Positioning (marketing)

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The positioning in marketing means the targeted, systematic work and exposing the strengths and qualities, a by the brand - a company / organization, a product or a service - in the assessment of the target group clearly and positively different from other products or services. David Ogilvy's definition of positioning was briefly: “What the product does - and for whom.” The positioning is based on the depiction of the opinion on an object of opinion (e.g. material or service) in a psychological market model. These models are characterized by a combination of marketing theoretical, psychological and biological knowledge.

Positioning model

Positioning cross

The following are constitutive elements of a positioning model:

  • Competing goods / services (to be mapped) in the relevant market;
  • The product characteristics and emotional associations that are necessary to differentiate between the competing goods / services and are perceived by the buyers, which are represented as coordinate axes;
  • Information about the preferences of the possible or actual customers for individual products / services as well as for the ideal performance or ideal perception.

The analysis of the market position, which usually requires a survey of the possible and actual customers, offers the following strategic options for action

  • Approach of the perceived emotional and factual performance to the ideal through all marketing measures that appear suitable, e.g. B. Product and package appearance promotional communication;
  • Optimizing the perception of relevant features by approaching ideal positions;
  • Discovering and working on market niches with special needs profiles.

Multivariate methods to illustrate positioning

A positioning in relation to competitors can u. a. represent the following statistical methods: multidimensional scaling , factor analysis , conjoint measurement and logit model .

According to the premise that “a picture is worth a thousand numbers”, two- to three-dimensional spaces are usually shown as the result, whereby the dimensions usually (implicitly or explicitly) correlate with each other in many ways and the spaces should actually have a much higher dimensionality .

The relatively simple applicability of standard computer programs and the relatively complicated mathematical structure of the method lead to the interpretation of the results going beyond the limits of the method. It can often be observed that numerical or geometric relationships are interpreted between the variables that change under the arbitrarily selectable permissible transformations of the method. This creates the danger that importance is given to randomness that is not implied by the data, the model, or the representation relation. This in turn can result in misinformation and incorrect strategic decisions by management.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the implementation of the findings from two- to three-dimensional positioning spaces in practice has lagged far behind the original expectations. The comprehensive analysis of all publications by Wedel and Kamakura as well as the 25th anniversary analysis of this topic by Jerry Wind were only able to report a few sustainable positioning or segmentation successes on this basis.

In practice, a different qualitative-quantitative approach to the positioning of brands and products or services has proven itself, as an increasing number of spectacular market successes (see case studies) shows.

Process phases of the classic positioning approach

  • Determination of the relevant positioning objects
  • Determination of relevant assessment dimensions
  • Determination of object perception
  • Creation of the positioning space (e.g. using multidimensional scaling)
  • Interpretation of the object space (examination of the interpretation by property fitting )
  • Formulation of a positioning strategy

Positioning as goal setting and integrating bracket

For Hans Domizlaff (1939) "the goal of brand technology was to secure a monopoly in the psyche of consumers". The positioning outlines the objectives of the target group's emotional and factual needs that must be satisfied over the long term. It forms the integrating bracket for the use of all marketing instruments that appear suitable in order to give a brand offer a clearly defined meaning. The aim is to profile the brand in such a way that the target group receives the offer

  1. wishes to acquire and
  2. different from all other competitive offers.

Emotions, intuitions, memories, thought templates or even instincts - when people become customers, the subconscious almost always plays a decisive role. Behavioral decisions only partially have to do with sensible considerations - for example, regarding price and objective performance. According to the findings of modern brain research, people do not behave consciously and rationally. Over 95% of all human "decisions" are made on the basis of unconscious and emotional evaluation criteria. That is why the precise knowledge and targeted addressing of emotions is the decisive competitive advantage.

Correct positioning is a crucial success parameter, as numerous case studies show. Experience shows that the success of brand positioning always represents a borderline problem: only if a brand meets an emotional and factual need very precisely, there is a real chance of sweeping success. Competitive advantages can therefore only be based on a solid knowledge of customer knowledge and the determined cause-and-effect chains, how they causally come to your choices. The rest should be seen for what it is - "a lottery ". Special qualitative and quantitative methods are required to work them out.

