse how competitors’ products are perceived. Therefore, that gives a platform to create a strategy that offers a differentiated product perceived better than competitors that supports and communicates the value of the product or service.[1]

A Positioning map is a tool used to determine the consumer’s perceptions of one brand in comparison to competing brands in the market.[1] This concept is frequently used when businesses are seeking to differentiate their brand, which provides competitive advantage (Sengupta, 2005). Differentiation in a competitive market can be made through; product features, quality of service, channel expertise, people (offer training), and brand image.[1]

Pricing positioning strategy[edit]

Pricing positioning strategy is the last step in positioning. This is an important step; many businesses fail because this step is undermined [7] The quality of the product, the brand heritage, the target market, the product category all need to be considered before the price is set.[35] Brands can be positioned into a high price, high-quality segment or a low price/ low-quality segment or somewhere in the middle.[10] The promotion of expensive and quality goods are based on status and building the image of the brand. While at the low end, a down to earth approach is used emphasizing the low price and sales.[10]

Product positioning process[edit]

The strategy and/or attributes that are used to draw consumers to a brand can be the make or break point in achieving a position where your brand is valued over competitors. Most brands are generally positioned under one dominant positioning strategy, for the reason that it communicates better to the market in relation to what their brand is trying to achieve.[34] There are several positioning concepts that marketer’s use, which are direct benefits, indirect benefits, surrogate positioning, abstract attributes and features.

Features (concrete attributes) – characteristics of the brand advantage that are measurable, tangible and specific to the product category

Abstract attributes – often regarded as a bundle of concrete attributes, frequently comparable across product categories, not tangible

Direct (functional) benefits – communicates advantages of the brand; the personal value consumers assign to product or service features, not directly observable; reflects whether a brand works as intended, refers to problem solutions

Indirect (experiential/symbolic) benefits – benefits that satisfy hedonic needs; gives consumers an indirect advantage of the consumption of a product; perception of a self or a social-image benefit

Surrogate Positioning – designed to create consumer associations about external aspects of a brand; allows an individual to come to an individual conclusion about the brand.

To be successful in a particular market a product must occupy an "explicit, distinct and proper place in the minds of all potential and existing consumers".[36] It has to also be relative to other rival products on the market of which is has to compete with.[36]

Visibility and recognition is what product positioning is all about as the positioning of a product is what the product represents for a buyer the business is targeting. In this day and age markets are showing an increase in the intensity of rivalries and competition, which gives the buyer a greater choice and identification of the products certain intrinsic values that then become critical for the company to gain customer purchase of their products.[36] It is vital that a product or service needs to have a clear identity and placement to the needs of the consumers targeted as they will not only purchase the product, but can warrant a larger margin for the company through increased added value.[36]

Generally, the brand positioning process involves:[37]

Positioning Process[edit]

  1. The position the brand wants consumers to occupy should relate to the core benefits of the product and the attributes that are important to consumers in the target market.
  2. Analyse the environment and the competitors products and how they are perceived to consumers
  3. Create a differentiated strategy that sets your brand apart from competing product and conforms to the needs of the market
  4. Develop a marketing mix that effectively cuts through the communication clutter and conveys the messages clearly to the market
  5. Communicate a message that supports and communicates the value based positioning to the target market


It is the process of identifying variables that allow someone to divide the market into distinct subsets that can be selected as a marketing target to be researched using the Marketing Mix.[37] Segmentation is essential because without it, the best thing a firm could do is to deliver average value.

A central point to a marketing strategy is market segmentation, this makes segmentation a key decision area for organisations in all sectors.[38][39] Segmentation involves using groups of customers together that have similar preferences in products and buying behaviour which helps the business’ in dealing with market heterogeneity, this then goes on to help the business’ focus resources on relatively homogeneous customer segments and so ensuring there is efficient allocation of resources.[39][40]

A segmentation-driven marketing strategy can help companies design products that are responsive, promotional tactics and campaigns developments that are effective, scale of competitive positions and fine-tune current marketing plans or ideas.[38] Marketers must also recognize that a segmentation-driven strategy is generally more costly than mass marketing and brings a major commitment by management for "customer-oriented planning, research, implementation, and control".[38]

Segmentation is a concept undertaken by marketers to divide a market of consumers into sub-categories, so they can market their product or service to a specific group of like-minded people that are perceived to have common needs, priorities and interest in the product or service offered.[41] It is a concept that categorises people according to their needs, marketers utilise this concept to be able to understand the market and develop a marketing mix that will work effectively.[41] Keller (1993) says that is vital to brand positioning, for the reason that if brands could not establish a segment to market their product or service too, they would have wasted resources marketing a product to the consumers who may not even be interested.[3] To be more efficient, marketers develop these strategies so they can focus their resources to one segment of the market to ensure the message they are communicating cuts through clutter and is delivered effectively.[1]

