Saturday, March 1, 2008

Is it time to change your positioning?

If you agree with Jack Trout and Al Ries’ definition of positioning you would agree that positioning lies within the minds of your customers. So is it a cause for concern when your product is positioned in the minds of your customers in the same way a competing product is positioned in the minds of its customers? That’s the surprise that just revealed itself in a research project I was perusing. And to me that says the positioning is not a differentiator it’s an expectation of the product and so, not a position at all. If the same research was conducted five years ago it would have been likely that only one company would have claimed the position, but this particular product is easily replicated within a short cycle (names being withheld to protect the guilty). And the competition has worked hard over the past few years to turn all points of distinction into points of parity. My question is, what’s the smartest move? As I see it there are three options:
  1. Scream louder and push the message harder than the competitors
  2. Figure out a point of distinction that supports the positioning, but isn’t easily replicated by the competition
  3. Reposition
The first option is obviously the worst. If there’s one thing that’s apparent in today’s world of marketing it’s that screaming doesn’t work – at least not as a sustainable option. The second option is viable. But I worry that the company would continue to support a positioning that is shared, not by one competitor, but by all competitors and is no longer a distinct feature of one. It would require a lot of innovation to align the positioning back to a singular product or company. The third option requires more research. It would be important to understand if there was another aspect of the product that stands as a point of distinction between the competing products. It could be an enlightening process that would further support that a company has little control over its positioning. In the end, it’s your customers and prospects that will determine it for you. It’s an option that would require a new way of thinking, so it would be important to have a corporate atmosphere that would support a change in direction. I think it’s an important option to explore, keeping in mind that in the end you might be lead back to option 2.

photo credit: jamespuckey

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