Reaping Rewards of Repositioning

Companies are increasingly opting for Repositioning as it allows them to move a product to a different place in the minds of consumers

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Thirty years ago, Jack Trout and Al Ries published their classic bestseller, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind – a book that revolutionised the world of marketing. But times have changed, competition is fierce, consumers are savvier, communication is swift and once-successful companies are in crisis. Hence, companies are increasingly going for repositioning.

Repositioning tells you how to adapt, compete and succeed in today’s cut-throat marketplace. It is used to change the perception associated with the brand to make sure the meaning of the brand is made relevant to the changing environment. “With hundreds of new offerings failing in the marketplace every year, there is a distinctive need to treat brand repositioning as a tool not only for old brands but also for new brands,” writes S Ramesh Kumar in Marketing and Branding: The Indian Scenario.

Repositioning the brands

Repositioning is an effort to move a product to a different place in the minds of consumers. According to Trout, it is important to review the essence of positioning, as it is also the essence of repositioning. “Positioning is about how you differentiate yourself in the mind of your prospect… and repositioning is how you adjust perceptions, whether those perceptions are about you or your competition,” writes Trout. “Initially repositioning’s raison d’être was coping with competition. What has emerged is its use to handle the rapid technological change that is enveloping many products”.

In his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard professor Clayton Christensen has coined a term ‘disruptive technologies’. It describes how these technologies curb the growth of well-managed companies.

The Journal of Consumer Marketing noted a large-scale study of 115 new product launches across five US and UK markets. The study compared the market shares gained by products launched under established family or corporate names with the market shares gained by products launched under new brand names. Shares were measured two years after each brand’s launch. The brands with new names performed significantly better.

Every repositioning strategy is triggered by the competition in market. As Trout writes, repositioning a competitor often boils down to finding a weakness in the leader’s strength and attacking at that point.

Companies going for repositioning

Sometime back, Porsche unveiled its new line of panamera vehicles at a Shanghai car show. The car is a global model, but unlike Porsche’s other cars, it is significantly longer. The rich car buyers in China prefer to be driven by chauffeurs. The repositioning trick worked and Porche’s profits spurred. Brands position and reposition themselves frequently to sustain the brand identity, to be the repertoire of the customers, and enhance brand equity.

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Why should buyers purchase your offering versus another? If your product faces competition, you will need to think about how to position it in the marketplace, relative to competing products. Launched in Indian in early 2003, Mountain Dew was positioned as an energy and exhilaration drink. Yet, it did not live up to all the hype. A survey by Synovate in late 2005 showed that people preferred Sprite and Limca, with Mountain Dew performing only a shade better than Frooti. This survey and the market performance of Mountain Dew set the stage for a course correction. Just a market repositioning rather than a radical rebranding was the need of the hour. This repositioning saw the introduction of the ‘Dar Ke Aage Jeet Hai’ campaign, which clicked big time.

Working on the same formula, The Quaker Oats Company, a division of PepsiCo (PEP), created a flutter after announcing that it was launching an expansive repositioning of its business. For the first time in its 130-plus year history, Quaker was opting for a change and it clicked big time. “It is all about sailing through the cut-throat competition. Everyone wants to stand out,” says Sanjit Baruah, a Delhi based senior marketing professional. “You do not want the product to be just another face-in-the-crowd in the minds of consumers,” says Sumit Mahajan, a senior business executive with Johnson and Johnson. Nestle India Limited (NIL) felt the need to reposition Maggi as a health product, just when the profits were plummeting.

For new and old alike

“Positioning is not something you do to a product, it is what you do to the minds of the prospects,” is an often-quoted line from Jack Trout and Al Ries. Product positioning and repositioning is not limited to new products alone. It is relevant for occasional face lifting of the existing products. This is evidenced by so-called “new and improved products” of almost all kinds such as toilet soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, tooth pastes, even designer labels. However, repositioning does not mean total change. It sometimes entails strengthening and clarifying identity. A famous garment firm was having a tough time with the sales of its men’s shirts. Instead of involving into a futile competition, it shifted the weight from men’s shirts to women’s blouses and sportswear. The result was, dramatic increase in the profits.