What is product positioning?

June 21, 2011 | By More


The number one selling ‘impulse ice-cream’ in over 40 countries

A giant poster in a subway caught my eye. It wasn’t the gorgeous woman with her big brown eyes looking over her shoulder invitingly at me, nor was it the decadent-looking chunky chocolate stick of ice-cream she was holding in her hand that she had just taken a bite out of that got me thinking.

The question that popped into my mind at that instant was: who is she trying to convince to share the ice-cream with? A stick of ice-cream ordinarily shouldn’t be that decadent.

On further research, it turns out that Magnum ice-cream is not your ordinary ice-cream on a stick. The parent company, Unilever, has positioned Magnum as an affordable luxury treat for adults, positioned as an ‘impulse buy’! The style of the ad in the subway (and other TV ads found in youtube) certainly supports this approach. The success of this strategy speaks for itself: Magnum is the world’s best selling ‘impulse ice-cream’, #1 in the 40 or so markets it is available! Can it be that this calorie-packed ice-cream is targeted at women?

Marketing isn’t just about communicating your product and its characteristics.

Magnum isn’t just any chocolate covered ice-cream on a stick. There are many other chocolate covered stick ice-creams. Magnum had to be differentiated from the others so they can stand out.

The objective of differentiating from your competition isn’t just about adding new and novel features, better chocolate, more nuts or interesting flavours – others can do that too, eventually. A more sustainable way to differentiate your product is to make your product different in the mind of your potential customer.

That is called product positioning, i.e. positioning your product in the mind of your customer in relation to the others that she is thinking about.

Unilever’s product managers have positioned Magnum as an ‘impulse ice-cream’ – you buy it on impulse because you buy it when you feel you deserve a treat, and this is a luxury that you can afford anytime! Watch the videos to see how the message is cleverly delivered in different ways.

So, the key for any would-be product marketing managers can be summarised as follows:

  1. Know your product well, inside out, and what is the reason people want it;
  2. Know who your competitors are, and why your customers want them;
  3. Understand your business and what you want to achieve with the product;
  4. Then, design your product marketing message so you can differentiate your product from the others – not from your perspective, but in the mind of your customer (you can’t be there all the time!)
  5. Finally, make sure all your points of contact with the customer are consistent with the marketing message, e.g. brochures, websites, videos, presentations, press releases, articles, and so on. These reinforce the message every time your customer sees any one of them.

Most people just focus on step 5 and don’t realise the key to success is to understand what homework is needed and doing all of them well, steps 1 to 5. (Read more about: In Pursuit of Excellence and Was that position good for you?)

Perhaps this will help you also appreciate how much thought is put into the posters in the subway – and what you can learn from them.

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Category: Marketing your product, What's Next?

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About the Author ()

EngTong, pioneer and innovator. Graduated from Imperial College London with an MBA from Cranfield School of Management. Lived in Scotland, England, California, Beijing and led teams in Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia to do the impossible. Now based in Singapore and believes the future is to blend the sophistication of western management practices with the strength of Asian Values. Trained as a Chartered Engineer. Member of IET, Associate of City and Guilds and a certified SixSigma Champion.

Comments (2)

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  1. A Arthur says:

    Very informative and relevant information on this post. Thanks

  2. Agustiadi says:

    A great insight into product positioning. Thank you Sir for sharing 🙂