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Marketing Mix Products and Brand Strategies

In this research paper importance of branding will be discussed with regards to placing a product in the minds of the consumers. The paper will then delve into the relationship element of the brand with its users or consumers. Finally a comparison will be made between two brands of different product categories to establish the importance of creating relationships with the consumers. In a nutshell, the paper will serve to bring forth the key cornerstone of brand management.

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Branding is the most important aspect of business in this contemporary age with the scores of brands marketed around the world. Ever more so, due to the global nature of business activities where boundaries are no longer a restraining factor to companies’ access to various markets. So in essence, branding is to make a product or a service look distinct from its competition.

In this era marketing has shifted from traditional cost-price models to value driven models. Customer retention has become more important than seeking new markets due to increasing competition demanding a larger share of customers’ shrinking pockets. A loyal customer is now a greater asset than ever before. In this framework, with marketers constantly aiming to retain customer loyalty, it is inevitable that these loyal customers form a relationship with brands. Brand managers must understand the strength of such a relationship and nurture it accordingly.

I will attempt to argue for this proposition by drawing examples from one brand each in two product categories, namely Verizon (Product category: Cell phone service) and Disney (Product category: movie studios).

Disney, movie studio has epitomized the relationship with its consumers. From what started as a movie studio, the Disney Corporation has ventured into theme parks, Disney channel and other businesses. The relationship with the children and the young ones has kept the brand afloat and guarded against the competition. The children have been able to associate themselves with the characters of Disney, be it Mickey mouse or Cinderella both on screen and also through the interactions with the mascots in the Disney theme parks. So just goes to bring home the point of a brand related with a product category; Disney is the first name on the top of the minds of the young children when asked about their favorite cartoon characters. (Haig, 2004)

Disney makes animated movies targeted at families and mainly to kids. Kids are impressionable and therefore quick to identify themselves with their favorite cartoon characters. Disney enjoys tremendous fan following from kids due to unforgettable characters it creates to transport them into a fantasy world for the duration of a feature movie. It cherishes its relationship with these kids and comes out with services and products tailored to their personality and style. When a kid sleeps in the night with a stuffed animal depicting a Disney character, Disney goes an extra mile to retain his loyalty, to maintain this relationship for long term. This is evident from a look at their website which is a bandwagon of imagination. Each kid is invited to own a page for a wonderful browsing experience.

Another brand of service that has had a unique relationship with its consumers is Verizon cell phone service. Branding a service gets complicated as more focus has to be given to the factors besides the service itself; that is the environment has to be built around the service. Verizon has been a leader in the cell phone service because of its reliable services as well its multicultural marketing focus on all the ethnicities living in the United States from the Hispanics to the Asians. It has also kept the relationship with its strong community services with a way of interacting with its consumers.

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Vodafone Group Plc is the world’s leading mobile telecommunications company. In the United States the Group’s associated undertaking operates as Verizon Wireless (Vodafone, 2009). They put a lot of effort into managing customer relationships. The Vodafone perspective is that the real challenge is to train your team to effectively use Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Analysis should include questions such as which customers are most profitable, most loyal or most effective. Which customers are more trouble then they are worth and other such inquiries before implementation of a system for CRM. Verizon and other companies also look to tap into social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter to better communicate with current and potential clients. One study in the Journal of Statistical Science found that ‘network neighbors’ (consumers linked to previous customers) adopt services at a rate three to five times greater than those selected by otherwise best marketing practices (Byrne, 2009).

The importance of branding and relationship with the end consumers can never be underscored further especially in this age of brand conscious people. So brand managers need to plan out a brand plan and incorporate in it the relationship with the consumers as advocated by Susan Fournier, a marketing commentator. Relationship marketing has grown from traditional view in the context that latter is centered on lone and separate transactions whereas former has individual and identifiable customers at its heart. Relationship marketer wants to get and keep customers. Loyalty is important because of the benefits associated with retaining customers. Therefore an organization focuses on nurturing long-term, cost effective relations with its customers.

A customer who considers himself related to a brand will expect to be treated fairly and will want to receive extra value. This means the marketer will need to provide highly customized service to each individual. Customer retention has a direct impact on profitability and past research has claimed that it can be five times more expensive to obtain a new customer than to retain one (McIlroy & Barnett, 2000). No matter which product category or brand is studied, customers have very strong relationships with brands. It’s vital to carefully manage these relationships in order to gain maximum benefit out of it. It’s proven that retaining a customer is far less costly then attracting a new one.

Marketers must perceive their brands as entities capable of delivering strong and powerful messages. Their job is to make sure these messages speak positively to customers, letting them know that the brand values this relationship and exists to satisfy their needs properly. If marketers fail to achieve this target, they risk the company going out of business very soon since customers are hard to get by in this competitive age and if they are let go, a lot of negative image in created for the company which in turn would restrict the incoming of new customers.

References

Byrne, S. (2009). How to manage customer relationships: Vodafone perspectives. Web.

Fournier, S. (1998).Consumers and their brands: Developing relationship theory in consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research. 24. Web. 

Haig, M. (2004) Brand Royalty. United States. Kogan Page.

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Kotler, P. (1993). Marketing management: analysis, planning, implementation and control.

McIlroy, A., & Barnett, S. (2000). Building customer relationships: do discount cards work?. Managing Service Quality. 10, 347-355.

Vargo, S.L., & Lusch, R.H. (2004). Evolving to a new dominant logic for marketing. Journal of Marketing. 68. Web. 

Vodafone, (2009). We will be the communications leader in an increasingly connected world. Web.

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