Slanket: Responding to Snuggie’s Market Entry

Slanket: Responding to Snuggie’s Market Entry (2010) Harvard Business School Case (Deighton and Kornfeld)

How does a pioneer in a new product category deal with the runaway success of a follower? Can search engine marketing and social media help? In 2008 Slanket CEO, Gary Clegg, found that his product, a blanket with sleeves, had been eclipsed by The Snuggie, another sleeved blanket. Snuggie made a brazen entry into the market with a $10 million spend on television infomercials. The Snuggie quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, talked about on popular television programs such as Oprah and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and paid mock tribute to on web sites such as YouTube, where hundreds of video parodies could be found. Clegg had been counting on building his Slanket brand. Will the coming of Snuggie mean the end of Slanket?

HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0

HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0 (2009) Harvard Business School Case (Thomas Steenburgh, Jill Avery and Naseem Dahod)

This case introduces the concept of inbound marketing, pulling customer prospects toward a business through the use of Web 2.0 tools and applications like blogging, search engine optimization, and social media. Students follow the growth of HubSpot, an entrepreneurial venture which sells inbound marketing software as a service to business-to-business customers. HubSpot has built its own fledgling business entirely through inbound marketing strategies and tactics. However, the business is currently at a crossroads with management looking for rapid acceleration of sales and profits. HubSpot, in its quest for growth, faces significant challenges which are associated with the inbound marketing model. These include: 1.) developing market segmentation and targeting strategies after customers have initiated contact with the company to decide which customers to serve and which to turn away, 2.) configuring pricing strategies to align with the value delivery stream customers experience, and determining the scope and role of freeware in the product strategy, and 3.) determining whether inbound marketing communications programs can generate enough scale or whether traditional outbound marketing methods need to be employed to rapidly accelerate growth. The case introduces inbound marketing and juxtaposes it against traditional outbound models of marketing, encouraging students to explore the opportunities and challenges this new model presents for firms. The case allows students to grapple with the strategic and tactical decisions that accompany marketing strategy and to understand how marketing decisions pertaining to product, price, and promotion are interrelated and affect higher level strategic decisions on market segmentation, targeting, and positioning.

Mountain Man Brewing

Mountain Man Brewing Co.: Bringing the Brand to Light (2007) Harvard Business School Case (Abelli)

Chris Prangel, a recent MBA graduate, has returned home to West Virginia to manage the marketing operations of the Mountain Man Beer Company, a family-owned business he stands to inherit in five years. Mountain Man brews just one beer, Mountain Man Lager, also known as “West Virginia’s beer” and popular among blue-collar workers. Due to changes in beer drinkers’ taste preferences, the company is now experiencing declining sales for the first time in its history. In response, Chris wants to launch Mountain Man Light, a “light beer” formulation of Mountain Man Lager, in the hope of attracting younger drinkers to the brand. However, he encounters resistance from senior managers. Mountain Man Lager’s brand equity is a key asset for Mountain Man Brewing Company. The question is whether Mountain Man Light will enhance it, detract from it, or irreversibly damage it.

Marketing Chateau Margaux

Marketing Chateau Margaux (2007) Harvard Business School Case (Deighton, Dessain, Pitt, Beyersdorfer and Sjoman)

Chateau Margaux, luxury brand or connoisseur brand? Although France is awash with unsold wine, demand has never been stronger for the very finest Bordeaux. How should Margaux sustain and grow its business? The Chateau management team is wondering if it can take more control of distribution instead of leaving it to the Bordeaux wine merchants. Also, can the Chateau build marketing and sales capabilities on its own? Who is the target market, wine connoisseurs or the newly rich? Corinne Mentzelopoulous, who took over the estate from her father in 1980, wonders whether a new lower-priced wine should be added to the portfolio.

Starbucks: Delivering Customer Service

Starbucks: Delivering Customer Service (2006) Harvard Business School Case (Moon and Quelch)

Starbucks, the dominant specialty-coffee brand in North America, must respond to recent market research indicating that the company i s not meeting customer expectations in terms of service. To increase customer satisfaction, the company is debating a plan that would increase the amount of labor in the stores and theoretically increase speed-of-service. However, the impact of the plan (which would cost $40 million annually) on the company’s bottom line is unclear.

