What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln?

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When I was a kid the men in my neighborhood used to say, “The only difference between a Ford and a Lincoln is the packaging… and ten thousand dollars!” The pause between “packaging” and the “and ten thousand dollars” got the intended laughs. Men who couldn’t afford most of the regular Ford line—though still dreaming about the Lincolns—needed those laughs… and the consolation.

Marketers know that those neighborhood men were partially right: the right packaging can enhance a product’s differentiated positioning. More often though, a product’s position in its market is earned by its quality and the quality of the services that accompany it. The process of creating a well-defined differentiated positioning statement “helps a company maintain focus on each product and its value proposition while developing the key elements of its marketing mix, pricing, and distribution strategy,” says Marketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy® Guide series.[1]

The common four elements of a marketing mix are “product, price, place, and promotion.”[2] These elements become refined and powerful when developed in connection with clearly defined pricing and distribution strategies. The creation of differentiated positioning for a product uses these elements and strategies to define “a list of the product features that are most important in helping customers make their purchasing decision,” according to Marketing Strategy.

The features that set one’s product apart from others is often the decisive information for consumers. Though made by the same manufacturer, a Lincoln has distinct features that cannot be found on models from Ford’s standard line. There are features such as seat warmers and electronic monitoring systems that make Lincolns luxury cars that are positioned, priced and promoted to the luxury market. The same can be said about Cadillacs and other model lines built by General Motors—Lexus and Toyota, Affinity and Nissan, and so on.

In the process of creating a differentiated position, a company’s marketing team will use inputs such as the selected target segment, the company’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, a list of competitors, details of competitive products, industry benchmarks, existing industry research reports and customer feedback about similar products or from research projects such as market tests and focus groups. And these inputs are raw resources for future blogs (previews of coming attractions).

Though much of this seems common knowledge, it takes a well-thought-out differentiated positioning statement to get products to the right street.

1. This series of six books covers six aspects of sales and marketing aligned to the most common career groups in this domain. The SMstudy® Guide offers a comprehensive framework that can be used to effectively manage sales and marketing efforts in any organization. For more details, visit: http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.

2. BusinessDictionary.com Retrieved on 3/31/16 from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing-mix.html

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