Edition 33, Marketing

Brand Positioning and Social Networks

By: Matthew G. Whitehouse

The concept of brand positioning, as well as its impact on the sale of products and services, has been a recurring theme in a large number of articles on marketing. However, the increasingly powerful presence of the Internet social networks and their impact on consumers’ purchase decisions has affected the positioning of both the brands and the companies themselves in an accelerated manner.

These are some of the basic principals of brand positioning:

  • Positioning is in the mind of the consumer. It is related to the image and opinion he has of a brand or product. It may be an erroneous value judgment, but in marketing “perception is reality.” There is the idea that positioning is always a good thing, but a poor brand image or opinion means the positioning has been negative. However, the consumer knows (or thinks he knows) what each brand represents.
  • Positioning directly influences the purchase decision. If it is negative, the sales opportunities are lower. A better positioning in the “scale of customer value ” can increase the probability of sale, if it is within his purchasing possibilities.
  • Positioning is achieved through advertising, the consumers’ experience with the product or service, as well as the recommendations and comments from third parties.
  • Positive positioning takes time to build, but it can be destroyed in an instant.
  • Positioning is key in differentiating a product or service from another, especially when there is little real difference between what is being offered by the company and its competitors.
  • Positioning means that the consumer knows the brand, its attributes and even the price range and where it is sold.
  • Positioning is subjective, and may change with time
  • Positioning applies to both brands and products as well as to people, companies and institutions. Consumers have a positive opinion of brands such as Bic or Bimbo because they know what they represent and they have a good image.

But what happens with the positioning of a brand or company – even a person – when, in a matter of minutes thanks to the electronic media, opinions about products are published, regardless of whether those who comment actually know anything about what they are talking about? In addition, through these means, it is possible to create discussions and forums with very different points of view.

It is impossible to control what is said on the Internet, so it is easy to damage the brand image (positioning), even with no valid reason. But it is also possible to “spread the word” in a positive manner with respect to a brand. There is such a bombardment of information that the consumer may have a difficult time making a decision or taking a position on any topic.

While working on a project for a well-known brand, we found surprising comments on the Internet. Some people shared their experience with the product, and their comments, both positive and negative, were accepted as valid, affecting the image and sale of the product.

This leads us to ask the following questions: Does the electronic social media make brands more vulnerable? How do you keep abreast of what is said about a brand and the consequences of what is disseminated through the social network? How can you take advantage of this new form of communication and interaction to strengthen brand positioning? How can we correct bad or incorrect information, which affects the purchase decision?

On the other hand, we must not forget that even though Internet social networks are becoming increasingly popular, not everyone has access to them. It has been reported that people over 40 tend to use this form of communication less, while low-income people lack the possibilities for accessing this media or do so infrequently.

Positive positioning becomes a competitive advantage and a factor of differentiation that also helps in the sale of products and services. This also applies to B2B. Considering the importance of positioning in the purchase decision process, it is essential to conduct periodic studies on consumers’ perception of a brand, as it may change from one moment to another.

Qualitative studies can provide us with specific information about consumer preferences and prospects in order to make better marketing decisions and possibly reverse negative positioning. Another simple way to obtain information about brand positioning is to navigate the different social networks and search for what is said about the brand, including directly asking for opinions about the product or service in question. This applies both to large companies as well as small ones and even to individuals because these brief surveys do not involve a large investment.

I have met a wide range of entrepreneurs who assume they know their brand or company positioning and rely on it to make decisions, which they later discover are not quite right or can even be destructive. I suggest that you conduct a small marketing study of your own brands on the Internet. Write down what you think customers are saying about your brand. Then, use search engines, like Google and networks like Twitter, to find out what is being said about the name of your brand or company. You might be in for some big surprises.  

 

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