When Zipcar was introduced to the market, a competition-based perspective was adopted. The positioning emphasized the superiority of the service in relation to the competitive alternative of owning one’s own car. This approach is captured in the following positioning statement:
To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy consumers [target], when you use Zipcar car-sharing service instead of owning a car [competitive frame], you save money while reducing your carbon footprint [points of difference].
Once Zipcar was established as an alternative to owning a car, greater emphasis could be given to how Zipcar helped the targeted customer achieve his or her goals. This might have been done by laddering up from the points of difference to a brand essence of being a “responsible choice” for transportation and linking to the target’s goal of demonstrating a commitment to protecting the environment. This more customer-based approach is illustrated below:
To urban-dwelling, educated, techno-savvy consumers who worry about the environment that future generations will inherit [target and insight], when you use Zipcar car-sharing service you make a responsible choice [brand essence] and demonstrate your commitment to protecting the environment [target’s goal].
The positioning of a new brand often evolves from a competition-based approach to one that places greater emphasis on customers’ goals as knowledge of the brand increases. Once a brand is well-established, a single statement, such as the one below, may serve to capture elements of both competition-focused and customer-focused positioning:
To urban-dwelling, educated, techno-savvy consumers who worry about the environment that future generations will inherit [target and insight], Zipcar is the car-sharing service [competitive frame] that lets you save money and reduce your carbon footprint [points of difference], making you feel you’ve made a smart, responsible choice that demonstrates your commitment to protecting the environment [target’s goal].
The job of positioning a brand is never done. As new competitors enter the market, a brand’s positioning must be modified. The entry of other car-sharing services, such as Connect by Hertz, force Zipcar to explain why targeted customers should prefer it to services that offer similar attributes. A focus on brand essence may be helpful in this regard. Zipcar may do well to target younger consumers, emphasizing its pioneering role in the car-sharing category and positioning the brand as one that demonstrates a commitment to protecting the environment. By contrast, Connect may concentrate on serving Hertz’ existing customer base (older business travelers) on a new occasion (short-term city rentals) and leverage its number-one status and reputation of quality service.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: John Wiley & Sons, excerpted from Kellogg on Marketing, 2nd Edition by Alice M. Tybout (editor), Bobby J. Calder (editor), Phillip Kotler (foreword by) (c) 2010 by The Kellogg School of Marketing.
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