Positioning, it has been suggested, represents the most important decision and action that management has to take for the company and its marketing, and yet it remains one of the most nebulous and controversial areas of new product development. Targeting and positioning strategies are interrelated. The choice of one or more target markets is based, at least in part, on the feasibility of the organization designing and implementing an effective positioning strategy to meet the target’s needs. Positioning strategies used to pursue target markets may vary considerably, or they may have common

Segmentation, targeting and positioning 11 features. For example, a firm may have a unique combination of the product offering, distribution approach, price, advertising and personal selling to serve each segment. Alternatively, some marketing mix components may be similar for different segments.

What is it that differentiates one product or service from another, even when they are almost identical? Tire answer seems to reflect the way in which the marketers of the product or service position them in the minds of users. Positioning refers to the decisions and activities intended to create and maintain a firm’s product concept in customers’ minds. Market positioning amounts to arranging for a product or service to occupy a clear, distinctive and desirable place - relative to competing prodrrcts - in the minds of target customers.

What is being marketed must be perceived by the selected target customers to have a distinct image, relative to competitors, which meets with their own desires/expectations. Tire position of an offering is related to the attributes ascribed to it by consumers. These might be sitch attributes as its standing; its quality and the type of people who use it; its strengths, weaknesses and any other unusual and memorable characteristics it may possess; its price; and the value it represents to users.

Tire whole of the marketing mix is important in developing effective positioning, as attributes of the offering must be closely in line with the targeted customers' expectations and needs, as must the associated price points and channels of distribution. However, promotional activity is one of the fundamental elements of creating an effective positioning, as it is through promotion that the positioning is communicated to the target audience.

Positioning concepts

The positioning concept may be functional, symbolic or experiential. The functional concept is relevant to products designed to solve consumption-related problems for externally generated consumption needs. Toothpastes aiming to prevent cavities and banks offering convenient service fall into this category. The symbolic concept relates to the buyer’s internally generated need for self-enhancement, role position, group membership or ego satisfaction. Cosmetics relating to life-style and clothes stressing image or appropriateness of occasion are examples of this. The experiential concept is used to position products that provide sensory pleasure, variety or cognitive stimulation. Documentary' films and books are examples of this.

Corporate positioning

A more recent development has been the recognition that positioning is not just a matter between the brand owner and customers, but between thebrand owner and every one of its stakeholders. The task has become one of deciding what is to be positioned and among whom it is to be positioned, hi general terms, the solutions fall in two categories, hr the first, it is the traditional view where a product, a marketing mix and a brand have to be positioned among the targeted customers. In the second, it is the soul of the entire organization - all-inclusive of its partners up and down the value chain - which has to be positioned among all the stakeholders of an organization. The second, more recent, view reflects that positioning is developing into an integrative construct which depends upon and affects every individual in the organization.

Brand positioning is a process of emphasizing the brand’s distinctive and motivating attributes in the light of competition. Positioning refers both to the product segment the brand belongs to and how it differs specifically from other brands in the segment.

Positioning is becoming the universal strategic preoccupation of entire organizations and the concern of top management. In a business environment of continuous flux, it is more important to build corporate level strategic processes that facilitate dynamic repositioning than it is to build any defensible position. In the pursuit of this, organizations engage in ‘patching’. This is the strategic process by which the business is routinely remapped to changing market opportunities.


  • 1 What benefits are to be gained from employing market segmentation as opposed to treating the market as a single entity? Wiry should some bases of segmentation be more suitable for some products than others?
  • 2 What factors impact upon a firm’s selection of market segments? What do you understand by ‘segment strategies’, and how do these influence a firm’s approach to market segmentation?
  • 3 What do you understand by a competitive positioning strategy? How is product or service positioning accomplished? Discuss the factors that influence choice of positioning strategy.
  • 4 What is repositioning, and why are products and services repositioned periodically?
  • 5 How would you evaluate competitive advantage based on positioning analysis?


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Lilien, G.L. and Rangaswamy, A. (2003), Marketing Engineering: Computer-Assisted Marketing Analysis and Planning. 2nd edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

McDonald, M. (2010), ‘Existentialism: A School of Thought Based on a Conception of the Absurdity of the Universe’, International Journal of Marketing Research, 5(4): 427-430.

Roberts, J., Kayaude, U. and Stremersch, S. (2014), ‘From Academic Research to Marketing Practice: Exploring the Marketing Science Value Chain'. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 31(2): 127-140.

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Further reading

Brotspies, H. and Weinstein, A. (2019), ‘Rethinking Business Segmentation: A Conceptual Model and Strategic Insights’, Journal of Strategic Marketing, 27 (2): 164-176.

Dibb, S. and Simkin, L. (2001), ‘Market Segmentation: Diagnosing and Treating the Barners'. Industrial Marketing Management, 30(8): 609-625.

Hooley, G., Nicoulaud, B., Piercy, N. and Rudd. J. (2017), Marketing Strategy and Competitive Positioning, 6th edition, Harlow: FT-Prentice-Hall.

Morgan, R.E., Strong, C.A. and McGuinness, T. (2003), ‘Product-Market Positioning and Prospector Strategy: An Analysis of Strategic Patterns from the Resource-Based Perspective’, European Jounial of Marketing, 37(10): 1409-1439.

Sausen, K., Tomczak. T. and Herrmann, A. (2005), ‘Development of a Taxonomy of Strategic Market Segmentation: A Framework for Bridging the Implementation Gap between Normative Segmentation and Business Practice’, Journal of Strategic Marketing. 13(3): 151-173.

Weinstein. A. (2006), ‘A Strategic Framework for Defining and Segmenting Markets’, Jounial of Strategic Marketing, 14(2): 115-127.

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