CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS AND THE ENDORSEMENT AND EXTENSION STRATEGY
Case study of the worldwide web
The World Wide Web has become one of the major conduits for businesses to vend their goods in a far greater market range. Major dot.com companies like Amazon.com has used the internet to build an empire focusing on a basic niche of consumers. Banks and other financial institutions have similarly been employing the net as a means of getting in touch with their core clients. It is in this context that this company, AQCAPS.com, intends to build its commercial identity and reach a range of customers from the four corners of the world. The following presentation is a discussion of the marketing and branding strategy that AQCAPS.com will employ as it launches its business to the public. The following contents of the report will be focusing on the branding and other justifications of the decisions made by the company on its business operations. In the same regard, these discussions will also be supported by theoretical works on branding and business along with consultation with recent studies regarding online businesses and the management of such organisations that use the internet as a platform for vending their goods and services.
The company, AQCAPS.com, is a personal venture made by Cau Dee, a fashion enthusiast and entrepreneur based in Hong Kong. This is one of his many business ventures that deal with the apparel industry. This shows that the head of the company is rather commercially-inclined and possess some remarkable experience on business operations. However, this is merely his first time venturing in the online business marketing.
The company concentrates on street fashion and accessories based on the current trends in the market. Specifically, AQCAPS.com intends to focus its attention on headgears and caps for both the male and female demographic. The major products includes traditional caps like flex fit caps, trucker caps, hats, army caps, and visors to name a few.
The company founder and CEO Cau Dee do not have any issues on capital for operations and manufacturing as he has set aside a considerable amount to support the venture. Moreover, Dee is also in the process of closing deals with major brands from specific niches from Lacoste to Nike to provide the company the rights to distribute their headgears online.
The website of the company will be launched in approximately six moths displaying the major products that the company sells. Basically, those in display are products that the company has manufactured themselves. Other distributors and other major brands have yet to be sold as the negotiations are not yet complete. In any case, the orders have been piling in since the company has launched its website. However, the response to the products has been below par as the Dee expected to meet his return of investments within a year.
This report will attempt to help Dee and AQCAPS.com to meet his goal and increase the market share of the company. Thus, marketing and brand development initiatives will be presented in the following parts of the paper.
The following discussions will present the segmentation, targeting, and positioning strategies of the company. In the same manner, the justifications on the decisions on employing these strategies will also be given.
Applbaum (2004, 32) defined the segmentation activity as “the act of dividing a market into distinct groups of buyers.” This indicates the process have to deal with the general market and possible buyers of the products of AQCAPS.com. In looking at the market, it seems that it could be identified and considerably large to acquire some level of profit for the company. With the platform used by the company, i.e. the internet, the consumers could easily reach the company provided that they have ready access to the web. In the same manner, those who intend to purchase the products of the company are easily reached by the company given that an account will be made on their name. However, given that the company is rather new in the market, the potential consumers may yet display some responsiveness on the site of the company.
In the same account, Applbaum (2004, 34) defined targeting as “the act of developing measures of segment attractiveness and selecting one or more market segments to enter.” The company is targeting the male and female demographic in the age brackets 12-19 and 20-25 who have access to the internet. These segments are targeted given that these individuals have more time to access the web and are more inclined to purchase head gears as a part of their fashion statement. Based on the market, there is no particularly strong competitor that holds most of the market share. However, there are a considerable number of sites that offer the same services and products as those offered by the company. Being an online company, the consumers are able to substitute the services and products forwarded by the company with those in malls and other specialty shops within their community. However, it must be emphasised that the designs, artworks, and quality of the products of the company are exclusively distributed by the company. This means that there is some equal footing in the context of power with the suppliers and buyers in the market.
The act of positioning is characterised as “the act of designing a set of meaningful differences to distinguish the company’s offer from competitors’ offers.” (Applbaum, 2004, 35) Given that there is a considerable number of players in the industry and possible competitors in the web, the company has to position itself in terms of high quality items and well designed works along with a prompt service delivery. Along with these, the company will also attempt to sell the items in a slightly lower price as compared to its other competitors in the web. On this manner, the consumers will be able to find more value for their money. On the same account, the company will be using marketing techniques such as word-of-mouth and product endorsements such that the public may become aware of the brand and products of the organisation.
The strategic brand management theory used by the company is based on the models formulated by Kapferer, particularly the company uses his claims of brand identity prism. (LePla and Parker, 1999, 273) Specifically, a consideration of the external and internal elements will be applied in the issue of brand development of AQCAPS.com. In the context of the external elements, the “physique” of the product is represented in the distinct designs and the logo of the company discretely infused in the product. The “relationship” displayed by the product shows self-expression and fashion-worthiness on the part of the consumers. The “reflection” imposed by the product shows casual youthfulness and stylish expression of young adults. In the context of external elements, the “personality” the products of the company intend to display an impressive yet understated nature. The “culture” of the brand shows individualism and independence with a blithe consideration of the world.
