Positioning Matrix: Lifestyle, Pain, Brand, Product, or Features

Most Companies Lack a Positioning Strategy
Companies must be deliberate in their positioning efforts –rather than rely on the same way that’s been done in the past. Frequently, I meet with young technology startups that focus purely on the technology and features –and completely miss what problem they are solving. Similarly, I meet with large brands that are positoning at the brand and product level –yet forget to connect with their customers in their existing lifestyle. I’ve used this framework in a variety of client engagements, and want to release the high level here, for you to use in your positioning strategy.

Positioning Matrix: Lifestyle, Pain, Brand, Product, or Features

Positioning Level Description When to use Drawbacks
Lifestyle An effort positioned at the the desires and experiences in the buyers life –not connected to products Works well in regulated industries (Wells Fargo, Amex, have deployed in this way), or companies who sell component products. Great for deploying at a new market when you’re trying to introduce a new concept or offering. Also strong at clinching competitive marketing space. While an ‘associative’ effort it may not be closely tied to the products and not drive prospects down the marketing funnel.
Pain Point Focusing on the trials, tribulations, and pain in a buyers life or work. It’s key to pointing out to customers the challenges that may exist in their life, then quickly move into product positioning.  Use this to connect to a prospect in the wider mouth of the marketing funnel, this is often a first hook. If a company only positions against pain they may not move customers down the funnel, quickly follow up with value statement and product introduction.
Brand Positioning directly on a company’s brand, much how Coke does it. A company that has an existing, established, brand promise can lean on this reputation as a standing point.  Standing on a brand promise –and the associated tagline –works well in reputation driven industries. Positioning against brand works for Coke and Pepsi, but it’s required millions over decades to have this level of recognition –most cannot hinge entire effort on this level
Product Focusing on the product itself, such as discussing a new car –but not it’s features. Use when your brand is established and releasing a new product set, use this level to sub segment into a new product category. Many tech vendors that brief me start at this level but forget to focus on ‘why’ this product exists as they’ve built a company around a technology –instead of around a customer need
Features Focusing on features such as speeds and feeds, this positioning competes at sub product level. Used to compare in a crowded market when there are established players and little deviation at brand or product level.  Often used in consideration and buy stage of a product. This is granular and may not be effective in new markets, or markets where consumers only care about the outcome of buying the product.

Use this Framework

  • Use value statements in your positioning –at each level. Positioning at each level still requires a value statement that answers “What’s in it for me?” for example, lifestyle is the opportunity to connect, gauge, or interface with peers.
  • Use all levels in a coordinated effort.  This framework isn’t about using only one level at a time, but the sophisticated marketer will deploy all levels and know how to amp up one of the other at the right moment.
  • Funnel your prospects through the phases. The savvy will know how to shift prospects to the various levels at the right moment, and customers will arrive into the marketing funnel at different levels –know how to advance them to the right level at the right time.

15 Replies to “Positioning Matrix: Lifestyle, Pain, Brand, Product, or Features”

  1. 'focus purely on the technology and features' – In my opinion the technical aspects of social media strategies are same regardless of your business/company type but plans/tactics differs.

    I like the way you have sort out things which give specific details how to use them the right way! I think I can use this word to all that chart = your innovation !

  2. I really like positioning matrix you sort out. The description of when to use is helpful.

    I think the lifestyle or Pain point level are quite suitable for the categories like FMCG,Cosmetic,etc in most cases. And the Product or technology features positioning are more adopted in Electronic, Finance-related or other categories.

  3. Great framework that distills the essence of marketing strategy. It would be really cool to see this framework expanded to metrics for managers to execute against for each strategy. The approach of positioning for a brand strategy (Coke) and a lifestyle strategy (Amex) require entirely different ways to evaluate the effectiveness of efforts (metrics).

  4. Thanks Olin, this will turn into slides that I'll use with clients, and eventually a minor module in a presentation that I'm sure I'll share on a webinar at some point. Each one of these levels has many examples, best practices, risks, and KPIs.

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