The Sweet Bits Company (SBC) branding strategy is focused on creating positive associations with the brand in the consumer’s mind, thus gradually increasing brand visibility and gaining a competitive advantage in the market. The goal is to present SBC as a company that provides consumers with reasonably priced, high-quality chocolate that is manufactured ethically. Because ethical manufacturing is an essential tenet of the company, the promised brand extensions, such as SBC Ice Cream, would be seen by consumers as something to look forward to, reinforcing SBC’s positive image. To this end, keeping track of customer feedback would provide an indispensable tool for the company to meet the demands of the target audience consistently. Various products manufactured by SBC will remain faithful to the principles of high-quality, low-cost, organic, and ethically manufactured food, which will eventually lead consumers to become attached to the brand. This strategy will help expand the target audience, raising brand awareness and potentially creating brand recognition and preference.
Despite the possibility of introducing changes throughout the course of brand development, determining SBC pricing strategy is of the utmost importance. To do so requires comprehensive market research and a thorough analysis of consumer behavior. The target audience of SBC is the millennial generation, who are fond of going to coffee shops and purchasing natural organic food, as well as medium-income consumers who value exceptionally high-quality chocolate. Therefore, to determine the right price for SBC products requires a comprehensive analysis of the market for similar products, as well as calculations of production and distribution costs, the estimated threshold of the target audience, and its willingness to pay. The obtained correlation demonstrates the right price that will allow SBC products to gain a competitive advantage and meet the demands of the target market.
The distribution strategy is a result of a thorough analysis of consumer behavior. As is the case with the majority of consumer packaged goods, an intensive distribution system will be implemented. Chosen retail outlets will include certain coffee shops and high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods.
Inter-brand competitors are companies that offer a similar product but operate in a different business. In the case of SBC, inter-competitors include such companies as Nestle and Lindt. High diversification and moderate prices are the principal strengths of Nestle, a company that caters to various markets, promotes a considerable number of brands, and is recognized on a global scale. However, certain retailers in the United States, as well as in Europe, hold a significant amount of power in the major markets and tend to reduce prices or offer the house brand instead. Lindt is another example of an inter-competitor, whose major strengths consist of production of the highest quality and the loyalty of consumers to the brand. On the other hand, the cost of its products is very high, and they are not widely available.
On the other hand, intra-brand competition is related to the product distributors of the same brand. According to Iacobucci (2013), “The manufacturer finds itself competing with its partners…A manufacturer’s own branded retail store can compete with an independent channel retailer, and the manufacturer’s brand may compete with a retailer’s private label brand” (p. 136). Recent years have seen many examples of vertical restraints being imposed in order to prevent this type of competition, enhancing the competition between brands instead. There are certain advantages to this approach, such as improved non-price factors in the distributors’ strategy (Colonna, 2013, p. 484).
Therefore, the intra-brand competitors for SBC would be retail outlets and distributors, whose main strength lies in the opportunity to offer competitive store brands at reduced prices. Under the fair trade laws of the United States, price fixing and vertical price fixing are not permitted. However, retail outlets must nevertheless charge the price suggested by the manufacturers, so that the profit is not gained only by the retailer (Iacobucci, 2013, p. 120).
Along with the focus strategy and the low-cost strategy, the differentiation strategy is one of the basic marketing strategies employed to determine sustainable competitive advantages in relation to the closest competition (McGuigan, 2014, p. 335). The differentiation strategy is devised to emphasize any attributes, values, or various aspects that set one particular brand apart from other companies catering to the same market segment. For SBC, it is necessary to stress the product differences in relation to Nestle’s chocolate products.
Despite the fact that Sweet Bits Company maintains a higher quality of production than Nestle, the price of SBC products remains relatively low. SBC products are of exceptional taste and will be highly enjoyed, particularly by those who are fond of having a cup of coffee with something sweet. The cocoa is ethically harvested by fairly paid, hard-working people at exotic cocoa plantations in Latin America. The products are healthy, as they contain only natural organic ingredients, with no sugar or artificial flavorings. The ethical production process is considered to be an essential principle of the Sweet Bits Company, which is going to be upheld in each manufactured product.
In comparison with Nestle, which owns and promotes a great number of products and brands, SBC’s focus is only on the products that it considers to be a priority for its target audience. Thus, consumer feedback is of the utmost importance to the Sweet Bits Company, as it is an indispensable tool for researching the current expectations of consumers and adjusting the production accordingly. This aspect is particularly significant in the differentiation strategy since Nestle cannot quickly adapt to unexpected modifications in consumer behavior, due to the fact that its sales rely on a limited number of brands recognized by the vast majority of people.