The market research required for this is ultimately not about showing a complex motivational structure, but above all about working out the real, central - mostly emotional - reason for buying and naming it in one to five words in a positioning thought. (Because in view of around 80 billion euros in communication pressure, 56,000 brands advertised and an average active vocabulary of 2,500 words, experience shows that more is not enforceable in consumer recall anyway.)

In principle, every “positioning strategy” contains what constitutes an adequate market analysis for this purpose. But in almost all cases this is not analyzed consistently enough in strategic market research. Most studies show serious gaps and do not adequately cover the five required dimensions:

To work out the best positioning options for a brand, it is advisable to analyze and link today's increasingly complex markets on these five levels, as demonstrated by an increasing number of spectacular market successes. In addition, it should be ensured that the desired positioning fits the culture and internal success patterns of a company.

The following iterative strategic search path has proven itself in the optimal positioning of brands:

  1. Try to fill the central or a higher-level category benefit directly. If your brand succeeds in unmistakably binding the central emotional and factual reason for using the product group in the perception of the consumer, it will almost inevitably become the market leader. (Success stories: ACC akut, Ax, Dymo Labelwriter, Krombacher, Leitz, Odol med 3)
  2. Can you dominate the category's main reason for buying with a superior reason why ? (Success stories: Landliebe, Langnese Cremissimo, Valensina)
  3. Communicate the central category benefit differently (example of success: Jever)
  4. Occupy the central category benefit in a different usage situation (examples of success: Jules Mumm , Odol mouth spray, WD-40)
  5. Try to address new promising market segments (Success stories: Beck's Gold, Wrigley Extra)

Exemplary case study examples

The importance of occupying the central category benefit

A brand almost inevitably becomes the market leader if this brand succeeds in dominating the central emotional and factual reason for using the product group in consumer perception. The comprehensibility of this regularity should be increased by a few exemplary case studies.

Ax: "The fragrance that provokes women"

In the initial situation, all competitors on the men's deodorant market were positioned on "odor avoidance" (or, in positive terms, "social acceptance"). The basically unchanged amber and musk product of the Ax brand successfully filled the emotional category core benefit with the claim “The fragrance that provokes women”. The success in the market: Within a few years, sales rose from 1.3 million euros to over 70 million euros in Germany alone. - The brand also became an international success and has remained the market leader to this day.

Blend-a-med / Odol med 3

Blend-a-med was the market leader in the German toothpaste market for a long time until the 1990s, although the product did not taste good and was based on a technically outdated product base (cleaning agent: chalk ). But the brand obviously had an effective and superior reason to believe in the consumer perception : "The dentist gives it to his family".

This slogan suggested that consumers would benefit from the most comprehensive prevention. At the same time, he communicated what appears to be proof: the dentist knows best and only gives his family the best toothpaste. All other competitors focused on specific benefits such as periodontal disease, tooth decay or plaque and therefore could not endanger the position of Blend-a-med for a long time.

In an attempt to win even more buyers, Blend-a-med gave up this position. A large number of varieties with different specific partial benefits were brought onto the market: Against periodontal disease, against tooth decay, against tartar, in the donor, etc. It was believed that different "benefits" could appeal to and convince different buyer segments at the same time. However, this increasing variety of products had a negative and confusing effect on the market. Instead of growing, Blend-a-med lost significant market share. Because consumers reacted increasingly unsettled as to which toothpaste they should use. However, consumers actually did not want many different special products, but rather comprehensive care for teeth and gums. Market leadership went to Odol med 3, which, as an opposing position, offers triple prophylaxis (and freshness via brand associations) and thus comprehensive all-round protection for teeth and gums. In this case, more benefit was more.

Leitz: "Everything under control"

With the claim “Everything under control” Leitz successfully filled the factual and emotional category core benefit for secretaries and (independent) entrepreneurs. In the extremely difficult office supplies market, Leitz was able to achieve the brand turnaround in the first advertising flight with a low budget. (Methods used: qualitative methods, advertising impact pretest, media placement research).


Levi's originally had huge success with the "anti-establishment / anti-adult" positioning in Europe. In the films of the time, “young losers became winners through cool actions”. This emotional promise was highly relevant to teenagers, and they were willing to pay more for it than for other jeans. With leaving this emotional core competence, Levi's jeans became more interchangeable and got serious sales and profit problems. Levi's sales fell from $ 7.1 billion in 1996 to $ 4.1 billion in 2003, and profits fell from $ 465 million to $ 349 million during that time. U.S. dollar. More recently, jeans are back in fashion, but not necessarily Levi's. Levi's has since re-established itself in 2016 and is particularly popular thanks to the simple T-shirts with Levi's print on the front.

