How to Position Your Innovation in the Marketplace

A research-based framework identifies six positioning options for new products or services.

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Should a new product or service start at the high end of the market and then move downward? Or is it wiser to launch a new offering at the low end, and then move up?

In truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for how new products enter the market. That’s why we and our colleague Joseph Van Orden have developed a framework to help you choose an approach. There are two key questions to ask: (1) Is the basic functionality of our new offering better or worse than that of existing competitive products? (2) How groundbreaking are the novel attributes of the new product?

Consider the Nintendo Wii and the Tesla Roadster. One is a video game console that was introduced at $250. The other is an electric car introduced at $109,000. Each illustrates a different approach to positioning a new product.

The Wii attracted a new type of customer to the video game market; Nintendo decided not to compete head-on with Microsoft’s high-performance Xbox 360 and Sony’s high-performance PlayStation 3. Both of these competitors had much faster processing power and high-end graphics, traditionally the “core attributes” of product performance in the video game industry. Instead of competing on those core attributes, where the Wii offered less functionality, the Wii instead included a somewhat novel “new attribute” — its easy-to-use motion-sensitive controller, dubbed the “Wii-mote.”

Like the Wii, the Tesla Roadster offered a novel attribute — in this case, electric propulsion. But unlike the Wii, the Roadster did not make sacrifices to the “core attributes” of product performance in its industry. Instead, the Roadster closely matched the acceleration and ride of high-performance cars such as the Porsche 911.

Hardcore gamers never viewed the Wii as a replacement for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and the Wii was never marketed that way. By contrast, performance-oriented drivers took the Roadster seriously. The Roadster was marketed head-to-head against other high-performance vehicles, as something drivers could buy if they wanted the “new attribute” — electric propulsion — without sacrificing performance.


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Comments (2)
Henry Gregor
How the product is positioned and introduced to the market is conditioned by the "type" of product it is. Revolutionary products will require quite  a different treatment than do evolutionary products. There is no one size fits all, each situation must be carefully considered for barriers to entry, and the likelihood of acceptance before a positioning statement is made.
Ajit Mathur
In the context of services," performance "as a variable offers powerful possibilities for  positioning and pricing, within the broad framework outlined by the researchers. Consider Indigo ,a low cost airline in India ,and a market leader now which has raised on time performance and cleanliness to a new level, and thus is able to position itself uniquely, often charging fares comparable to full service carriers. Other low cost carriers struggle with performance and in turn with fares, presumably victims of the low cost positioning mindset. On the other hand, consider luxury hotel chains such as Oberoi Group and Taj Group in India which command premium due to high service reliability, high quality tangibles and excellent guest services. Many other hotels with comparable investments and ambition just can't deliver that performance and thus accept a lower positioning and pricing. It's quite clear where the innovation should deliver and if attributes are more or less same, investment in performance is the key.