Furthermore, the name “Sweet Bits” is simple, clear, and easy to remember, and it appeals to the target audience by evoking associations with a domestic, comfortable, and warm atmosphere. Since coffee shops are one of the designated distributor locations, the consumer-friendly and welcoming image of the brand is reinforced. After all, it is crucial to understand that gaining a competitive edge means not only surpassing rivals on the market but, more importantly, in terms of consumer choice. Whether the consumer makes a choice in favor of the company’s product is the ultimate purpose and measurement of the success of the company’s marketing strategy.
The Market Position of the Company
There are several types of companies in any given market: leaders, followers, challengers, and nichers. Iacobucci (2013) distinguishes even more categories within the industry, such as “quick-followers, also-rans, [and] barely-in-the-games” (p. 216). The strategic decision regarding the company’s intended position on the market is based on two primary aspects: an evaluation of its capacity to influence the situation in the targeted market segment and an estimated prognosis of its growth. The position of market leader is given to the company that owns the most substantial market share. Its dominant position requires it to defend and expand its shares by means of diversification or intensive promotional campaigns in order to maintain its superiority.
A company in the market follower position tends to imitate the market leader, which entails a low cost of manufacturing with adequate quality and service (Competitors and Their Marketing Strategies, n.d.). However, it is not uncommon for a company to play the role of leader for certain brands or market segments while maintaining a follower status for the others. As Iacobucci says, “The company’s orientation to offense or defense may vary across its brand portfolio” (2013, p. 216). Moreover, Kapferer (2012) argues that market leaders rarely offer the best product, as they dominate over the largest segment, in which consumers prefer to purchase more reliable and cheaper products (Kapferer, 2012, p. 40).
All things considered, SBC’s ultimate goal is to position itself as the leader in organic natural chocolate production and the follower in relation to the current leaders of the market. As suggested by Reeves and Deimler (2011), adaptability is the key feature of any profitable business (Reeves & Deimler, 2011, p.137). Constantly gathering consumer feedback, as well as performing an efficient analysis of the market, will allow the company to adjust to new tendencies in consumer behavior, thus gaining more market share in its segment.
Social Media Strategy
The importance of social media in the implementation of the marketing plan cannot be underestimated. The essential power of this marketing tool consists of its relation to the so-called “word of mouth” (Iacobucci, 2013, p. 173). Today, social media is an omnipresent phenomenon that allows friends and acquaintances to share information on a daily basis. If a friend gets a recommendation from a friend, it is much more likely to be trusted than a simple billboard or TV commercial, since a friend has virtually nothing to gain by sharing this information.
To this end, it is necessary to choose two social media platforms for SBC to use for the purposes of promotion: Facebook and Instagram. These two platforms are the most suitable media tools for the company’s needs, since the target audience includes a great number of consumers who use them on a regular basis, forming communities and sharing current trends and newly discovered features. The social media strategy will involve creating a page for the product with an appealing design, distinctive content, and creative slogans, all of which will ensure that the consumer will take an interest in SBC. The high quality of SBC products will be appreciated by chocolate connoisseurs, which will lead them to share this information on Facebook. Since consumer feedback is essential to SBC development, this social media strategy will establish direct contact with consumers, encouraging them to air their opinions and contribute to the development of the product.
According to Wilson, Guinan, Parise, and Weinberg (2011), this approach is known as being “the predictive practitioner,” which allows consumers to contribute directly to brand development (Wilson, Guinan, Parise & Weinberg, 2011, p.23). The Instagram platform should be extensively used as well, since photo and selfie trends are increasingly popular. Instagram can facilitate the promotion of SBC products by means of posting photos with short, creative messages to pique the consumers’ interest. Moreover, collaborations with coffee shops and other distributor locations will benefit from the use of social media, since it will be possible to run a promotion uniting the two brands. For instance, the consumer can be encouraged to take a picture in the coffee shop with the SBC product in order to obtain a coupon for the next visit.
The use of these social media platforms will contribute to the efficiency of the monitoring methods. Apart from the predictive practitioner approach mentioned above, monitoring methods will include monitoring the actions of competitors, keeping track of collaborators, and conducting surveys designed to evaluate consumer satisfaction. Since longer surveys might discourage customers from participating, there will be a minimum number of questions included in the survey and a possibility to specify any reasons for dissatisfaction.
Integrated Marketing Communications
According to Iacobucci (2013), integrated marketing communications are devised to ensure that information about the brand is sent through every possible media outlet. However, an essential part of SBC’s marketing strategy is its customer-centric, as opposed to customer-focused, character. The company focuses on the integration of consumers into the process of product development for the purpose of determining and satisfying their needs (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011, p. 1470). In order to implement the determined advertising strategies that encompass interest targeting, custom targeting, and connection targeting, it is crucial to integrate the platforms employed for this purpose. SBC profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and eventually YouTube have to be clearly connected to each other, so that consumers can easily move from one profile to another.
Indeed, the pages in question must be synchronized. Although the messages placed on the profiles have to be different, they must at the same time form a coherent brand image that instills trustworthiness, creativity, and amiability, encouraging the consumer to participate actively in SBC’s product development.
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