Main Bases of Segmentation:

Geographic – Customer, Location, Region

Demographic - Gender, Age, Religion, Education, Income, Occupation

Psychographic (How they live) - Personality, Lifestyle, Interests

Behavioural –Benefit sought, Occasion used, Frequency of usage, Knowledge, Attitude towards product

Hunt and Arnett (2004) describe that all consumers want different variants depending on their own personal preference of choice.[42] Furthermore, Hunt and Arnett (2004) state that consumers benefit from market segmentation as they provide the market with contributions that are specific to a set group of consumers with likeminded views.[42] Consumers have different needs and wants, therefore they can be grouped into homogenous segments, that being the case segmentation allows firms to identify and target individual markets.[43] Below will overview the segmentation strategy process:

  1. Identify segments of industry demand (brief & analysis)
  2. Target specific segments of demand
  3. Develop specific marketing mixes for each targeted market segment
  4. Evaluate attractiveness of each segment
  5. Select the targeted segments
  6. Identify the best possible position for each target
  7. Develop the best possible communication strategy for positioning

Segmentation Methods[edit]

  • Characteristics of the customers (male, female, rich, poor, etc.)
  • Benefits sought
  • Systematic Product Related Behavior (by purchasing behavior or by channel)
  • Cohort Analysis
  • Geographic Segmentation


Targeting is the process of evaluating the attractiveness of each segment and choose a target. In order to select a target segment, firms must first balance attractiveness with capability and monitor whether actual buyers match the target segment.

One of the core parts of marketing is targeting.[44][45] In the marketing strategy targeting represents a particular stage in the process that is based on the selection of the specific segment to enter engagement with.[45][46] Different customers have a variety of desires and interests [47] in terms of buying behaviour, their needs, and benefits [46] it can be sometimes near impossible to satisfy all customer segments with a unique value proposition.[36][45][46]

The process through which a company engages in seeking and defining the desired customer and then develops its value proposition to reach the mind of customers is all apart of segmentation, targeting and positioning (STP) process.[36][48] The foundation of positioning theory is made of one of the most important postulates of the science of marketing. Scholars Groucutt, Leanly, & Forsyth,[48] (2004) state that "people are extremely diverse and that a product can not be liked equally by everyone" (p. 98). Referring to the postulate it is simple to define what the STP model is all about. The STP model states [48] that for a customer to like the product we have to present the product to those consumers, who want it and are able to actually acquire that product. The STP models first two steps help us to find and define the desired consumer and correct positioning plays for us to place the product in the minds of the targeted consumers, putting it in a more desirable position.[36]

Characteristics that make a segment attractive[edit]

  • Segment Size
  • Growth of Segments
  • Value of Segments
  • Stability
  • Current Company position within the segment
  • Ease of entry
  • Ease of competitive entry
  • Number and strengths of competitors


Positioning is the process of identifying concepts for each target segment, select the best and communicate it.

Positioning strategies help shape a consumers preferences which is a major source in guiding them towards a particular brand. It is essential to assess and analyse the consumers behaviour and psyche of how they will or already do perceive the offered brand by recalling the company’s communications with them such as advertising or any marketing campaigns. The right positioning strategy at right time is what can help a brand build the right image of itself in the mind of consumer(s).[49] Fishbein and Rosenberg’s attitude models [16][50] would be good examples of what is called, quantitative approaches. These models indicate that it is possible for a business to influence and likely change the positioning of the brand by manipulating various factors that will affect a consumer’s attitude with the brand or company. Research on persons’ attitudes suggests that a brand's position in a prospective consumer’s mind is likely to be determined by the "combined total of a number of product characteristics such as the price, quality, durability, reliability, colour, and flavour".[16] The consumer places important weights on each of these product characteristics and it can be possible by using things such as promotional efforts to realign the weights of price, quality, durability, reliability, colour and flavour of which can then help adjust the position of a brand in the mind of the prospective consumer.[16][50]

Communicating a Brand's Position: Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)[edit]

To position a brand, candidate, or idea/ideology to a consumer, you must communicate messages which will remain at the forefront of a receptor’s mind. Communication of the brand will often rely on the niche that is being targeted. A commonly used model which is used to cater to these messages is best known as The [Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)]. This method is combined with Psychology, to deduce that there are two pathways involved in identifying and reacting to persuasive messages supplied by brands, individuals or idea’s; Central, and Peripheral

Traditional persuasion modelling assumes that persuasion occurs when consumers receptors learn a message, however learning is not always a part of persuasion. Non-learning can occur when a consumers receptors pick up the initially displayed image or audio playing, however may not like the brand or may not have had a good experience with this brand, and the material they see may spark another memory in their mind. Therefore association with the entire campaign may not occur and the consumer may not learn the message trying to be conveyed via the positioning.

