Deciding on positioning requires the determination of a frame of reference â€“ by identifying the target market and the nature of the competition â€“ and the ideal points-of-parity and points-of-difference brand associations. To determine the proper competitive fame of reference, one must understand consumer behavior and the considerations consumers use in making brand choices.
Points-of-difference are those associations unique to the brand that are also strongly held and favorably evaluated by consumers. Ponts-of-parity are those associations not necessarily unique to the brand but perhaps shared with other brands. Category point-of-parity associations are associations of consumersâ€™ view as being necessary to a legitimate and credible product offering within a certain category. Competitive point-of-parity associations are those associations designed to negate competitorsâ€™ points-of-difference.
The key to competitive advantage is pro-duct differentiation. A market offering can be differentiated along five dimensions:
Ability to repair,
Maintenance and repair,
Because economic conditions change and competitive activity varies, companies normally find it necessary to reformulate their marketing strategy several times during a productâ€™s life cycle. Technologies, product forms, and brands also exhibit life cycles with distinct stages. The general sequence of stages in any life cycle is introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. The majority of products today are in the maturity stage.
Each stage of the product life cycle calls for different marketing strategies. The introduction stage is marked by slow growth and minimal profits. If successful, the product enters a growth stage marked by rapid sales growth and increasing profits. There follows a maturity stage in which sales growth slows and profits stabilize. Finally, the product enters a decline stage. The companyâ€™s task is to identify the truly weak products; develop a strategy for each one; and phase out weak products in a way that minimizes the hardship to company profits, employees, and customers.
Like products, markets evolve through four stages: emergence, growth, maturity, and decline.