Brand Positioning & Repositioning

  • Brand positioning, starts with the understanding or ‘mapping’ of a consumer’s mental perceptions of products.
  • The consumer’s mind space is neither available for sale nor for lease. A brand can hope at best to occupy a space as a tenant, for a period, depend on the quality and quantity of marketing efforts behind that brand. The aim of the marketer is to find a strong position in the mind and sit on it.
  • Positioning is the art of creating a distinct image for a product in the minds of the customers. For example; the “Automated Teller Machine (ATM)” is a product, while for most of the customers it is meant as “Any Time Money”, that is a positioning.
  • This perception is based on its functional attributes and benefits (tasty, sporty, aromatic, roomy etc.) as well as the non-functional or emotional association it has acquired mainly from its advertising (reliable, prestigious, smart, modern etc.)

Case Study: ‘SABENA’ Belgium World Airlines

  • SABENA was the national airline of Belgium from 1923 to 2001. Now it became Brussels Airlines after a merger with Virgin Express in 2007.
  • Initially, traffic for SABENA was small due to less tourists visiting Belgium.
  • The logical solution was to make Belgium an attractive destination for a larger pool of tourists. But the problem was, that Belgium was not associated with any big image in tourist’s mind like London is with Big Ben and Thames, New York with Statue of Liberty, Paris with Eiffel Tower etc.
  • The problem was positioning the country not the airline.
  • During that time “The Michelin Guide”, gave a 3 star status to six cities in Europe which were “worth a special journey”, including Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Tournain and Amsterdam; of these, five were in Belgium. Amsterdam was already a hot tourist destination so, this gave birth to the positioning statement of Belgium: “In beautiful Belgium, there are five Amsterdam”.

Case Study: Maggie

In 1982 Nestle considered launching Maggie instant noodles in India.

  • Option of positioning –
  • Cooking tasty Chinese dishes at home
  • As a ‘TV dinner’
  • As a ‘mini meal’

Consumer research suggestion –

Tasty, instant snack, made at home and aimed at children.

Target market –

In-home segment in snack category

Distant Competitors –

All snack products in general

Ready-to-eat snacks; biscuits, wafers, peanuts and samosa

Direct Competitors –

Snacks prepared at home; papad, peanuts, sandwiches and pakoras

Traditional pasta products such as Chinese noodles and macaroni, however they were invariably used for meals, requiring a fair amount of cooking time and garnishing was essential

Successful Positioning of Maggie –

Maggie noodles was launched in Delhi in January 1983 and it became an overnight success. The annual target for that market was increased from 50 to 600 tones. The Indian market became the second largest Nestle market for this product worldwide, next only to Malaysia.

Maggie noodle found a vacant, strong position and sat on it as “the good to eat, fast to cook, anytime snack”.

Latest positioning is based on nostalgia.

Case Study: 7-Up as the ‘Un-Cola’ Soft Drink

The sale of 7-Up was mainly as a mixer with hard drinks in the USA.

However the market of Cola based products had massive potential, mainly dominated by Coke and Pepsi.

Using Cola as a frame of reference, 7-Up advertising announced itself as the Un-Cola soft drink.

The positioning was aimed to:

7-Up as a soft drink

Different from Colas

Intriguing – What’s an Un-Cola?

The strategy was so-successful that it gave birth to many such ideas like; Citibank’s ‘Unfixed’ Deposit – where a customer can take loan against their FD by just signing a cheque, thus creating a perception of easy liquidity.

Case Study: Milkmaid – Positioning & Repositioning

  • Milkmaid condensed milk has followed four distinct successful positioning strategy till date:

1.Milkmaid was initially positioned as a “creamer” or “whitener” for tea and coffee.

2.The second position was “the tastiest milk made”. It had relevance at a time when fresh milk was in short supply in some parts of India.

3.Next positioning was Milkmaid as a “topper on fruits and puddings”.

4.The fourth positioning was “Milkmaid for desert recipes”.

  • In due course , the pack was designed accordingly, where label depicts a desert and gives the recipe on reverse side along with a free recipe booklet.

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The Pitfalls of Brand Positioning

Case Study: Milkfood 


Repositioning a brand always not succeeded.

e.g.:- Milkfood Yogurt

  • Incorporated in 1973, Milkfood Limited is located in Patiala. It is a part of the Jagatjit Group of Industries, with its base at Hamira in Jalandhar (Punjab) and its corporate office in Delhi.
  • Milkfood’s Yogurt was initially positioned as “anytime snack”. This did not seem to have work. So it was repositioned as “It is not just curd”, hinting at both the fun value and nutritive value of Yogurt.
  • Eventually this positioning also didn’t work. It was again positioned as mishti-doi (sweet curd)” for the East and North Eastern part of India, but finally it has to be removed from the companies product portfolio.

Companies often promote attributes that consumers don’t care about.

e.g.:- Le-Sancy Soap


  • Le Sancy Soap was a failed product mainly due to its wrong positioning. It was a premium “egg-shaped” soap that positioned itself as “the long lasting soap”.
  • It was later discovered that the long lasting benefit can be an add-on benefit for the consumer but not the core benefit, which is beauty, skin care, health etc.
  • Initially, a novelty value was added to the product because of its different shape and size, but post use, consumer find it difficult to use on the body.

Companies sometimes invest too heavily in points of difference that can easily be copied. Positioning needs to keep competitors out, not draw them in.

e.g.:- Neem Soap


  • Margo’s strength is its health positioning supported through ingredients like neem leaves. It is a popular brand in Eastern India. However, the benefit of neem attracted other brands too to follow the suit.

Companies trying to respond to competition sometimes walk away from their own established position

e.g.:- Horlicks vs Complan


  • Complan was launched by GlaxoSmithKline, a British company in 1954. In 1994, it was acquired by Heinz, both in India and UK.
  • Its closest competitor is Horlicks, which is a malted milk hot drink developed by James and William Horlick in 1873 in USA. In 1969 Horlicks was acquired by the Beecham Group which became GlaxoSmithKline in 2000. Complan was positioned against Horlicks as;

Rebuilding brand awareness after deviating from a clear brand position.

e.g.:- Chik and Velvettte Shampoo \"\"

  • Chik and Velvettte Shampoo introduced low priced sachet revolution and surprised its competitors Clinic and Sunsilk.
  • The consumer identified Chik as:
  • One rupee shampoo Jasmine Shampoo or, Khusboo Shampoo (South Indian actress Khusboo endorsed this product)
  • So, when Chik increased the price to 1.25 rupees, its sales dropped. Though its priced was rolled back to 1 rupee, but by that time Sunsilk and Clinic started offering emotional benefit as well as functional benefit, while Chik was confined to Jasmine content only. Eventually it failed.


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