Boring Positioning Maps

I often discuss mistaken thinking, this is different. I’m discussing something worse than being wrong and that is being boring.

A positioning map illustrates marketing strategies. Here I discuss the axes of which there are two generic types.

  1. Where there is no universally agreed best, e.g. taste based dimensions, like the spiciness of food.
  2. Where there is a universally agreed best, e.g. price and quality. Everyone prefers low price to high price and high quality to low quality.

Students and professors tend to gravitate to the universally agreed dimensions for the axes. For instance some of marketing’s most famous scholars use price and quality in their textbook (Kotler, Keller, Brady, Goodman and Hansen, 2012, pg. 405, sourced from M.R.V. Goodman’s work). I will tell you why I find this irritating.

Price Quality map

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a price/quality map like the one above. It is “correct” but what does it mean? The products are likely to fall in a neat line from bottom left to top right (Brands A-E above). Why? Because imagine a strategy that was to sell a low quality product at a high price (Brand F below). You don’t need a map to tell you that it is doomed. What about Brand G below, high quality and low price? Sounds more plausible but it usually represents a fantasy, “we are just better”. Assume the fantasy is true — you are better and can product more cheaply. Why are you priced so cheaply? You are leaving money on the table — charge more. (You might have a plan that involves a temporary price cut but a temporary price cut isn’t part of your strategic position.)

Full Price Quality Map

So why do I hate price/quality maps. Because they are boring. Products are usually arranged with low quality products priced low and high quality products priced high. It is a complete waste of time — I don’t need a map to tell me that. Price/quality maps are just boring positioning maps.

Read: Philip Kotler, Kevin Lane Keller, Mairead Brady, Malcolm Goodman and Torben Hansen, Marketing Management, 2nd edition, Pearson Education Limited.

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