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Home | PROPOSITIONING VERSUS REPOSITIONING

   April 15, 2001

 

PROSITIONING VERSUS REPOSITIONING

 

Repositioning is typically indicative of a brand that is no longer healthy, and in a state of serious business decline. Its reactive behavior to increasing declines in sales, market share and/or profitability. By the time most companies attempt to reposition a brand, its too late. The brands strategic health has deteriorated to the point that is difficult to restore.

 

Attempts at repositioning generally lead to failure. Oh sure, there are plenty of examples of successes. Those are the ones we remember. But for the many repositioning tends to be a case of too little too late. This can be traced to a number of factors among which are weak commitment of management as evidenced by limited support, extremely short time horizons for recovery, reluctance to change the product offering and the stubborn hold on the very practices that led to the undermining of the brand
s health - among others.


As such, we believe marketers should consider and engage in
prositioning, a word we have coined that means proactive positioning. Prositioning begins while the brand is still healthy. Well before its business measures begin to decline. In fact, while the brand is still growing and well before its desired positioning goes stale in the marketplace.

 

Among the many dynamics to trigger consideration of prositioning are: changes in consumer demographics and/or psychographics; development and availability of new technologies; product improvements; sustainable competitive actions; new products in the marketplace (especially those that re-segment the category); and new strategic insights that could benefit the brand.

 

Prositioning affords a brand with many advantages. One, it serves to extend the lifecycle of the brand. Another advantage is the prositioning serves to ensure the brand
s strategic health and its relationships with customers. Also, successful prositioning can serve to protect the brand against competitive inroads. Finally, it can help in avoiding the anguish, and likely failure, of repositioning.

 

There are numerous examples of companies that have been successfully prositioned. Johnson & Johnson has transformed itself from a consumer giant into pharmaceuticals. General Electric has moved into financial services. Charles Schwab is no longer just a discount broker. And Pepsi with its acquisitions of Tropicana Products and, now, Gatorade, is truly becoming a total beverage company. Among successful brand prositionings we see the same examples over and over again. Starbucks, Nike, Gatorade, Neutrogena and Tide are examples that spring to mind.


Repositioning is typically indicative of a brand that is no longer healthy, and in a state of serious business decline. Its reactive behavior to increasing declines in sales, market share and/or profitability. By the time most companies attempt to reposition a brand, its too late. The brands strategic health has deteriorated to the point that is difficult to restore.

 

Attempts at repositioning generally lead to failure. Oh sure, there are plenty of examples of successes. Those are the ones we remember. But for the many repositioning tends to be a case of too little too late. This can be traced to a number of factors among which are weak commitment of management as evidenced by limited support, extremely short time horizons for recovery, reluctance to change the product offering and the stubborn hold on the very practices that led to the undermining of the brand
s health - among others.


As such, we believe marketers should consider and engage in
prositioning, a word we have coined that means proactive positioning. Prositioning begins while the brand is still healthy. Well before its business measures begin to decline. In fact, while the brand is still growing and well before its desired positioning goes stale in the marketplace.

 

Among the many dynamics to trigger consideration of prositioning are: changes in consumer demographics and/or psychographics; development and availability of new technologies; product improvements; sustainable competitive actions; new products in the marketplace (especially those that re-segment the category); and new strategic insights that could benefit the brand.

 

Prositioning affords a brand with many advantages. One, it serves to extend the lifecycle of the brand. Another advantage is the prositioning serves to ensure the brand
s strategic health and its relationships with customers. Also, successful prositioning can serve to protect the brand against competitive inroads. Finally, it can help in avoiding the anguish, and likely failure, of repositioning.

 

There are numerous examples of companies that have been successfully prositioned. Johnson & Johnson has transformed itself from a consumer giant into pharmaceuticals. General Electric has moved into financial services. Charles Schwab is no longer just a discount broker. And Pepsi with its acquisitions of Tropicana Products and, now, Gatorade, is truly becoming a total beverage company. Among successful brand prositionings we see the same examples over and over again. Starbucks, Nike, Gatorade, Neutrogena and Tide are examples that spring to mind.



These companies and brands share some common traits. There appears to be a vision for the company and/or brand that goes beyond conventional category boundaries. Moreover, there
s a willingness to repeatedly question their perception of what business they are engaged. This can come in the form of how they view what they do (e.g., for Nike it might be make athletic apparel) or what is in it for their customers (e.g., empowerment to just do it regardless of athletic proclivities) or what company capabilities enable them to provide (e.g., inspiration). There is also a sensitivity to future developments whether they be related to customer attitudes and behaviors, marketplace dynamics, regulatory issues, technologies - whatever. Add to this list of traits openness to new strategies and a willingness to try them out in the marketplace. And, we believe, insightful and strong leadership.

Yet for all its advantages, prositioning is an alien concept in today
s corporate environment. Certainly prositioning takes a back seat in practice to repositioning. This traces to a number of factors among which are:

 

 

  • An absence of indicators to provide an early warning regarding the brands strategic health and consequently a focus on business results, which lag behind brand health;
  • A smug satisfaction with results and reluctance to challenge the status quo
  • Limited vision of the future and/or understanding of marketplace dynamics;
  • Resource constraints (i.e., people, time and/or money) and/or the desire to seek-out and test new strategies;
  •  Fear of failure; and
  • Organizational issues, particularly politics - among others

 

.

Another deterrent to prositioning is a company
s lack of understanding about how to achieve the new positioning, particularly if it is distant from the current positioning. But this can be solved by planning designed to achieve the new positioning in stages, with each stage being defined by a major initiative such as a product improvement, acquisition, introduction of a new technology, etc.

 

Prositioning is not a readily understood or welcomed concept. It requires a change in mindset from being reactive to being proactive. But its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. Consider prositioning before you are forced to engage in repositioning.

 

BOATS & HELICOPTERS:

1.      Find a way, beyond financials, to assess the brands strategic health;

 

2.      Formally revisit your brand positioning statement on an annual basis to explore new strategic opportunities;

 

3.       During these review question, question, question the conventional wisdom of the organization - the business the brand is engaged in, assumptions regarding the marketplace and the advantages of current brand practices;

 

4.      Envision and plan for alternate future scenarios that are favorable and unfavorable to your brand;

 

5.      Create a plan designed to achieve the new positioning over time through the thoughtful launch of meaningful initiatives that communicate, through action, the intended positioning; and

6.      Create a dialogue with customers and test alternate strategic directions through specific initiatives, and adapt accordingly


 

 

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney

 


Richard Czerniawski


430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847


reply to Richard:

rdczerniawski@cs.com or

richardcz@bdn-intl.com

 

 

Mike Maloney


1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972


reply to Mike:

mikewmaloney@cs.com or

mikemaloney@bdn-intl.com

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