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Using Positioning Maps

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Positioning maps are visualizing tools to enable a marketer to locate his/her brand together with competing brands using two important positioning variables. The usual positioning map uses product and quality as variables.

In the example below, the competing products are denoted by capital letters, A to F. Products A, B and E are competing in the high quality, high priced segment although product E seems to be overpricing for a lower product quality. Product D is all alone in the economy segment.

Figure 1.           A Hypothetical Product Positioning Map






























Positioning maps are a useful tool for giving you a graphical idea of where your product stands vis-à-vis other products in the market at a given time. In the above map, for instance, the maker of product C would know that there are no products directly competing with it and that it has a distinct position in the market. The maker of product B, on the other hand, would note that product A is competing too closely with it, so product A can be deemed as a direct competitor, while product E is a close competitor as well.

Of course, while no product is competing with product D in its position above, it is a bad position to have: low price and low quality equate to being an inferior product.

Your objective here would be to make sure that your product has a distinct position in the market WITHOUT being perceived by your market as being an inferior product.

Note that positioning maps are based on the market’s PERCEPTIONS of the different products. They may or may not be true. Thus, you may have an excellent product and still the market may perceive your product as being inferior – if you are experiencing this with your product, then it is a sign that there is a need for a better communications strategy so the market can appreciate your product’s true quality.

Being in a crowded spot in the positioning map is not a good sign because it means that the market CANNOT tell the difference between your product and that of your competitors’. In other words, your product has no clear position to speak of, and the market may therefore be indifferent between getting your product or that of the other closely-positioned products in the map.

If you find yourself in a rather crowded spot in the positioning map (as is the case with product B above), your options are to (a) identify a less crowded space (such as the lower-right sector in the example above) and see if you can compete more effectively here, or (b) REPOSITION your surrounding competitors.

Repositioning is done by making the market perceive your competitors as actually being of lesser quality compared to your product. Remember that all of these are about market perceptions anyway, and that perceptions can be changed.

You can make your competitors appear to be of lesser quality by changing your packaging, raising your price, or even by simply boosting your advertising expenditures. For very well entrenched products, a relaunch campaign may be useful to “wake up” the market and help them see your product in a new light.

In summary, the positioning map is a competitive tool. If your product does not have any competition, then there is no point in making a positioning map. But if your product is in a crowded market, then the positioning map can be a useful graphic tool to help you identify who your closest competitors are, what sectors of the market can still be penetrated, and what you can do to differentiate your product.

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