Here is another example of how the right positioning can make all the difference in the success of a new product.

Back in the mid 80s there were two kinds of desktop printers for PCs: impact printers (sold by any number of companies), and Hewlett Packard’s laser printer.  The former were inexpensive, noisy and produced low quality output…but they did the job.  The laser printer, in contrast, produced high-quality documents, was very quiet, but was quite expensive ($5,000 at the time).  There was nothing in between.

In 1988 HP introduced its first mass-market inkjet printer, as did Canon a year or so later.  Though more expensive than the impact printers of their day, they were significantly less expensive than laser printers.  Each company took a different approach in positioning its product.

Canon’s positioning: A quiet replacement for the impact printer

HP’s positioning: Laser quality without the laser price

Now for sure, office workers were keen to get rid of their distracting impact printers so that ‘quiet’ appeared to be a great position for a new market entrant.   However, the majority of those who relied on impact printers suffered from ‘image quality envy’.  That is, what they REALLY wanted was a printer that produced great looking documents, just like a laser printer, but at a significantly lower cost.

What happened?  HP captured the market.

Why does this story demonstrate the importance of positioning?  Well you see, in essence they were the same product.  They were equally quiet.  And, they produced essentially the same quality output.  Did potential buyers know that from the advertising?  No.  How could they.  They relied on the vendors to tell them what was so great about these new devices.   Canon hit a hot button.  HP, however, hit the hottest button!

And the one who hits the hottest buttons win!

To read Round 1 of this blog, please click here.

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