Cognitive Response Model (CRM)[edit]

. The main theme of the CRM, is that persuasion isn’t directly caused by messages that are seen or heard, but by individuals thoughts which agree with the message. In order to align the attitude of the recipient, messages need to build upon their existing intuitional beliefs system, suggests both motivation and competency to process the information. Two elementary renditions of CRM exist: Chaiken, and Heuristic and Systemic Processing Theory.

Peripheral Response Model (PRM)[edit]

In order to communicate a brands message or ideas to potential receptors, an in depth methodology of persuasion is needed. A Peripheral response to persuasion occurs when an emotionally connected audio or visual piece is used to adjust or align receivers receptors, as opposed to than the message itself adjusting those beliefs. The PRM, targets a market with decreased processing compared to the CRM

Case Study:

For example, an anti-smoking TV advert [1] encompasses direct messaging to use terror to communicate that smoking can cause cancer and shorten mortality. This destructive theme is reinforced by the peripheral messages music, narration, and desaturated colour-scale. This will appeal to a viewer’s emotional morals and values, therefore scaring them and making viewers reconsider the actions of smoking.

Criticisms for ELM[edit]

Some criticisms for ELM exist around the theory that consumers require deliberate intervention with the brand. It assumes that to communicate and persuade a receptor, is to only communicate through the two designated routes; however it fails to take into account that communication isn’t something that is done to the receptor, rather, co-created by the receptor within reality.

Positioning concepts[edit]

More generally, there are three types of positioning concepts:

  1. Functional positions
    • problems
    • Provide benefits to customers
    • Get favorable perception by investors (stock profile) and lenders
  2. Symbolic positions
    • Self-image enhancement
    • Ego identification
    • Belongingness and social meaningfulness
    • Affective fulfillment
  3. Experiential positions
    • Provide sensory stimulation
    • Provide cognitive stimulation

Association of Meaning[edit]

To make sense to the world around us, people associate objects and attach meanings through our senses utilising the conscious mind.[51] The meanings people associate are sometimes known as conceptual, or implicit, which may exert influence to their behaviours. Understanding these associations are imperative in the communicative processes involved in choosing where a brand is positioned to acetate how messages released by brands are encoded by the intended receptors. Brands more broadly attached to shapes, colours, feelings, sounds, jingles, scents and tastes – either singularly or bilaterally combined.[51] Alongside the perceivable elements of a brand, is the brand promise. Simply stated, a brand promise addresses the customers’ expectations about a product or service.[52]

Case Study: TRESemmé[edit]

Take, for instance, the Shampoo/Conditioner products of TRESemmé. Amongst a highly competitive hair-care industry, they position their brand as having a professional, affordable, salon-standard product. To communicate this message to their consumers, TRESemmé targets its intended audience from a variety of angles. Firstly, they reiterate their 60-year history – intending for the product to only exclusively be used by salons,[53] but adapted their products to the wider consumer market., "To reinforce the message of salon-standard, each of their advertisements features a modern beauty salon, having a model with long and healthy hair being treated with their product. The bottles needed to encompass a chic design. To achieve this, the base colour of each product is black, and the TRESemmé logo in white (bordered with a pencil rounded rectangle around the brand name) rests on the top of each bottle. In addition, according to Art Director Hilary Davis, of Cargo Collective, "TRESemmé redesigned their packaging with colour bars that clearly differentiated each line [Volume: Red, Curl: Green and so on.] To emphasise this to consumers, the beauty images were treated in the duotone appropriate to the featured line. A colour bar at the bottom of each ad demonstrated the wide range of TRESemmé products available to the consumer at a glance.[54]

Persuasion Techniques[edit]

There are two routes to persuasion peripheral and central route. The Peripheral Route is when a consumer decides to agree with the message based on other aspects besides the idea delivered in the message; such as the person delivering the message is an expert.[55] The Central Route to persuasion is when a consumer thoughtfully considers the arguments and ideas of the message, but this will only occur when the consumer has the motivation and ability to actively engage in the persuasion process.[55] In relation to positioning, a consumer will either take on the peripheral route or central route to persuasion when mentally positioning brands in relation to competitors.[34]

4 elements of persuasion

1. The communicator (sender)

2. The message

3. How the message is communicated (the channels)

4. The audience (receiver)

Understanding Groups of Persuasive Powers[edit]

