In an already complicated market space, positioning a product can be a very difficult task. Finding that uncontested ground is very similar to finding a needle in a haystack.
In the event that creating a new position is near impossible, an alternative to approach is re-positioning the competition. Re-positioning is taking a competitor’s established space in the consumer’s mind and using a weakness to debunk its claim to it. This strategy nudges the competitor away to create more room for your brand.
It must be made clear early on that re-positioning a competitor requires a legitimate point of argument . If your contention is unfounded, you may end up solidifying the competitor’s position instead. Legitimacy stems from qualified data or what already exists in consumers minds.
Positioning By Repositioning The Competition
Tylenol Vs Aspirin
Not very long ago, Tylenol upset Aspirin’s product position when they ran an ad campaign highlighting the side-effects of the latter and positioning itself as the worthy alternative.
The ad copy had all the makings of a perfect re-positioning strategy. Aside from the ad’s very intriguing heading, the copy appealed to the very real symptoms that many Aspirin consumers experienced and attributed the users discomfort to the drug in question. It wasn’t an overly suggestive, ‘we’re better than Aspirin’ jab. Rather it used subtlety to influence the consumer’s predicament, allowing the consumer to draw his/her own conclusions.
Notice the ad never openly stated that consuming Tylenol would avoid similar discomfort. It did state however, that it lacked the vital aspirin content, the attribute linked to discomfort.
Even non-consumers of Aspirin, reading the ad for the first time, would be prone to retain this information, thereby influencing future buying decisions. The end result saw Tylenol climb the analgesic ladder to take the number one spot.
Stolichnaya Vs American Vodka
Stolichnaya decided to hit competitive vodka brands where it hurt most. The ads read, ” Most American Vodkas Seem Russian…Samovar: Made in Schenley, Pennsylvania… Smirnoff: Made in Hartford, Connecticut…Wolfschmidt: Made in Lawrenceburg, Indianna…Stolichnaya: Made in Leningrad, Russia.”
Very few consumers peruse labels to find the true origin of the brand they’re considering, most relying upon the name instead. Because of the strong Russian associations of the beverage, American-made vodka brands adopted suggestive names. Stolichnaya’s ad copy exposed the competition and shed some very questionable light on them. Unfortunately, during the Afghanistan crisis, Stolichnaya back-tracked on its Russian position, opening the door to Absolut.
Re-positioning Versus Comparative Ads
Very often companies undertake re-positioning strategies that simply turn out to be misguided comparative campaigns where the brand is shown to be superior to the competitor in some way. Comparative advertising uses a benchmark approach where the brand and competitor are stacked against each other.
The trouble with comparative ads is that they often appear as hard sales pitches, aggressive or undermine the ability of the consumer to make the right decision. They therefore end up being unproductive or strengthen the competitor’s position further.
Re-positioning deals with how the competitive brand is interpreted by the consumer and delicately urges the consumer to evaluate or question their current understanding of it. While ads may elude to some form of comparison, the initiating brand appears less aggressive.
The element of ethical advertising comes into play when we discuss competitive re-positioning. Some may argue that the practice is in poor taste. But, if executed appropriately and creatively without the aggressive nature of comparative advertising, they could shake things up a bit.
Else, you could stick with the traditional feature-benefit campaigns that just about everyone else in the category runs along with unique branded differentiators that amount to virtually the same thing.