Positioning success through a superior or another reason why

A competitor is often already positioned on the central category benefit in the perception of the consumer. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to become market leader: With a superior reason why a brand can change associations in the sense of a cause-effect chain in its favor and dominate the central category benefit.

However, many companies lack the necessary knowledge, because most market analyzes and market segmentations neglect the reason why level, if it is collected at all. The central reason why lever for resounding success is often not analyzed at all. This can be a big mistake, as the following examples show.

Langnese Cremissimo

Thanks to a targeted repositioning, Langnese ice cream managed to overtake the premium ice cream market leader Mövenpick in just three years . An unusual success that had been denied the five previous attempts with Bouquet, Langnese Superbe, Maxim's, Carte D'Or and I Cestelli for 20 years - despite the commitment of numerous institutes and consultants.

The secret of success: The Langnese Cremissimo brand now offers what consumers really want: creaminess. The most important reason why creaminess for pleasure benefit in this market was dominated emotionally and rationally as a unique brand promise.

Landliebe: Successful brand turnaround

Landliebe had lost sales for several years in a row. The brand offered no tangible factual (or emotional) advantages to justify its higher price. The brand turn-around was achieved with “Love is when it's country love”. This reason why "proves" several benefits at the same time - just like the well-known examples "How freshly pressed" or "The dentist gives his family this".

In 2001 the Landliebe brand - after 60% growth - was in better shape than ever before. In the meantime it has even been able to successfully transfer its image to other markets (e.g. Landliebe pudding and milk rice, Landliebe cheese, Landliebe ice cream, Landliebe jam).

Positioning success through a different communication of the central category benefit

The key benefit of a category can also be successfully addressed communicatively differently. A relevant, creative and differentiating interpretation is required. To this end, lifestyle approaches as well as projective procedures (such as the Limbic Emotional Explorer ) should be able to provide essential knowledge and assistance. For reasons of space, this recipe for success is only illustrated using examples from the beer market.

Krombacher occupies the central category benefit of "relaxing" beer through the relaxing lake image in perfect nature and thereby replaced Warsteiner as the market leader.

Jever communicated the same core category benefit with the "falling Jever man". Despite the allocation in consumer perception to the limited “bitter” beer segment, Jever achieved a double-digit increase in sales in the declining beer market without any changes to the product or product features. - Previous attempts to run new spots (without a similarly emotionally charged scene) repeatedly led to double-digit sales losses. The "old" spot was shown several times afterwards.

Positioning success by filling the central category benefit in other usage situations

Different occasions of use often make it possible to occupy the same category benefits and still be experienced psychologically differently because the consumers are in a different “constitution”. Two examples may suffice to illustrate this alternative path to success.

Jules guts

Sparkling wine and champagne have traditionally always been products to honor people (e.g. birthday) or to enhance special situations (e.g. New Year's Eve). New offers, such as Prosecco and Cava sparkling wines, entered this market. These were not "worthy", but they were perceived as a modern, everyday category of "light" alcoholic drink.

Prosecco and other “modern” products (e.g. Freixenet ) make it possible to exaggerate everyday situations (e.g. meeting friends). These products thus occupy other usage situations. But this opens up a different product category - with almost the same product. To ward off these new products, Seagram (now Rotkäppchen-Mumm Sektkellereien ) launched a "Line Extension" from Mumm Sekt - Jules Mumm - on the market. This brand used Mumm's image, but its bottle design, name and communication were so independent that consumers were not likely to be irritated. So there is definitely the possibility with sub-brands to successfully occupy different usage situations and thereby keep cannibalization low. As a result, the Mumm brand as a whole was able to surpass its highest market share in the last ten years.


