Recently, I’ve seen a lot of people in forums and other media asking about something I was surprised was still mystifying to many. What is product positioning in marketing?
More to my surprise were some of the absurd answers that were posited by some, especially in less than reliable channels like Yahoo Answers. Such things as “where it goes on the shelf” or “where the people put it in their house” were some of my favorite silly answers. Others, like “showing products or product names in entertainment”, however, show what a misnomer this term really is.
So, if none of these, however amusing they may be, are true, then what is product positioning in marketing?
Well, the short answer would be the creation of an image and purpose for this product in the mind of the potential customer, as well as defining a life relationship between them and said product.
That’s a generality, so let’s delve a little deeper here. This is something that, if explained abstractly, is going to go in circles, so let’s use a vague example or two, to show what product positioning is in a tangible scenario, shall we?
In our first example, let’s use a soft drink or a beer. It doesn’t matter what brand it is, just assume it’s a big name that would see wide advertising and multi-regional distribution. So, not a local beer or a store brand cola.
When you see the marketing for these, what goes on? It shows a type of person enjoying it, in specific circumstances. Maybe it’s the “every man’s” beer or cola, or maybe it portrays an image of “a cool or hip” person consuming it. This places the product in a position where the audience either relates to it as a product by someone who gets them, or a product that may portray them as something they wish people saw them as.
Another good example are clothing labels. Again, it doesn’t matter in this exercise which one, but the label, or design, portrays a kind of person in a certain walk of life, and how the world views them. While not realistic, it often depicts the clothing being the main cause of how they are perceived. Again, maybe the clothing is something perfect for you, a simple but respectable, hard working person who needs comfort and durability. Or maybe, this article of clothing might cause everyone to perceive you as suave, or sexy, or trendy, or any number of positive things.
This is product positioning in a nutshell. While there’s real science of deep complexity behind how to make this work, and what works best in what circumstances, that’s a lot more material for the future. Right now, just understand that the answer to “what is product positioning in marketing” is not where a product is kept, nor is it product placement in media. It’s the image the product portrays, and the demographic it portrays, reaches out to, and the self-image it promises for its use, even if it’s exaggerated.