Using Product Characteristics or Customer Benefits

Probably the most-used positioning strategy is to associate an object with a product characteristic or customer benefit. Imported automobiles illustrate the variety of product characteristics that can be employed and their power in image creation. Honda and Toyota have emphasized economy and reliability and have become the leaders in the number of units sold. Sometimes a new product can be positioned with respect to a product characteristic that competitors have ignored. Sometimes a product will attempt to position itself along two or more product characteristics simultaneously. Sometimes different models of a product may be positioned towards different segments by highlighting different attributes.

It is always tempting to try to position along several product characteristics, as it is frustrating to have some good product characteristics that are not communicated. However, advertising objectives that involve too many product characteristics can be most difficult to implement. The result can often be a fuzzy, confused image, which usually hurts a brand.

Myers and Shocker have made a distinction between physical characteristics, pseudophysical characteristics, and benefits, all of which can be used in positioning. Physical characteristics are the most objective and can be measured on some physical scale such as temperature, color intensity, sweetness, thickness, distance, dollars, acidity, saltiness, strength of fragrance, weight, and so on.

Pseudophysical characteristics, in contrast, reflect physical properties that are not easily measured. Examples are spiciness, smoky taste, tartness, type of fragrance (smells like a . . .), greasiness, creaminess, and shininess. Benefits refer to advantages that promote the well being of the consumer or user.