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Thorntons Plc’s Marketing Strategy


Thorntons is one of the industry players, which have encountered several setbacks in an attempt to expand their market share. The mentioned company operates in the UK, where it controls a big share of the chocolate market. However, its attempt to penetrate the international market has backfired, apparently due to a lack of proper strategies for such endeavors. For example, the company’s products failed in France since the French did not like its brand (‘Thornton’s restaurant shows a slight loss for last year’ 2012). Such failures would be avoided if the company had engaged in research to unravel the French customers’ tastes and preferences in line with the suggested customer-centered marketing approach. In the local market, the company has recently closed many of its stores on the grounds of unprofitability. Besides, the business is unable to meet seasonal demand for chocolate during certain seasons. This observation underscores the need to research the company’s internal and external environments to advise its executives about the best approach to mitigate the described challenges.

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Analysis of the Current State of the Business

Internal Environment: SWOT Analysis

The company’s major source of strength is its strong brand equity. Since its inception, the company’s operations have been shallowly guided by the customer-centered strategy, which entails prioritizing customers’ interests, hence achieving exceptional customer satisfaction. Client contentment is the key to a successful business, especially for organizations operating in the food industry (West, Ford & Ibrahim 2015). The company employs other strategies to ensure that customers remain not only satisfied but also loyal. It produces high-quality chocolate by employing qualified employees and outsourcing raw materials from reliable suppliers.

One of the weaknesses of the company is its concentration on the UK market and the tendency to overlook the potential of developing markets. As it stands now, all stores are located in the UK. In the recent past, the economy of developed countries such as the UK has exhibited a slowdown while that of developing countries is recording rapid growth. In this regard, the company needs to invest more in the emerging markets, as opposed to the developed ones. The chief objective of globalization is to diversify risks by evenly distributing foreign stores around the globe. In case the company records a loss in the headquarter branch, such loss may be offset by the profits from the subsidiaries located in other countries (Javed 2013; Proctor 2014). Thus, the decision by Thorntons to operate most of its stores inside the UK is ill-formed since it overlooks the concept of risk diversification.

One of the opportunities available for exploitation by the company is the use of the internet to promote its products to customers to enhance its market share (Akturan & Tezcan 2012). The internet has given a different shape to contemporary marketing. Businesses are using it to maximize their market share while at the same time reducing the advertisement costs (Nava et al. 2013). The youths who make up a great percentage of the chocolate eaters are increasingly using social media to identify the companies to engage for such products. Another opportunity for the firm manifests itself in the form of the emergence of the middle-class people amongst the global population (Hawkins & Bohdanowicz 2012). Such people are comprised of high and middle-income earners who are ready and willing to pay a premium price for quality products and services.

The company faces stiff rivalry from the competitor businesses, which include HermesCone & Snack Mnf, UKDeli-Curious Chocolate, Chocolate Cookie, Choco Dragon, and CHOC Chick, among others. The aforementioned corporations operate in the UK market. They are big enough to bargain for discounts from the suppliers, leading to the success of the competitive pricing strategy. Parvin, Perveen, and Afsana (2014) argue that price is a key determinant of the competitive advantage of a company since clients tend to prefer high-quality goods that retail at relatively lower prices. Other than rivalry, there are concerns that chocolate is linked to several health issues due to their sugar content. This threat may lead to reduced sales for the product, as people fear becoming sick.

External Environment: PESTEL Analysis

Several political factors may favor or inhibit the operations of the company in the end. Such political elements include domestic warfare, terrorism, and international diplomatic conflicts, among others. The first one, political instabilities, manifests itself in the form of internal warfare in the country of operations. As it currently stands, the UK is stable politically, implying that the company faces no political risks. The others, terrorism, and diplomatic conflicts may only affect the company once it goes global.

One of the economic factors that are likely to affect the company’s operations is the possible economic slowdown experienced at times. During periods of economic crisis, people tend to have little money to use in luxurious products, thus making businesses unprofitable. An example of an economic crisis that greatly affected businesses is the 2008/9 global financial slowdown, which even led to the liquidation of some businesses (Tariq 2013; Wilson & Gilligan 2012). The recurrence of similar crises in the future may limit the profitability of the company.

