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The relation between target segments and product positioning is dependent on the age of the company. For a new company, they have the opportunity to decide what perceptions that want the public to have about the company as they are yet to have a position. Therefore they can choose the target market, and then decide on brand positioning. For a company that has existed for some time, they already have a present brand position. Brand positioning often takes time to build, and much time to change. For this reason, established companies are likely to choose target markets that are ideal for its brand positioning.
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Positioning is a crucial element for any company as this is how the general public views a brand or product. The public perception of the brand or product is likely to be a determining factor as to whether they buy it or not. Brand positioning is delivered to the market through a marketing mix, which consists of: product strategy, pricing strategy, promotion strategy, and distribution strategy. Positioning: A battle for your mind, demonstrates the effects of positioning on the consumer. Often, the leading company is the one who released the product first. Consumers easily remember the first company to produce a product over others who enter the market late. Xerox produced the first paper copying machine in the US in 1959, and still holds the leading market share for photo copying machines. Xerox was so well known that the word Xerox became a verb to replace photo copy. This kind of positioning is invaluable as everyone knows the product considerably better than the competition. Obviously, brand position is much more than just being the first in the market, but being first does help. Many other factors such as continuous quality, style, word of mouth, and improved advertisement will all help product positioning.
The Consumer buying decision process is characterised by five stages: Problem recognition, information search, evaluating of alternatives, purchase, and post-purchase evaluation. Problem recognition is “when a buyer becomes aware of a difference between a desired state and an actual condition”. Therefore the buyer is lacking a product and they realise that they need or want this product. Information search is when a buyer has discovered their problem and needs to search for information to help them solve the problem. This may be performed internally or externally. Internal search is when the buyer searches their memory from previous knowledge or experience. External search is when the buyer finds information from other sources, such as friends or public sources. Evaluation of alternatives describes the buyer considering the possible products found from the information search. The buyer evaluates each product based on both objective and subjective criteria. Purchase is the stage where the consumer has chosen a particular product from the evaluation stage, and chooses a brand based upon style, price, reputation, and etcetera. Post evaluation is when the buyer evaluates the product to ensure it meets their particular needs. This consists of looking over the criteria used in the evaluation stage again, plus some others.
Product positioning influences the evaluation of alternatives and purchasing stages. The nature of product positioning is to distinguish one brand’s product from the others, so we may assume that product positioning only influences choice between similar products. Therefore product positioning is not a factor in the information search. Product positioning has an effect on the buyer’s evaluation of alternatives and purchasing. It is these two stages where the consumer compares the products offered by different brands, and possibly chooses one. As the consumer compares products, product positioning will help the consumer determine the differences between the products, and help them select the product which best meets there evaluation criteria.
When a consumer wants to purchase a product, they perform a level of problem solving to determine which product and brand to purchase. A large factor in the problem solving is the consumer’s level of involvement with the product. The level of involvement depends on the consumer’s interest in the product, the cost of the product, how visible the product is to others, and the importance of the product. Level of involvement therefore affects the decision making process of the consumer, which is tern should affect brand positioning.
Companies need to know what the consumer involvement levels are for their products so they understand what problem solving techniques the consumer may be using. There are three main types of problem solving techniques used: routinised response behavior, limited problem solving, and extended problem solving. The extended problem solving occurs for high consumer involvement products, where consumers spend more time contemplating their decision. For these products, a product with strong positioning and reputation is likely to stand out over others. Routinised response behavior and limited problem solving is used for products with less consumer involvement, where price and availability may be more determining factors then the brand reputation. Understanding how the consumer purchases a product, a company can develop an appropriate level of brand positioning through a marketing mix.
Product involvement levels have also been connected with how much the consumer believes a product’s claims. Barbara Mueller’s research indicates that consumers are more likely to believe the claims of high involvement products, and less likely to believe those of low involvement products. This illustrates that high product involvement goods should use advertisement in their marketing mix, as low involvement goods should concentrate around pricing and distribution.
Further research has been performed on the relation of product involvement and brand loyalty. The research illustrated in The product involvement/Brand loyalty link: an empirical examination shows that consumers that are more invested in a particular product are more likely to be brand loyal. If this theory is true, then this would affect the way a company would position itself, and the way it would go about doing this. A company with high involvement may target a smaller segmentation in an attempt to be more unique and personal to appeal for brand loyalty.
Mueller B, The role of product involvement in advertising message perception and believability, San Diego State University
Quester P, Karunaratna A & Lim A The product involvement/brand loyalty link: an empirical examination, The University of Adelaide
Positioning: The battle for your mind, Ries A, Trout J, Positioning: The battle for your mind, 1981, McGraw-Hill Professional, Boston