In an increasingly competitive environment, positioning can be daunting, yet it is one of the most important strategic tasks you can undertake for your brand. In our last post, Laurie Bartolomeo provided an overview of how we approach positioning at Dudnyk and its importance to the creative process.
This post focuses on the competitive frame of reference within the positioning statement and how brand managers can influence customers’ perceptions by breaking down the boundaries of current thinking.
In their bestselling book, Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne describe red oceans as having well defined boundaries where competitors compete for share of existing demand. Blue oceans are marked by untapped market space and the ability to create demand. The choice between building a new category and fighting it out for market share may not be an easy one.
The rewards for creating an uncontested space where future competitors are forced to define themselves by standards that you set can be significant.
Why do so many marketers choose to stay within the boundaries of existing markets?
One possible reason is that positioning is often “pre-determined” long before marketers become involved and is based on established categories, such as statins, NSAIDS, or SSRIs. In this case, marketers are left to try to push an incremental benefit that may not motivate heathcare professionals (HCPs) to prescribe their brand. This may work in some cases where it’s enough to simply be another option, but this approach often requires a significant financial investment to achieve a greater share of voice than competitors.
Richard Czerniawski, author of the book Competitive Positioning, Best Practices for Creating Brand Loyalty refers to an alternative strategy for setting the competitive framework. He recommends brands develop positioning along two dimensions; the literal competitive framework (LCF) and the perceptual competitive framework (PCF).
The LCF defines the brand in terms of what it is and might be directly substitutable for, while the PCF defines the brand in terms of what it could be and helps to set up the brand’s benefits. For example, Snickers® is a candy bar (LCF) but it has recently been positioned as “the between meal hunger satisfier” (PCF). This not only became the brand’s mantra and part of the advertising campaign, but it also allowed Snickers to compete against non-candy bar snacks like granola or energy bars, thus changing its perceived competitive set.
Several examples also exist where pharma brands have redefined categories when they weren’t the first entrants and/or seemed to lack any clear differentiation. These brands were able to change the way HCPs perceived the category, and as a result, created space where competitors were unable to compete on a level playing field.
As the Protonix brand team was preparing to go to market, they realized that they had unique clinical data that demonstrated the brand’s efficacy during nighttime hours when patients were trying to sleep. At the time no other proton pump inhibitor (PPI) possessed such data.
The team took this data into patient market research and came away with an insight that could leverage the nighttime data―patients were actually afraid to lay down to go to sleep because of the fear that they would be awakened by their acid reflux pain. Positioned around the insight, the team successfully created a new market segment―Nighttime GERD―where Protonix had a distinct competitive advantage.
This shift of mindset allowed Protonix to ultimately capture over a quarter of the larger PPI market.
Similarly, insights leveraging clinical data, pharmacokinetic profiles, and even mechanisms of action (MOA) have been used successfully to forge new uncontested segments.
Lipitor, with its unique (at the time) cardiovascular event reduction data, was able to reframe how HCPs thought of statins; to not only lower cholesterol, but more importantly to reduce cardiovascular risk.
Cialis, with its 34-hour duration of effect, has successfully shifted the erectile dysfunction market away from the mechanics of the disorder to focus on the intimacy lost by these patients.
Bayer Aspirin, long known for analgesic properties, successfully reshaped the way HCPs thought about the importance of a low-dose aspirin regimen to capitalize on its blood thinning properties and enabled it to become a standard part of a post-heart attack daily routine.
In each of these cases, marketers found ways to reshape the competitive frame of reference to create environments for which they held a unique advantage and forced competitors to try to reposition their brands. The key is to combine clinical data with audience insights to break down existing category walls.
Perhaps this approach can work for your brand, too.