What is under positioning?

Definition of under positioning

Under positioning is where consumers in the market do not have a clear understanding of the key benefits of your brand. This differs slightly from consumers being unaware of the brand, and highlights a problem with the overall marketing communication of the brand’s positioning in the marketplace.

Especially in a cluttered and competitive marketplace, clear positioning is critical to generate strong sales and a consistent market share. Being under positioned – that is lacking a clear position in the consumer’s mind – will result in reduced sales and profitability.

Identifying whether a brand is under positioned

Under positioned brands a usually identified through:

  • Inconsistent sales volumes
  • Reliance on sales promotions and deals
  • Fluctuating market shares
  • As well as through consumer image surveys

Consumer image survey results

When in under positioned brand is represented in a image survey to consumers, the brands ranking/ratings will consistently be towards the middle of the answer scale. For example, if consumers are asked to rate a brand on a scale of 1 to 9, where 9 = a highly effective product and 1 = a highly ineffective product (and so on for various other questions and attributes) – and under positioned brand will typically score in the mid-range of 4 – 6.

Because an under positioned brand scores in this middle range, the results of an image survey are sometimes misinterpreted. This is because an under positioned brand is likely to NOT be the worst rated brand in the competitive set. There will be other brands, where consumers have a stronger understanding of that brand’s positioning, where consumers will rate these better-known brands below and under positioned brand.

Basically when consumers are asked about a brand that they do not have a clear understanding of, they are more likely to pick a “safe” middle school as an acceptable answer.

Therefore, if a brand is consistently rated – across a range of attributes and benefits – in the middle range of the scale, then that brand is most likely well under positioned.

Please make use of the free perceptual map template on this website to help determine whether or not your brand is under positioned.

Improving the performance of the under positioned brand

If a brand is under positioned, then sales will be limited because consumers do not have a very clear understanding of the key competitive benefits of the brand. As highlighted above, this will also require the brand to be reliant upon expensive sales promotions (such as discounts) and will result in a fluctuating market share position.

Clearly this is not an acceptable situation for any brand. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a clearer positioning with the target market – most likely through:

  • More precise advertising communication and messages
  • Better use of packaging
  • A clearer slogan/tagline
  • Perhaps shorter communication messages
  • Perhaps competitive comparisons

Over-positioning of a brand

The counter situation to a brand being under positioned, is a brand being over positioned. This is where a brand promotes a very precise benefit that has limited appeal to the target market. This may happen in a very competitive and cluttered marketplace, but is not overly advantageous in a less competitive situation, or where the brand offers multiple benefits that have value to consumers.

Over-positioning of a brand is probably more likely to occur in the early stages of the brand’s life, but needs to be improved over time by highlighting a greater extent of benefits and attempting to appeal to a broader target market.


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