The brand design of the company tends to emulate the mission of AQCAPS.com: “to offer high quality merchandise to the public.” The platform of the website runs on a flash programme that highlights the interactivity and hip nature of the product.
The image above represents the logo of the company. It shows an outline of cap, particularly a military cap which is one of the key product designs of the company. Unlike the other brands in the market, the logo will be discreetly located in the product. This is because the designs of the caps and hats will be the distinguishing feature of the company’s major products.
Brand equity is defined as “the differential consumer response from knowing the brand.” (Pfeiffer and Rubinson, 2005, 187) This means it is a measure on how the market is aware of the existence of the brand. Since the company is a new entrant in the market, it is important to initially build a considerably strong brand name.
Since the company is online based, the company have to take the measures in making the site known to the web-surfing public. Using search engines like Google and Yahoo to increase the traffic to the site will be one of the major objectives of the brand equity management and sustainability of the organisation. The company will be developing keywords and other targeted doorway pages such that when web surfers key-in specific words, then the name of the site comes up within the top finds of the search engine. Other courses of action that the company could implement are by using webgroups and other newsgroups that are normally accessed by a set of people close to the profile of the target market. Advertising campaigns could also be used by the company. Possibilities could be available for the company in using banner ad space and other space from other top sites.
However, the sustainability of the brand equity of the company still rests on the capability of the organisation to maintain the website and keep it from being unfriendly and un-interactive for the users. In the same way, the delivery of the products and the quality of the product themselves should also be ensured such that the company could build a strong set of core customers.
Since the company is online-based, the international implications of being a global brand tend to become non-applicable to the company. (Alden, Batra, Steenkamp, 2003, 53) However, one of the major drawbacks of operating on an international scale through the use of e-commerce is that the market tends to depend on the capability of the country’s infrastructure. A country with a less than capable infrastructure will essentially become part of the company’s loss. (Cornet, Milcent, and Roussel, 2000, 31)
However, one must also realise that if the issue of infrastructure capability is concerned, major countries all over the world will be able to support any platform in the internet. (Cornet, Milcent, and Roussel, 2000, 31) This means that the company could access the market in major countries in Europe, United States, and the rest of the Asian Region.
Thus, the site of the company should also be able to accommodate other nationalities who may not be able to understand English. The interface of the company should be able to allow the consumers to choose which language the site should use. Though it is highly likely that the target market will be able to understand Basic English, it would be a plus factor for AQCAPS.com if they offer interactions in Mandarin and French, to name a few, for their customers.
The critical success factors that the AQCAPS.com brand needs to achieve its mission includes customer satisfaction, quality, positive cash flow, and new customers. If company keeps a high quality of the products it markets, there is a high possibility that customer satisfaction may ensue. In the same line, these satisfied customers could make up the company’s core clients. This means that they could pose as a major source of income for the company which may essentially spell a positive cash flow. At the same time, aside from the nature of marketing adhered to by the company, there is the possibility that these core customers could refer other individuals to purchase the products offered by AQCAPS.com. Upon the completion of these critical success factors, the company is aware that it could sustain its survival in the industry.
The company is also looking for celebrity endorsement to add value to the brand. Studies have indicated that the market responds positively on celebrity endorsements. (Baker, Erdogan, Tagg, 2001, 39) However, it is also mentioned in the same study that appropriate choosing of a fitting celebrity should also be on the discretion of the company.
For instance, the company intends to give free samples of the product, particularly the trendy military caps to famous bands both locally (Hong Kong) and internationally. Bands take on a lot of following as well as their taste in fashion and accessories. On a later stage of the company’s development, celebrity endorsements will be turned to actors and actresses in the local and the international scene. In the same way, the other designs of the company, particularly the closed fitted caps, will be issued to sports celebrities in the local level initially.
However, it must be emphasised that the company will be focusing on web advertising as its primary means of building the name of the brand.
The possibility of brand extension for the company will possibly be in the future, but not in the immediate one. The company will only undertake such actions once the brand has successfully satisfied and even exceeded the critical success factors. Studies have shown that premature extension of brands shows a rather grim outcome from other organisations. (Bless, Schwartz, Wanke, 1998, 318) In this manner, proper planning and building on the capabilities of the brand comes on the top of the priorities of the company.
The company, AQCAPS.com, intends to implement the following actions to build and subsequently sustain the strength of their brand:
- Targets the age brackets 12-19 and 20-25 who have access to the internet.
- Its main differentiation will be the quality of the products and the price.
- The strategic brand management techniques is based on the brand identity prism of Kapferer.
- The company intends to sustain its brand though exploiting internet conduits like web groups and search engines and utilise web advertising through the use of banner ad space.
- The critical success factors of the company include customer satisfaction, quality, positive cash flow, and new customers.
- Celebrity endorsement is secondary to actual web advertisement.
Brand extension will not be on the immediate future of the company.