Positioning, in a limited way, is about perspective change. Brands succeed by re-orienting consumers to look at things in different manner. By doing this brands gain desirability. The key idea is to kill tendency to view a thing in generic manner. Consider a brand like Mont Blanc: is it a pen or something else? For reflection generated eye image it certainly is a pen but its interpretation in mind is not. This renders Mont Blanc a highly desirable pen not for its writing superiority but for the idea it ‘stands for’. This is the result positioning.
Now consider the masks that people are urged to wear to protect them and prevent the spread of Covid 19. The challenge is how to make people follow the protocol. It may be necessary but for many it is not desirable. It is necessary for bikers to wear helmet for safety but do they do so voluntarily? How necessary is drinking single malt whiskey and how high do people pay for it ?
Helmet is stuck in ‘to be avoided’ product frame and Single Malt ‘to be had’ frame.
Positioning is about relativity. What category is a brand made to stand in ‘in relation to’? Consider common salt, sodium chloride how its perceptions vary depending upon its location:
- Sodium chloride in a lab: it is a chemical compound
- Sodium chloride in pharmacy: it is medicine
- Sodium chloride in kitchen: common salt
- Sodium chloride in chef’s kitchen: taste maker
- Sodium chloride in factory: preservative
This location based generic perception commoditization and pull is entirely likely to be need or necessity based. But positioning is empowering. A product can be placed in a perceptual space different from location oriented perception. Remember Mont Blanc is a pen but in perception it is established in ‘relation to’ accessories territory used by consumers to convey their identity, ‘who they are’. This makes the brand highly desirable. It chooses to operate in higher order orbit. Similarly some people ‘cultivate’ taste (disliked taste- sacrifice) to belong to category that Single Malts operate in.
So what is challenge for increasing adherence to mask wearing protocol? Consider mask’s positioning in ‘relation to’:
- Mask in ‘relation to risk’ (doctors, industrial sites, pollution): in this scheme, masks are located in their generic territory of protective gear. It is likely to appeal to risk avoiding thinking centric (high on cognition) group of people. The appeal of mask lies in its functionality, the protection.
- Mask in ‘relation to identity and expression’ (site of fashion, life style and statement): this would require inhibiting masks from getting into generic territory and planting or placing alongside conspicuous things. The conspicuous things are typically deployed to make the invisible person visible (self expression/ symbolism) and satisfy desire for belongingness. This however would require product modification (mask designed as accessory, not looking like a typical mask) and communication context of use (fashion/ dressing up/life style/ attitude).
What do you think a Rolex is? Is it a watch? Those who perceive it as a watch are not its customers and can never be. Have you seen people wearing the Cutter and Wayfarer (Rayban) wearing indoors: out of necessity (shades to ban ultraviolet rays) or desire (to let others know who they are). Mask needs to break away from the narrow boundary of protection to becoming object of desire.