Today’s firms are confronted with the difficulty of maintaining credible brand differentiation in the face of imitation and homogenization of offerings (Hatch and Schultz, 2001) within overcrowded and fragmented markets (Fuchs and Diamantopoulos, 2009). As a result, firms can no longer pursue strategies based solely on operational efficiencies (Porter, 1996, 2001) and on stable and predictable consumer markets (Zahay and Griffin, 2010).
Positioning strategy is defined as the firm’s marketing activities geared toward positively adjusting the mind of the consumer via various marketing communication approaches and other marketing mix tactics with the view of convincing the consumer to prefer the firm’s offerings relative to those of competitors. In a sense, positioning strategy aims to differentiate the firm and/or its offering(s) in the mind of the consumer. The literature reveals several positioning strategies that can be pursued by the marketer. A recent research conducted by Blankson, Ketron, and Coffie (2017) found that Shoprite employed “top of the range,” “service,” “value for money,” “reliability,” “attractiveness,” and “the brand name” positioning strategies at the Accra Mall in Accra. As well, Coffie and Owusu-Frimpong (2014) found that “service reliability,” “social responsibility,” and “branding” positioning strategies were popular in the Ghanaian services industry.
Even with the strongest of brands, firms are challenged to generate sufficient competitive advantages in order to remain competitive and superior among their rivals (Clancy and Trout, 2002; Porter, 2008). To achieve such competitive superiority, Matthyssens, Vandenbempt, and Weyns (2009) posit that in addition to a firm’s appealing offering(s), the firm must possess a distinct and difficult-to-imitate position in the minds of consumers (i.e., reflecting favorable perceptions) which complements its offering(s) (i.e., product(s), service(s), or brand(s). Consequently, the firm enters the domain of positioning—the act of designing the firm’s offering(s) and brand image to occupy a distinct place in the minds of the target market.
A well-communicated image should help establish a brand’s position, insulate the brand from competition and ultimately enhance the brand’s market performance. The latter impact underscores the importance of managing the image over time (see Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis, 1986). As noted by Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis (1986), any offering (i.e., product, service, brand) can be positioned.
One of the important assets that a firm carries is the intangible value represented by its brand’s/brands’ purpose(s) that are acknowledged by consumers as in the case of Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Toyota, BMW, Guinness, South African Airways, Shoprite, etc. These brands capitalize on creating opportunities for positioning and growth (Orton-Jones, 2015).
Keller (2003) defines a brand as a product that adds other dimensions that differentiate it from other products and services designed to satisfy the same need. Kapferer (1992) writes that a brand exists when there is a certain perceived risk, and that without that risk, a brand would simply be the name of a product. Thus, a brand makes life simpler and less risky and is a source of value for the consumer.
An important step in the creation of brand value is the shaping of consumers’ perceptions, which is enabled by the firm’s employment of positioning strategies (Park, Jaworski and MacInnis, 1986; Porter, 2001; Blankson, 2016). Webster (1991) states that positioning is an important strategic concept developed in consumer marketing but equally applicable for industrial products and services. The author also argues that the firm’s value proposition is the firm’s unique way of delivering value to consumers.
The employment of positioning strategies thus paves the way for preference for a firm’s brands over competitors’ brands. Positioning strategy, therefore, is the antecedent to brand management and is subsequently the foundation of a brand’s position in the marketplace (Blankson, 2016; Blankson and Kalafatis, 2007). In other words, the result of successful positioning strategy is a distinctive brand image (i.e., mental picture) of the brand in consumers’ minds (see Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis, 1986). Therein lies the synergy between branding and the concept of positioning.
While marketing scholars understand that positioning strategy and brand management individually lead to enhanced firm performance (Hooley, Piercy and Nicoulaud, 2012; Blankson et al., 2008), the two seemingly independent concepts (i.e., positioning and branding) have a closer relationship than many scholars acknowledge (Fuchs and Diamantopoulos, 2010; Blankson, 2016). A broader understanding of the streams of research on contemporary issues and challenges in branding, brand management, and positioning will help scholars in expanding their research scope, comprehension and appreciation of the domain of branding and positioning, and practitioners in finding further applications. These fundamental components of marketing strategy are relevant in both domestic and international markets (Blankson, Ketron, and Coffie, 2017; Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra, 1999).
Although Africa compares unfavorably with the rest of the world in terms of academic business research canon, researches in branding and positioning of firms in Africa continue to receive attention and interest (see Adokou and Kyere-Diabour, 2017; Odoom, Narteh, and Boateng, 2017; Odoom, Narteh, and Rand, 2017; Bonsu and Godefroit-Winkel, 2016; Coffie, 2014, 2016, Coffie and Owusu-Frimpong, 2014; Hinson, Madichie, and Ibrahim, 2012; Narteh et al., 2012; Blankson, 2007; Blankson, Owusu-Frempong, and Mbah, 2004). Still, these efforts are meager relative to North America, Europe, and Asia regions.
