I was walking through the department store the other day, and I happened upon this:
Fairly innocuous. A display of White Cloud diapers, right?
It sure is. But something caught my eye. I took a second look. And realized that these are BASICALLY THE SAME EXACT PRODUCT.
What’s happening here? Easy: White Cloud has positioned the same product in two different ways. They’re playing on the emotions of two similar sets of parents that differ in one important way: some of them still think of their children as toddlers (training pants), while others think of their children as more mature and want to build their self-esteem (sleep pants). It’s the same product, marketed in slightly different ways to maximize market share. They are even the same size, just presented in a way to reinforce the respective positions.
So what is “positioning”? Positioning is what you do when you, well, POSITION your product or service in relation to others in the market. It’s not the same as branding, which is essentially creating the “feeling” you want people to get from your product. Instead, positioning is the tactic you use to set yourself apart from your competition, communicate your value proposition, and make a connection with your target market.
Let’s say, for the sake of simplicity, that you produce plain potato chips that are very similar to chips B, C, and D in the market. They are virtually indistinguishable. However, B and C market themselves as “wholesome,” and D stresses their longevity — they’ve been in business for 100 years (much longer than you).
So what can you do? You can also market yourself as “wholesome”, but then you’d be directly competing with B and C. Why do that, when you can POSITION yourself in the market to attract a totally different audience? Note that you are not changing your PRODUCT at all, just how you are POSITIONED in the market.
You could position yourself as the “exciting” chips. The “heritage” chips. The “homemade” chips. The “cutting edge” chips. Whatever. What you’re doing is basically marketing your product — virtually the same product as your competitors — in a way that captures more market share. By attracting chip consumers that others are not, you can gain more market share.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you have a better product or service than your competition, customers will seek you out. There are plenty of businesses in the market that are competing for the same customers in the same thoughtless way. Be strategic about approaching the market, and you’ll see greater returns.
After all, White Cloud didn’t get where it is by doing the same thing as everyone else.