Advertising and Positioning

Research has shown that there is a very real limit to how much a mind set can handle, According to George A. Miller, Harvard psychologist; the average person can rarely name more than seven brands. This is where positioning comes in. 

Advertising has to establish the brand in a commanding position in the mind-sets if consumers.

The image and appeals must be related to the way consumers possibly think about a brand and thus position it in their minds. In order to develop a clear position, the communicator must somehow put together all aspects of product, consumer, trade, competition and communication situation in a distinctive way for that brand. Good positions are difficult to maintain, and a company must be prepared to defend its position sometimes at great cost.

The competitors relate their brand to a brand that is in’ a dominating position. Positioning doesn’t require a head-on collision with the leading competing brand. This is quite risky. It is better to maneuver around the leader’s position.

Sacrifice is the essence of positioning: For effective positioning, a brand has to stand for one quality or benefit in the mind of consumers, instead of being all things to all people. This involves sacrifice of opportunity to different market segments.

Positioning in the consumer’s mind is the end product of the process of filtering information about:

  • The product attributes,
  • The packaging,
  • The pricing, and the image of the product created by advertising.

 This may be different from the product’s functional or physical attributes. This subtle distinction is increasingly important in a competitive market place where thousands of advertisements fight for the attention of the consumer.

In the 50s there used to be hard sell, with a focus on product features and customer benefits. The USP became a popular concept, thanks to Ted Bates Ad Agency in 40s.
The Art of Writing Advertising: Conversations With William Bernbach, Leo Burnett, George Gribbin, David Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves (Advertising Age Classics Library)
Rosser Reeves later popularized it. The Unique Selling Proposition is a unique or specific consumer benefit offered by a brand. It is an integral part of the brand’s position.

But brand position, however, goes beyond that. It is a fusion of product class, target consumer, brand proposition and distance from competing brands.

In the 60s attention was diverted to image. Reputation or image was more important than specific product features. As Ogilvy aptly puts it, “Every advertisement is a long term investment in the image of a brand.” The result was creative advertising.

In the 70s, as we have already seen, the positioning era dawned. Rosser Reeves discusses this in Reality in Advertising (1960).

Positioning is really, to quote Prof. Sen Gupta, a crusade against the slothful marketing philosophy of offering me-too products.

In each of these steps one can employ marketing research techniques to provide needed information. Sometimes the marketing research approach provides a, conceptualization that can be helpful even if the research is not conducted.