Despite the importance that positioning plays in international marketing practice and research (Alden, Steenkamp and Batra, 1999; Blankson, 2007), the African region remains hugely under-researched. Yet during in an age of globalization where Chinese, Indian, and Western companies alike are rapidly moving to create more business opportunities in Africa, one believes that a greater attention to branding and positioning practices of firms doing business in Africa should prove useful for scholars and practitioners. Business opportunities in sectors such as agriculture, retailing, telecommunications, construction, mining, manufacturing and tourism abound in Africa. With an improved socio-political dispensation and a growing middle class and expatriate populations, Africa is an attractive marketplace with enormous potential. Furthermore, it is critical to increase research in branding and positioning in view of the increasing liberalization of African economies and the subsequent growth and expansion of businesses – local and foreign (see Narteh et al., 2012; Blankson, Ketron, and Coffie, 2017) and competition among firms.
To that end, this Special Issue seeks manuscripts that draw on multiple methodologies including qualitative, quantitative, modelling, case study, or triangulation of methods. All manuscripts should have clear relevance to the African marketplace. As well, conceptual papers that focus on branding, brand management, brand positioning, product positioning, and positioning issues and links with firm market activities in Africa are welcome.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- Positioning or branding decision making approaches and/or employment of positioning strategies.
- Linking firm positioning or branding strategies/activities and relationship with consumers’ perceptions.
- Firm value propositions and positioning or branding strategies and outcomes.
- Application of positioning or branding strategies and impact on firm performance.
- Congruence between suppliers’ positioning or branding strategies, firms’ positioning/branding strategies and consumers’ decision making (e.g., why consumers buy).
- Evaluation of firm positioning initiatives and/or re-positioning and outcomes.
- Relationship between market orientation and positioning or branding.
- Firms’ characteristics and positioning or branding strategies.
- Measuring - development and validation of scale measuring positioning or branding strategies.
- Determinants and outcomes of positioning or branding capabilities in industrial/B2B or B2C markets.
- Branding and positioning interface in industrial/B2B or B2C markets.
- Case studies of how firms engage in branding, create brands or acquire positioning capabilities in industrial/B2B or B2C markets.
- Employment of positioning strategies or branding strategies in SME within industrial/B2B or B2C markets.
- How and why firms develop or adapt, or change their branding or positioning capabilities.
- Marketing practices outcome following the employment of branding strategies or positioning strategies.
- Positioning or branding activities of firms in the context of cross-cultural environment (e.g., Chinese firms in Africa; Indian firms in Africa; Western firms in Africa; Middle Eastern firms in Africa etc.).
- Firm branding or positioning activities in the context of a cross-national African environment (e.g., a comparison of South Africa and Kenya; Zambia and Tanzania; Cameroon and Gabon; Ghana and Nigeria; Egypt and Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia; Senegal and Ivory Coast; Liberia and Sierra Leone; Uganda and Zimbabwe etc.).
- Issues about firm ethical and/or CSR pursuits and branding or positioning strategies.
Other topics are also welcome as long as they relate with branding or positioning in African marketplaces.
All submissions will be subjected to double blind review following the journal’s standard peer review process. The format of the manuscripts must follow the journal’s guidelines available here.
In particular, authors should submit their manuscripts electronically through the journal’s Editorial Manager site. Manuscripts should be typed using Microsoft Word, 12-point font, double-spaced, with margins of at least one inch on all sides. Manuscript pages should be numbered consecutively throughout the paper. When uploading your submission via the journal’s website, please indicate in your cover letter that the paper is for the Special Issue - Branding and Positioning Activities of Firms Doing Business in Africa. Email submissions to the guest editor will not be accepted.
All enquiries should be directed to Dr. Charles Blankson.
Submission deadline: May 18, 2019
Adokou, F. A. & Kyere-Diabour, E. (2017). Positioning strategies of retail firms in Ghana. Journal of African Business, 18 (2), 221-237.
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Bennion, M. L. (1987). Segmentation and positioning in a basic industry. Industrial Marketing Management, 16 (1), 9-18.
Blankson, C., Owusu-Frempong, Y., & Mbah, C. H. N. (2004). An investigation of Ghana’s tourism positioning. Journal of African Business, 5 (2), 113-136.
Blankson, C. (2007). Testing a newly developed typology of positioning strategies in South Africa. Journal of African Business, 8 (1), 67-97.
Blankson, C. & Kalafatis, S. P. (2007). Congruence between positioning and brand advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 47 (1), pp. 79-94.
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Odoom, R., Narteh, B., and Boateng, R. (2017). Branding in small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), current issues and research avenues. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 20 (1), 68-89.
Odoom, R., Narteh, B., & Rand, J. (2017). Branding and outcomes in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): A resource-capability approach. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, 29 (3), 175-192.
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- Guest Editor: Charles Blankson, Associate Professor of Marketing, University of North Texas (Charles.Blankson@unt.edu)