Two college students walk into an auto show because they both need to buy their first car with the savings they have amassed through part time jobs. Every car manufacturer has their cars available for the students to examine and sit in. Both students have an image in their mind of the type of car they want to purchase: cool, fun, inexpensive and reliable. Most car makers realize that the younger demographic has different car needs than the other target markets.
Car makers will position their affordable starter cars as having those attributes. A position is the place a product, company or brand occupies in consumers’ minds relative to the competition‘s offerings. Positioning is a process that affects potential customers’ perception of a brand, product or company. It is very important for marketers to realize that you can position a product in any manner that you want, but it does not ensure that the customer will see the product the way it is marketed.
For example, defunct car manufacturer Oldsmobile tried to make their cars cool again. They developed new car designs and came up with the slogan, ‘It is not your father’s Oldsmobile.’ No matter what the marketers tried to position their product as attractive to the younger generation, the process failed. Younger consumers could not get the image of older people driving large Oldsmobiles around town and to them it still made the product unattractive.
Positioning does assume that consumers are comparing products based on similar characteristics. Marketers must know what characteristics are important to their key target markets, and then position their product to fit those requirements. Our college student car shoppers have decided on fun, cool, innovative and affordable as their key purchasing characteristics. The brands that advertise these types of cars would be Kia, Scion and Subaru. These car manufacturers have positioned their cars as fun, cool and affordable.
For example, the Kia Soul has a very creative ad campaign that uses the ‘Party Rock Anthem’ and a bunch of hip-hop hamsters to position the car as cool. The company also offers an iPad app for the Soul. This use of carving a niche for a product (in this instance a car for young drivers) requires the use of product differentiation. This is a type of positioning strategy that Kia is using to distinguish their cars from the competitor’s in the market place. Kia wants the young driver target market to view that their car has features and offers much more than any of the competition.
Sometimes marketers need to grasp exactly where all of the competitors in the market place are viewed by consumers. A graphical way of representing two or more dimensions or variables that are represented in customers’ minds is called perceptual mapping. These dimensions can be used by product use, price, quality or attribute.
For example, the local diner has spent over $400,000 adding a bar and sports club to its facility. The diner would like for consumers to now view their business as an upscale, club/bar place for dinner and not just a place to get breakfast. They have created a perceptual map that shows all of the local dining establishments based on the criteria dimensions of classy/distinctive through affordable on the x-axis and everyday through special occasion on the y-axis. Through the use of marketing research, the diner was able to get information from the town’s consumers on where they would place the dining establishment on the matrix.