When minimum requirement positioning will still motivate
Q: We read read your column last week about positioning in a minimum requirement value. Your column said that if our brand’s most important consumer value has already been satisfied by many other brands, then that consumer value has become a minimum requirement. To our customers, it’s now a non-motivator. Therefore, it’s time to look for a new brand differentiator as a basis to switch our brand’s positioning.
The case you cited to prove your point was Colgate. Two business associates of mine and myself used to work there 25 years ago as product managers. Throughout that time and until now, Colgate never left the cavity prevention positioning. And yet, it continues to be the dominant market leader.
So does this mean Maslow is wrong and that a minimum requirement value like cavity prevention can still motivate? What did Colgate do with its cavity prevention value positioning that it continues to motivate purchase?
A: We don’t know exactly what Colgate did with cavity prevention that it remains a motivating value. As you said, cavity prevention has long been a non-motivating, minimum requirement value, yet Colgate continues to retain its dominant market leadership even if consumers consider its cavity prevention positioning as a minimum requirement value.
So we’d like to answer your provocative question by analogy. We know of two cases where the brands concerned were still able to motivate consumers by positioning in minimum requirement consumer values that used to be motivating differentiators.
The first case is that of Milo. MBA student researchers (assigned by the Senior MRx-er) asked mothers what they specifically liked about Milo that they serve it to their children. A frequent answer was its “chocolate taste” (yung lasa nyang tsokolate). When probed what exactly in its chocolate taste they liked, these mothers gave three different kinds of chocolate taste. The first kind characterized the Milo chocolate taste as “rich milky chocolate that’s more milky than chocolatey.” Here’s the second kind, in the words of a mother: “medyo bitter, like genuine dark chocolate” (somewhat bitter, like genuine dark chocolate). There’s a third kind described as: “hindi siya very sweet, unlike Ovaltine na sobrang tamis” (not very sweet, unlike Ovaltine that’s too sweet).
Our students could not decide which among these three needs segments to go after for positioning. Since the research was qualitative (of the in-depth interview type), they had no numbers to go by. They didn’t know the percentage of mothers that belonged to the three needs segments.
So, they went to the other unprobed answer to the same question: “magaling siya sa katawan ng bata” (it’s good for the kid’s body). The probed responses on this answer all lent support to what the Milo commercials claim in providing “Olympic energy.”
Consumer “Dimensionalizing” a generic product value
Let’s apply this example to what our book, “User-Friendly Marketing Research” calls the “dimensionalizing” of a generic product value. Colgate’s cavity prevention positioning is a generic product value. This can branch out into different kinds, and if any of them is an unserved or underserved need, then this has motivating power.
Here’s the second case that lends support to the positioning search power of the “dimensionalizing technique.”
A research by MBA students asked how drinkers find the taste and flavor of three carbonated orange drink brands. The students were surprised to learn that drinkers found the brands to differ in this generic drink value. They expected drinkers to say that all three brands were the same in taste, since they were all orange drinks. When probed about how the three brands differed in orange taste and flavor, here’s what the students learned.
To the drinkers, there were three kinds of orange taste and flavor. First was an orange taste that’s “true, real and natural.” A second kind was an orange taste that’s “not-so-sweet but tastes fresh.” A third kind was evocatively expressed in Pilipino: “Yung matamis siya na maasim pero ang asim niya ay nakakalamang sa tamis” (Both sweet and sour but the sourness exceeds the sweetness).
When asked what brand drinkers associated with which kind of orange taste, drinkers named Royal Tru-Orange as “owning” the first kind; Mirinda, the second; and Cheers, the third. Royal’s positioning was in the first kind and Mirinda in the second. There was convergence between the marketer’s positioning and that by the consumer’s. But not so with Cheers. It’s likely that Cheers never did this kind of research into the minimum requirement value of orange taste and flavor.
The insight-rich lesson from researching into consumer dimensionalizing of a minimum requirement value is clear. Going back to the example of Colgate, they most likely looked into how toothpaste users dimensionalized cavity prevention and found that the “total cavity prevention” kind was unclaimed and unserved. And so Colgate effectively positioned on it.
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