WD-40 is a multifunctional oil. It penetrates moisture and forms a moisture-proof protective film. It spreads quickly under layers of rust through capillary action and loosens stuck parts. These and other WD-40 properties allow an unusually wide range of uses. In the initial situation, WD-40 had a market share in the rust remover category of almost 20%, that of the market leader Caramba was more than twice as high. The successful applicability of WD-40 for “1001 different purposes” (analogous to the USA, where WD-40 has been the market leader for a long time) was praised. Qualitative market research findings, however, showed that this argumentation - although factually correct - represented an access barrier for new customers - according to the motto "If you supposedly can do everything, you don't trust him". A central advantage of the wide range of services offered by WD-40 was that tradespeople could do without several expensive special products. Five uses of the WD-40 were particularly relevant. By repositioning WD-40 as "5 products in one" (for the most important areas of application) on the basis of this new type of knowledge, WD-40 achieved market leadership by a clear margin within just five years. The WD-40 market share increased from around 20% in 2002 to 56% in 2007. The WD-40 sales volume in the large area has increased fivefold during this time. This unusual success was predicted relatively accurately through the use of the “ pants of significance ”. In addition, the size of the market has expanded significantly.

Positioning success through targeted addressing of market segments

In many markets the central category benefit is already successfully occupied and other usage situations are not sufficiently large for economic success. In addition, often no superior reason why or communication channel can be found. Only in this situation should brand managers ask themselves how their brand can optimally be positioned on a downstream benefit and differentiated from the competition. It would therefore be wrong to completely abandon the idea of ​​segmentation or niche marketing - as Ehrenberg and others suggest.

According to Ries, Darwin's laws of nature also apply to the world of business: Survival of the Fittest also applies to brands and products. As a result of competition, new, divergent product categories or sub-markets often arise. And they become more and more differentiated over time. What sounds so simple is, in addition to the dominant occupation of the category benefit, the second key to successful brand management or building.

Market segmentations can still be a promising strategy and are particularly suitable as a niche strategy for medium-sized companies. In addition, if there are large market shares, they are also an option for (preventive) market defense. However, you should ensure that the criteria used for segmentation are also manifested in customer behavior and that the target groups must be large enough for economic success.

If consumers with similar behavior-relevant need structures and ideals are grouped together, future-oriented target group sub-markets with different requirement profiles result. These requirement profiles define the success positioning in a sub-market.

Beck's gold

Although beer was considered old-fashioned, Beck's Gold was able to successfully market beer to younger target groups against the downward trend. The methods used predicted the success of Beck's Gold with a sales volume of over 300,000 hl in the first year to 1,719 hl (= 0.1%) “exactly” (with a bit of luck). According to publications, 560,000 hectoliters were sold in the second year, although the entire beer industry was still expecting a flop. Many me toos were only introduced in the third year . Nevertheless Beck's Gold was able to increase its sales to over 700,000 hl. Beck's Brewery was also able to post good sales figures with other mixed beer beverages.

Wrigley's Extra

Until Wrigley's Extra entered the market at the beginning of the 1990s, chewing gum in public was taboo for adults at the latest when they started working. In qualitative analyzes and market segmentations, the inhibition thresholds for this behavior as well as the emotional and rational reasons for use were determined. Based on these findings, Wrigley's Extra was positioned as a dental care chewing gum that not only tastes good, but also prevents tooth decay. With this innovative positioning, the brand has succeeded in binding the central (emotional and factual) reason for use for the entire market segment so clearly that there was hardly any space left for competitors. Even after 14 years, Wrigley's Extra has a segment share of over 90% (= 21% in the German chewing gum category of the confectionery market). The consumption of chewing gum in older age groups increased significantly and new target groups were won over. This innovation originated in Germany and was also a great success internationally.

Other Wrigley's chewing gum brands offer a number of other unique benefits, including breath freshness, memory and concentration enhancement, stress reduction, assistance in quitting smoking and snack avoidance.

Positioning within the framework of integrated communication

In the model of integrated corporate communication according to Manfred Bruhn, the positioning of the (profit or non-profit) company represents the second of a total of eight steps. The positioning takes place before the target groups are defined and applies to all target groups. The target group-specific messages must not contradict the positioning.