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One of the socio-cultural factors that are likely to affect the operations of the business involves global events such as St. Valentine’s Day. In such seasons, more people tend to consume chocolate, as they celebrate the day with their lovers. In such times, the company needs to produce additional units to meet the increased demand. Other than the highlighted events, the health concerns of chocolate products may affect the company in the future. There is strong evidence linking sugar with certain illnesses such as obesity and diabetes. Given that chocolate has high sugar content, customers might be reluctant to embrace it in the future, hence leading to a loss of profits.

The recent advancement in technology seems to work for Thorntons since it facilitates its growth. Thorntons’ growth strategy entails opening new branches across the UK with the view of optimizing its profitability. The new technology aligns well with this strategy since it facilitates market research to determine the best locations to open new branches. Through social media, the company may acquire relevant information regarding the demographics of the people in the target market.

The rapid climatic changes that are currently being experienced in most parts across the world have been attributed to environmental pollution, thus prompting the international community and other relevant authorities to intervene by mobilizing countries to enact strict laws to control the vice. The laws are unique to each country. They continue to evolve, as each nation strives to make its environment clean by limiting the pollutant activities. The food industry has been accused of contributing a considerable amount of carbon into the atmosphere during their heating endeavors. In this regard, the UK governments may enact legislation to compel hoteliers to limit the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.

One of the legal challenges that are likely to affect the company’s operations in the future is the changes in legislation. Currently, nations are enacting legislation to regulate their labour sectors. An example of legislation that is likely to influence the company is the law touching on the minimum wages (Iyamabo & Otubanjo 2013). Some countries have already enacted such legislations setting the minimum amount the lowest paid employee should earn. The enactment of such legislations by the UK may limit the company’s profitability in the future since the additional salaries and wages are set off against the profits of the firm. Other legislations likely to affect the company in the future include taxation laws.

Discussion and Critical Evaluation of Marketing Theories

One of the marketing theories that are important to marketers is Albert Humphrey’s SWOT model. The mentioned theory helps marketers to assess an organisation’s current internal environment to develop the marketing strategies to use to boost its position in the market (Hitt, Ireland & Hoskisson 2012). The theory identifies the strengths and weaknesses of a firm in terms of the products, which it currently sells in the market. Based on the strengths and the weaknesses of the concerned firm, marketers are able to make decisions on whether the company has the ability to penetrate new markets (Kapferer 2012; Shaw 2012). In addition to the strengths and weaknesses, the tool also assesses the opportunities and threats present in the market to make decisions on whether to exploit them.

The other theory that is important to marketers is the PESTEL tool, which analyses the external environment of a firm. An understanding of the external environment of a firm is important since it guides marketers in developing effective marketing strategies (Hollensen 2015). Based on the PESTEL theory, Thorntons’ marketers need to assess the political factors that are likely to influence the company’s operations. Such factors include political conflicts and diplomacy rows among others. Additionally, the company must assess the economic factors likely to influence its operations. Such factors include the income levels of the target customers, taxation policies in place, and currency fluctuations among others. Social factors that the company must consider include customers’ culture, their health concerns, and family organisation. Besides, according to the theory, a company must consider the technological factors that are likely to affect its operations. Such factors include the evolution of the internet and social media and their application in marketing. Next, the theory emphasises the need for a firm to consider the environmental factors that are likely to influence its operations. The globe is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of conserving the environment. This situation causes the enactment of legislations to combat pollution. Such laws change with time. Thorntons needs to consider them when developing the marketing strategy. Lastly, the company must consider the trade legislations operational in the target market. Such laws include the marketing rules, patents clauses, and other applicable legislations.

Moreover, a marketer needs to use the 4Ps model to develop a suitable promotional strategy for the company. 4Ps (product, place, price, and promotion), outlines the marketing mix that is suitable for a given market. By analysing the target market against the 4Ps, a marketer gains insight of the best promotion strategies to be employed in the market based on customers’ demographics (Foxall 2014). In the case of Thorntons, the analysis of the market based on the 4Ps will help it to determine the best place, price, and the promotion strategy to employ in its market.

