The relation between market positioning and a principle of Jainism

Being a frequent visitor to the residence of philosophy, I came across the concept of ‘multifaceted reality’, documented in one of the schools of Indian Philosophy, the Jainas.

I am talking about the principle of Anekantavada.

My contention will focus on how it partially runs parallel to Positioning in the market. 

But first, let me briefly describe what I mean by ‘positioning’.

Market positioning, as defined by CFI, is” the ability to influence consumer perception regarding a brand or product relative to competitors“. 

Positioning as exhaustion

Two shoes A and B will have different market positioning to avoid product me-too

Two companies, A and B, may have the same product, let’s say a shoe. While one positions itself as catering to aesthetics-savvy individuals, the other as durable and performance-oriented.

Positioning, therefore, is an exhaustion of one of the possibilities that comes with a product in the background of technological limitations.

Why add technological limitations in the end?

Let’s say, by wielding the power of innovation, you build a shoe that helps you walk automatically. What you did as a result expanded the possibility of exhaustion.

Empirically, It is untrue that such a technology exists. So, until or unless such an innovation comes, positioning would have to limit itself to ‘what can be done now’.

Syadvada: A relative principle

From Anekantavada, the Jainas derive Syadvada. At the heart of it is the assertion that no one can know reality in its complete package. Any theory that was ever born only manages to grasp one aspect of it.

The Jainas encapsulate this with their 7 modes. Each mode expresses “only one aspect of the truth about the entity being discussed”.

For further reading.

Their tradition substantiates the theory with the example of an elephant.

A group of blind men is brought to touch an elephant, but each one can only feel a specific part of the elephant’s body.

One man touches the elephant’s leg and concludes that the elephant is like a pillar. Another man touches the tail and thinks the elephant is like a rope. A third man touches the trunk and believes the elephant is like a snake.

Each blind man forms a different perspective based on their limited experience.

Reconciling the two

Reconciling positioning and Anekantavada

A product then is the elephant, and the brand decides what part of it is available for consumers to touch.

Any upstream activity associated with a shoe isn’t where the money is; it is the brand that earns you millions. Materials are embedded in our reality like diamonds in a Patek Phillipe Nautilus ( Is this a promotion? Nah, just like it too much)

Navigating through the world requires frequent encounters with the ‘material’.

Ideas are more social than humans themselves. They involve breakups, mental well-being, geopolitics, politics, economic conditions and also SHOES. Why? Because more than social, we are indulgent and aspirational beings, and unless you are an abstinent, you would converse (pun intended) about shoes as well.

Conclusion

While Syadvada is a philosophical concept rooted in the Jaina tradition, its principles of relativity can be applied to understanding the dynamic nature of market positioning in the business world.

Successful market positioning often involves recognizing and navigating the multiple perspectives and conditions that influence a product or service’s perceived value in the marketplace.

Which part of the elephant you want your consumers to hold so that they come closest to describing it is a key tenet to your marketing strategy.

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