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1 Arguments against brand positioning Maxwell Winchester & Dr. Byron Sharp.

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1 1 Arguments against brand positioning Maxwell Winchester & Dr. Byron Sharp

2 2 Marketing theory or marketing rubbish? Most marketing theories developed on single cross-sectional studies Rarely replicated –When replicated usually results in contrary findings »e.g. Hubbard & Armstrong (1994) Research & Development Initiative into Marketing (school of empirical generalisationalists) –Study marketing phenomena across MSOD –In different countries –Across different market structures

3 3 Brand positioning First appeared in the Advertising Age –Reis and Trout (1972) Now in every marketing textbook –Seen as a fundamental aim of marketing –Yet not scientifically tested Position brand in consumers minds –Make it the preferred brand for your brands target market

4 4 The arguments… 1. Brand image varies with usage 2. Attributes that are prototypical are prototypical for every brand 3. Attitudes are fickle 4. Brand image remains stable over time 5. Consumers have repertoires of brands 6. There is no brand segmentation

5 5 1) Brand image varies with usage Evaluative brand attributes vary with usage –e.g. reliable, a bank I can trust, good value for money Users respond to an attribute more often than non-users

6 6 1) Overall scores Bank 1Bank 2Bank 3Bank 4 Up to date with Technology Offers friendly service Responsive Low fees and charges6434 USAGE25%15% 14%

7 7 2) User & non-user response level USERSBank 1Bank 2Bank 3Bank 4 Up to date with Technology Offers friendly service Responsive Low fees and charges7787 NON-USERSBank 1Bank 2Bank 3Bank 4 Up to date with Technology Offers friendly service Responsive11878 Low fees and charges3433

8 8 2) Response level and usage? Big brands score higher than smaller brands and users respond to attribute more often than non-users –Usage drives brand image/brand attitudes? This pattern has held up: –Different countries –Different market structures –Different industries If positioning theory held, wouldnt we expect –Smaller niche brands to show significantly higher response levels on specific attributes (e.g. Volvo - safety) –This response level would drive usage

9 9 2) Attributes are protototypical consistently Prototypicality comes from taxonomy –How we categorise things –In this case - brands Attribute that is scored highly for one brand is so for others –E.g. Up to date with technology

10 10 2) Attributes scores & prototypicality IMAGE SCORESBank 1Bank 2Bank 3Bank 4 Up to date with Technology Offers friendly service Responsive Low fees and charges6434 RANKBank 1Bank 2Bank 3Bank 4 Up to date with Technology1111 Offers friendly service2222 Responsive3333 Low fees and charges4444

11 11 2) Prototypicality arguments… This pattern has held up: –Different countries –Different market structures –Different industries If positioning theory held, would we not expect brands to score highly on different attributes? –i.e. the ones they were positioned on

12 12 3) Attitudes are fickle/unstable Only about half of the people who gave a particular attitudinal response on one occasion do so on the second interview

13 13 4) Brand Attitudes are fickle Insurer 1Insurer 2Insurer 3Insurer 4Mean Provides complete cover Easy to understand policies Fair on paying claims Competitive on price Table of % of respondents who responded on 1st interview who also responded on 2nd interview

14 14 3) Attitudes are fickle/unstable Individuals' responses are as-if random But this variability cancels out at aggregate level - this is why so few researchers know about the individual variability If positioning theory held, we would expect –Consistent responses to the attributes brands were positioned on »By the same respondents

15 15 4) Brand image remains stable over time While we have seen at an individual level, image responses are fickle At an aggregate level, over time, brand image remains stable in stable markets –Whether it 3 weeks or one year between interviews results tend to be relatively the same These results are from a longitudinal study in the insurance market –Interviews were 3 months apart

16 16 4) Brand t1 and t2 INTERVIEW 1Insurer 1Insurer 2Insurer 3Insurer 4 Provides complete cover Easy to understand policies Fair on paying claims Competitive on price INTERVIEW 2Insurer 1Insurer 2Insurer 3Insurer 4 Provides complete cover Easy to understand policies Fair on paying claims Competitive on price

17 17 4) Brand image remains stable over time We see little change in the aggregate results –So brand image does not change much –Except with changes in market share If positioning theory held, we would expect –Dramatic changes in brand perceptions as different competitors re-positioned their brands in the marketplace

18 18 5) Consumers have repertoires of brands Proponents of positioning theory believe: –If you position your brand well, people will prefer your brand over all of the others But! –Consumers have brand repertoires –They are generally not loyal to one brand in repertoire markets Your buyers are buyers of other brands who occasionally buy you –Professor Andrew Ehrenberg

19 19 6) There is no brand segmentation Are Ford buyers different from GM buyers? A fundamental argument provided by proponents of the positioning theory –Different brands are bought by different types of people Study in Research & Development Initiative into Marketing –Ehrenberg & Kennedy –42 industries, 200+ segmentation variables –Only minor differences found

20 20 Credit Card Credit Card Credit Card Credit Card n Av. MAD MAD Av ) There is no brand segmentation

21 21 If positioning theory held… –We would expect to see large demographic, behavioural and psychographic differences between brands »This assumes we do not hold brand repertoires »This assumes we can target different competing brands at different segments We are not saying that… –You cannot segment markets »Cat food is generally bought by cat owners! 6) There is no brand segmentation

22 22 So where does this leave us ? Evidence is not conclusive, BUT –Youve seen a sufficient challenge to the tradition of brand positioning Assumptions about the existence of 'ideal' or 'killer' attributes or image positions may be unfounded Users of different brands think pretty much the same thing about their brands –Just because you tell consumers something, doesnt mean theyll act on it!

23 23 An interesting study… Romaniuk & Sharp (2000) found that: –Image perceptions are linked to future buying behaviour in a systematic and predictable manner –Mentioning a brand for any attribute means you are slightly more likely to keep buying it –Mentioning one particular brand attribute does not lead to purchase

24 24 Where to from here? Were not saying that your brand can not be distinct from other brands –But we do compete in a competitive market More scientific studies required –Such as those conducted as part of the Research and Development Initiative into Marketing The marketing task does not seem to be about repositioning to some desirable spot –but rather is very much about taking into account what people already think of you –Building salience for your brand may be the answer Perhaps brand positioning is marketing rubbish rather than marketing theory? –Replicate & extend –Longitudinal studies


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