Positioning of a product is how do you intend the consumer to perceive your product. It is to understand where and for what do you want to stand in the consumer’s mind. After segmenting a market and then targeting a consumer, next step will be to position a product within that market. It refers to a place that the product offering occupies in consumers’ minds on important attributes, relative to competing offerings. How new and current items in the product mix are perceived, in the minds of the consumer, therefore re-emphasizing the importance of perception.
With big companies involved in multiple categories, multiple brands, different sets of competitors in each category positioning can become extremely complex. For example, there are mother brands like Dettol, Lifebuoy, Cinthol, Palmolive, etc in the toilet soaps category. If the consumers are increasingly becoming health and hygiene conscious and let us suppose it is observed that there is huge potential in the market. Now, immediately Cinthol cannot launch a variant saying Cinthol Germ Kill, because it doesn’t go with its existing brand positioning (freshness, aroma) within the category and across other categories. May be the alternative is to launch a new brand like ‘Godrej Protekt’ where the brand is positioned towards germ-kill and at the same time to gain the equity it is endorsed by the ‘Godrej’ brand. These things become extremely complex and requires excellent understanding of the markets, categories, consumers, brands, etc. It is not only research, but the marketer has to have the intuition about the workings.
As said, Positioning is more to deal with the perceptions and it spans across different parameters. Positioning can be based on product characteristics, price quality perceptions, usage, culture, geography, symbols, product class, competition. Sometimes you being excellent at something itself becomes your rival of not being able to position yourself as something else. I personally believe that this is one of the most trickiest parts of Marketing and Brand Development. It involves understanding the category, competition, customer attitudes and perceptions, product life cycle, distribution, positioning of different players in different ways, growth and opportunity areas, strengths and weaknesses, finding out the gaps in the positioning and trying to develop a proposition towards developing a perception in the consumer’s mind. Once we develop a position in the consumer’s mind, it is important to monitor the positioning and understand how it has to be shaped in future w.r.t the category stage. This is what I call as Positioning Life Cycle, as your positioning strategies differ a lot based on the category stage.