Delivery of the aforementioned routes of persuasion is catered to the rendering and unique qualities which make up groups of persuasive powers. There are 5 main groups: Primary, Secondary, Aspirational, Dissociative, and Formal. The strongest primary band to shape the attitude of individuals is the family, but other groups can doctrine a belief system too.[56] This group is most responsible for developing societal conform, shaping attitudes, and at its most elemental – forms the systemic institution in which an individual’s perception of the world exists.[57] A secondary class of individuals or group are those whose influences aren’t as severely impacting to the individual’s narrative, and mostly align with their predisposed ideas - such as sports groups, political parties, charities, education facilities, etc.[58] The third group is known as the aspirational group, where the individual aspires/desires to join this group, so shapes their perceptions to increase the likelihood on being accepted as a member. This can be observed closer in the behaviours of adolescent youths, in that they shape their opinions in favour of becoming a member of a peer group, and is lead on the ambition of becoming more endowed; financial and power.[58] The fourth group – the Dissociative class – are the groups in which the individuals do not partake, or wish to involve themselves with. This can take many forms, but a common example is a stereotype; a person will go to great lengths to avoid being grouped with others under this segregated opinion. Previous studies have confirmed, that in the case of minority groups, members may avoid behaviours or clothing which reinforce the image of their perceived stereotype, which in turn may lead to reverse stereotype confirmation.[59]

it was mentioned that there are five main groups whereas only four has been described, hence which is the fifth group.

Social Media Influence[edit]

As identified earlier ineffective product positioning can be detrimental to not only the brand itself, but also the positioning in consumers minds. Social Media (SM) advertising, online, newspaper, posters, television, mobile app etc. can be used to influence and persuade consumers about a brand. Therefore technological advancements and advertisements can be another communication strategy used to gain the interest of the target market. According to Marketing Research Chart (2015) 33% of millenials identify that social media is one of the most preferred channels for communication with a brand.[60] Forbes (2015), indicates that 52% of marketers say Facebook is the most important social network to grow and expose their brand. Social media sets a channel for marketers to get information across to consumers in a cost-effective way, the social media revolution has changed marketing communications across the board.[61]

Does social influence play a part in how a brand is positioned to a consumer?[edit]

Research conclusively says that 57% of consumers say positive comments and praise online would help influence the perception they have of a brand, which would position that particular brand over competitors.[62] Moreover, Research Chart (2015) states that social media influences 93% of buyer decisions.[63] With the exposure of social media can come a negative influence on a brand, such as negative word of mouth and noise, which is why brands should be careful about all decisions made within.[61] In spite of that, brands cannot miss the opportunity to communicating is such an influential channel despite the risks.[61] Consumers are more inclined to be attracted to a product that someone has recommended or posted about on SM that influences a consumers decision (Hutter et al.,2013). In relation to that, Qualman (2012) relays the information that according to statistics 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, which influences another consumers positioning.[64] Marketing research has shown that positioning is part of the buyer decision-making process consumers go through.[65] Therefore as the decision making process encompasses recognition of product and value benefits, evaluation of competing brands in the market and differentiation; Hutter et al., (2013) expresses that social media is a way that consumers express their perceptions of specific brands, which leads other consumers to follow trend with what has been verbalised.[61] Consumer first achieve knowledge of the product the message delivered (social media exposure – brand shares new content), which consumers then develop perceptions of the product (positive or negative), resulting in where the consumer will position the brand in their mind (Hutter et al., 2013).

Repositioning a company[edit]

Main article: Turnaround management

Repositioning a brand in a well established market could be difficult, as they have already built a reputation in a segment which consumers will always perceive the same. Kotler and Armstrong (2012) communicate that repositioning a brand in a market generally includes changes to the marketing mix & the 4 P’s (product, price, place and promotion). Consumer behaviour is a large part of repositioning a brand that marketers need to consider, consumers are the driving force behind success; as a result marketers need to make effective strategic decisions about the market to ensure they position the product well in the market.[3]

In volatile markets, it can be necessary - even urgent - to reposition an entire company, rather than just a product line or brand. When Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley suddenly shifted from investment to commercial banks, for example, the expectations of investors, employees, clients and regulators all needed to shift, and each company needed to influence how these perceptions changed. Doing so involves repositioning the entire firm.

This is especially true of small and medium-sized firms, many of which often lack strong brands for individual product lines. In a prolonged recession, business approaches that were effective during healthy economies often become ineffective and it becomes necessary to change a firm's positioning. Upscale restaurants, for example, which previously flourished on expense account dinners and corporate events, may for the first time need to stress value as a sale tool.

Repositioning a company involves more than a marketing challenge. It involves making hard decisions about how a market is shifting and how a firm's competitors will react. Often these decisions must be made without the benefit of sufficient information, simply because the definition of "volatility" is that change becomes difficult or impossible to predict.

Positioning is however difficult to measure, in the sense that customer perception of a product may not have been tested on quantitative measures.

See also[edit]


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