Positioning meaning and definition

Positioning meaning and definition
When it comes to the word “positioning” or “positioning strategy,” everyone seems to have a different take. What strikes us is how varied the definitions of positioning are among individuals. Differences arise regarding where it fits into the overall strategy, its impact, and its form. For some, positioning is merely a slogan, while for others, it’s an internally shared message projected to the market. We also often observe that in strongly market-oriented organizations, positioning tops their priority list, whereas more product-oriented organizations see positioning as just a small aspect of their marketing. So, what positioning means to you or your organization depends on your focus. In this article, we delve into various aspects of positioning and how you can apply it within your organization.

For us, positioning is part of your foundation, along with your raison d’être. To sell your product or service effectively, it’s essential for your organization to have a clear positioning in mind, and all efforts must align—it needs to make sense. Without a clear raison d’être and positioning, your organization is likely not destined for longevity.

At the core of the various definitions of positioning is communication, with the goal of giving something a recognizable place. More elaborate definitions delve into the target audience for communication and the product or service being positioned. A definition of positioning that resonates with many is:

Positioning Definition

“Intentionally connecting a brand to a set of characteristics, associations, and attributes in such a way that the brand carves out a unique space in the consumer’s mind compared to the competition.”

Is this a recognizable definition for B2C, and does it hold true for B2B? After all, we know that B2C and B2B differ significantly, such as due to a greater number of decision factors in B2B purchases. But does this difference fundamentally change the concept? Yes, because depending on the orientation of the organization, the desired outcome changes. A product-oriented B2B organization still aims to differentiate its product clearly from the competition, but a market-oriented organization prefers to be the first point of contact for all inquiries in a particular sector. Often, the product is not what sets you apart in the market!

There are countless ways to categorize different types of organizations and orientations, but we’ll focus on four recognizable ones: market, product, process, and organization. Each of these has a different (ideal) positioning goal, which we’ll briefly explain. This may seem like stating the obvious, but beware! We frequently encounter organizations that categorize themselves differently than they truly are, or where the organization is split in two, each pursuing a different goal. The result of this pitfall is a positioning as loose as sand, upon which successful sales or marketing cannot be built.

For each type of organization, we’ll provide an example organization, market approach, and positioning goal:

  • Market-oriented – Virgin (Richard Branson) – Prefers a market to a mill. This type of organization identifies a need in a market and provides a product or service for it. Goal: Build a unique brand associated with certain characteristics and traits in the market, rather than with a product.
  • Product-oriented – ASML – Das beste oder nichts (Mercedes slogan). A good product sells itself. Goal: Known in the market for having the very best product.
  • Process-oriented – Amazon – Striving for operational excellence, which is the link between our products. People are secondary. Goal: Known in the market for exceptionally high efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Organization-oriented – Google – Not employees but brand workers. The best people in the optimal organization create the most sought-after product, and demand will follow naturally. Goal: Be recognized as the best employer/organization to work for/at.

Therefore, before you embark on your positioning journey, it’s essential to first consider the goal within your organization (not just within the marketing or sales department). We often find that this goal is directly linked to the organization’s raison d’être. Only then should you determine the actual positioning.

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