  • Kurt Lewin : Field theory in the social sciences , Bern 1963.
  • Ralf Mayer de Groot: Successful positioning: Why market segmentations are usually wrong. Eppstein 2008.
  • Ralf Mayer de Groot: Marketing: Radically change or abolish! In: Branded Articles. 1–2 / 2007, p. 42 ff.
  • Ralf Mayer de Groot: Five options for setting your brand in the sand! In: media & marketing. 11/2000.
  • Ralf Mayer de Groot, Peer-Holger Stein: International brand guidance research leads to success. In: planning & analysis. Special English Edition, 2000.
  • Ralf Mayer de Groot: Product positioning. Cologne 1984.
  • Bernt Spiegel : The structure of the distribution of opinions in the social field. The psychological market model. Hans Huber, Stuttgart 1961.
  • Al Ries, Jack Trout : Positioning. McGraw-Hill, New York 2001, ISBN 0-07-137358-6 .
    • German by Lorenz Wied: Positioning: How to survive in saturated markets . Vahlen, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-8006-3790-4 .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Unique selling point  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. in: Ogilvy on Advertising
  2. ^ M. Wedel, W. Kamakura: Market Segmentation: Conceptual and Methodological Foundations. 2nd Edition. Boston 2000.
  3. J. Wind: Issue and Advances in Segmentation Research. In: Journal of Marketing Research. 15/1978, p. 317 ff.
  4. Hans Domizlaff: The acquisition of public trust. A textbook of brand technology. 1982, ISBN 3-922938-03-5 .
  5. ^ Ralf Mayer de Groot: Product positioning. Cologne 1984, ISBN 3-922292-08-9 .
  6. Gerd Gigerenzer : gut decisions. 2nd Edition. Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-570-00937-6 .
  7. Christian Scheier, Dirk Held: How advertising works. Neuromarketing Insights. ISBN 3-448-07251-6 .
  8. ^ R. Mayer de Groot: Brand diversification and sustainability. Eppstein / Nürnberg 2003, ISBN 3-00-011625-7 , p. 276 ff.
  9. R. Mayer de Groot: Successful positioning: Why market segmentations are mostly wrong. Eppstein 2008.
  10. R. Lübbe, R. Mayer de Groot, S. Hoffmann: Everything under control. Leitz: A brand is taking off. In: Branded Articles. 5/2004, p. 24 ff.
  11. ^ R. Mayer de Groot: Brand diversification and sustainability. Eppstein / Nürnberg 2003, ISBN 3-00-011625-7 , p. 189 ff.
  12. J. Bönisch, R. Mayer de Groot, T. Scharf: After 20 years targeted and quick to market leadership: Langnese Cremissimo. In: planning & analysis. 3/2002.
  13. ^ R. Mayer de Groot: Brand diversification and sustainability. Eppstein / Nürnberg 2003, ISBN 3-00-011625-7 , p. 329.
  14. ^ HJ Schmidt: Success through market research. In: planning & analysis. 5/1999.
  15. ^ J. Kues, A. Michel, T. Scharf: Jules Mumm: Fruity, cheeky and successful. In: planning & analysis. 2003.
  16. ^ R. Mayer de Groot: WD-40: With a small budget to great success. In: absatzwirtschaft. 9/2008, p. 44 ff.
  17. ^ R. Kennedy, A. Ehrenberg: There Is No Brand Segmentation. Blasphemous As It May Sound to Traditionalists, This Marketing Mainstay Scarecely Even Exists! In: Marketing Insights. Marketing Research. American Marketing Association, Spring Edition 2001, p. 4 ff.
  18. ^ R. Kennedy, ASC Ehrenberg, S. Long: Competitive Brands' User Profiles Hardly Differ. In: Market Research Society Conference (UK), Brighton, UK, March 2000
  19. ^ P. Barwise, S. Meehan: Simply Better. Winning and Keeping Customers by Delivering What Matters Most. Boston 2004.
  20. A. Ries, L. Ries: The emergence of brands. Frankfurt 2005.
  21. DJ Shaw, A. Schipke, R. Mayer de Groot: Beck's Gold sails on the road to success. In: planning & analysis. 2/2004, p. 20 ff.
  22. R. Mayer de Groot, E. Haimerl: Great success thanks to a unique product benefit SG confectionery trade. In: International trade magazine for the confectionery industry. 10/2005, p. 47 ff.
  23. ^ R. Mayer de Groot, E. Haimerl: The Wrigley's Extra success story: How to defend successfully a 90% segment share. In: planning & analysis market research, international issue. 2005, p. 6 ff.