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Application of the Theories in Developing the Suggested Strategies

Based on the analysis of Thorntons’ internal and external environment, this paper recommends the company to penetrate the international market. The company should specifically target the emerging markets to maximise its overall profitability. The economy of the developing markets is speedily growing (Chernev 2014). The globalisation strategy may be achieved through mergers and acquisitions. The company should partner with other organisations in the industry to facilitate its penetration and positioning in the global market. Such partnership will not only reduce the risks associated with new global ventures but will also ensure that the company increases its customer base. Additionally, globalisation will align well with the company’s risk diversification strategy, which entails opening branches in different markets to ensure that it remains profitable in the event of economic slowdowns in some of the countries of operation. However, the company needs to use franchises to penetrate the market in its initial days before opening physical stores in the international countries. The company should use the following promotion tactics: advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, and public relations, to reach all its potential customers. The contemporaneous use of the four elements of promotion will ensure that the company informs customers about its presence in the country.


Thorntons specialises in manufacturing chocolate, which it sells in the local market. Since its foundation, the company has remained innovative to realise its goals. However, as much as the company has grown tremendously in the recent past, it faces several challenges that prevent it from thriving. The major setbacks to the company’s success include stiff competition in the industry and frequent failures in the international markets. This paper has explored the internal and external environment of the firm. Hence, to justify the validity of the suggested strategy, the paper offers various following recommendations.


The company mainly specialises in the production of a wide range of chocolate products. The UK market is large enough to support the sale of its entire products. The country has a high population, which is composed of people with different levels of income, and hence varying tastes and preferences. Since Thorntons has varied types of products, which retail at different prices, it would be important to introduce all the products to sufficiently serve the market.

As it stands now, the company uses the following main distribution channels: retail stores, online stores, and authorised retailers (Michelle 2015). The listed channels may equally be applied in the international market to ensure that the company acquires a good market share within the shortest time possible. To exploit the full potential of the listed channels, the company should open structural stores in the densely populated areas. Permanent service employees should serve customers from such areas. In addition to the structural stores, the company needs to have online shops to facilitate internet-aided procurement and payment. Besides, the company needs to partner with reliable international distributors and license them to sell the products on its behalf. This plan will ensure that the products are readily available to all customers.

Once the company goes global, it should advertise its products via each country’s local media in addition to the internet. Social media should be selected for the youthful persons among the population. Young people have massively embraced social media, implying that the company may easily reach them through the various platforms. On the other hand, local media will help the company to reach the old and the less educated people. Besides, the company needs to employ personal selling as a marketing technique for customers served from the retail stores.

Reference List

Akturan, U & Tezcan, N 2012, ‘Mobile banking adoption of the youth market: perceptions and intentions’, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 444-459.

Chernev, A 2014, Strategic marketing management, Cerebellum Press, Chicago.

Foxall, G 2014, Strategic marketing management (RLE marketing), Routledge, Abingdon.

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Hawkins, R & Bohdanowicz, P 2012, Responsible hospitality: theory and practice, Goodfellow Publishers, Oxford.

Hitt, M, Ireland, R & Hoskisson, R 2012, Strategic management cases: competitiveness and globalisation, Cengage Learning, Boston.

Hollensen, S 2015, Marketing management: a relationship approach, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River.

Iyamabo, J & Otubanjo, O 2013, ‘A three component definition of strategic marketing’, International Journal of Marketing Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 16-33.

Javed, S 2013, Strategic planning for competitive advantages, Web.

Kapferer, J 2012, The new strategic brand management: advanced insights and strategic thinking, Kogan Page Publishers, London.

Michelle, R 2015, UK: Thorntons sounds cautious note despite Q2 sales rise, Web.

Nava, M, Blake, A, MacRury, I & Richards, B 2013, Buy this book: studies in advertising and consumption, Routledge, London.

Parvin, A, Perveen, R & Afsana, H 2014, ‘Effect of customers’ satisfaction on the development of hospitality and tourism industry in Bangladesh with special reference to Hotel City Inn Limited, Khulna’, IOSR Journal of Business and Management, vol. 16, no. 11, pp. 24-37.

Proctor, T 2014, Strategic marketing: an introduction, Routledge, Abingdon.

Shaw, E 2012, ‘Marketing strategy: from the origin of the concept to the development of a conceptual framework’, Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 30–55.

Tariq, A 2013, ‘The effect of market uncertainty and strategic feedback systems on emergent marketing strategies & performance in Pakistan’, International Review of Management and Business Research, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 713-716.

Thornton’s restaurant shows slight loss for last year 2012, Web.

West, D, Ford, J & Ibrahim, E 2015, Strategic marketing: creating competitive advantage, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Wilson, R & Gilligan, C 2012, Strategic marketing management, Routledge, Abingdon.

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