Positioning: The Essence of Marketing Strategy

10 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2009 Last revised: 10 Nov 2021

See all articles by Marian Chapman Moore

Marian Chapman Moore

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Richard Helstein

affiliation not provided to SSRN


This note follows the development of a positioning statement for a target market. The exercise includes determining the relevant point of reference (market definition, product category, competitive set) and associated points of parity, the point of difference, and why customers should believe the product or service can deliver on the desired positioning. The appendix contains a description of perceptual mapping, a tool that is often used when making positioning decisions.



Rev. Mar. 12, 2018

Positioning: The Essence of Marketing Strategy

Choosing how to position a product or service is one of the most important decisions a marketer makes. A positioning statement indicates how you want customers to think about your product/service/brand relative to competitors (i.e., the position you want your brand to occupy in the target market's mind). A positioning statement is not your competitive position. In his book, Selling the Invisible, Harry Beckwith states: “A position (or statement of position) is a cold-hearted, no-nonsense statement of how you are perceived in the minds of your prospects. A positioning statement, by contrast expresses how you wish to be perceived. It is the core message you want to deliver in every medium” [emphasis added]. If you do not actively and accurately communicate how you want your product to be positioned in your customers' minds, your customers will position the product themselves, for themselves—perhaps with the “help” of your competitors. This note presents the fundamentals of positioning, as expressed in a positioning statement.

Elements of a Positioning Statement

A positioning statement is not an advertising strategy, a slogan, or tag line. It is an internal document and is often dull and straightforward. But that's the point—a widely communicated and widely accepted positioning statement keeps everyone inside the company aligned with respect to the focal product or service. No embellishments. No hype. The positioning statement guides the development of marketing communications to reach the target customers. It is not a marketing communications piece.

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Keywords: positioning, marketing strategy, competitive strategy

Suggested Citation

Moore, Marian Chapman and Helstein, Richard, Positioning: The Essence of Marketing Strategy. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1420587 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1420587

Marian Chapman Moore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/moorema.htm

Richard Helstein

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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