Red Bull: The Anti-Brand Brand

Red Bull: The Anti-Brand Brand (2005) London Business School Case (Kumar, Tavassoli, Linguri Coughlan)

Founded in Austria in 1984, Red Bull was credited with creating the energy drinks category. In 2004, the worldwide energy drinks category was worth 2.5 billion euros and Red Bull commanded a 70% market share. Sold in over 100 markets, Red Bull was the market leader in the USA as well as in 12 of the 13 West European markets where it was present. Central to Red Bull’s success was the use of word-of-mouth or ‘buzz’ marketing. Through its sponsorship of youth culture and extreme sports events, it developed a cult following among marketing-wary Generation Y-ers, (18- to 29-year olds) who perceived it as an anti-brand. While it purported to be a sports drink, Red Bull was mostly sold in clubs and bars as an alcohol mixer, where its caffeine doses helped revive clubbers into the early morning hours. By playing on associations with energy, danger and youth culture, Red Bull carefully cultivated its mystique, which earned it nicknames like ‘liquid cocaine’. The company used additional non-traditional marketing techniques, such as consumer education teams who drove around handing out free cans of Red Bull to those in need of energy, and student brand managers who promoted the product on university campuses. In 2004, Red Bull found itself at a crossroads, challenged with defending its market share. It faced a maturing market and an onslaught of competitive brands, some of them promoted by beverage industry giants such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, others as private labels by mass retailers such as Asda (part of Wal-Mart). Red Bull needed to determine whether it was outgrowing its anti-establishment status. As a mature brand, it needed to assess whether the time had come to transition to a more traditional marketing approach. But this raised a critical question: would this move toward a more mainstream approach fundamentally destroy Red Bull’s anti-brand mystique?


Snapple (2003) Harvard Business School Case (Deighton)

Tells the story of Snapple’s rise and fall, and poses the question “Can it recover?” Many soft-drink brands flourished in the 1980s serving New York’s Yuppies, but only Snapple made the big time. It went from local to national success and was poised to go international when the founders sold out to Quaker. The brand proved harder to manage than Quaker anticipated and in 1997 was sold for a fraction of its acquisition price. The case presents factors accounting for the growth and decline and provides a qualitative study of the brand. What action should the new owners take?

Land Rover North America, Inc.

Land Rover North America, Inc. (1996) Harvard Business School Case (Fournier)

Charles Hughes, president and CEO of Land Rover North America, Inc., is debating product positioning options for the new Land Rover Discovery. The positioning decision must consider the role of the Discovery vis-`a-vis other vehicles in the LRNA line, the brand’s strengths and weaknesses versus competition, and the positioning of the Land Rover umbrella brand in the U.K. An allocation of marketing funds across brands and mix elements must also be determined and decisions on the company’s innovative retailing strategy and experience marketing initiatives made. The case contains rich consumer behavior data.

Brand Positioning

Brand Positioning (2014) in Core Curriculum in Marketing, Harvard Business School Publishing, (Jill Avery and Sunil Gupta)

Consumers in most product categories today are bombarded with too many choices. Even worse, the multitude of products that face them on the shelf often seem undifferentiated from one another, making choice even more difficult. This Reading addresses the principles of brand positioning and demonstrates how companies can strategically craft powerful, resonant, and unique brand positions to help their products stand out amidst the cacophony of the marketplace. Strategic brand positioning provides consumers with the answer to the all-important question, “Why should I buy?” The Reading discusses how to craft a brand’s value proposition for competitive advantage, through analysis and synthesis of consumer, company, and competitive factors. It highlights the types of brand positions companies can stake out in the minds of consumers, providing insight into the many creative ways brands can be differentiated from one another. It provides guidance for defending a market position through the illumination of the competitive dynamics of brand positioning. Special attention is given to disruptive positioning strategies that have the potential to reshape product categories. Finally, it presents the challenges associated with repositioning brands and the tension that exists between maintaining brand meaning consistency versus changing with the times.

Note on Brand Positioning

Note on Brand Positioning (2010) Boston University School of Management Note (Fournier and Eng)

Brand positioning is the art and science of claiming relevant, differentiated, and credible meanings for one’s brand such that the brand comes to own a place in the consumer’s mind that offers distinction and value. Brand positioning is perhaps the most fundamental of all marketing decisions as it provides the platform around which the marketing program becomes integrated. Positioning is a highly strategic endeavor with implications that extend far beyond the marketing department. A brand’s positioning answers the overarching question, “What business are we/should we be in?” and therefore implicates the firm’s business model and internal structures and processes. By all counts, brand positioning is a critical mechanism through which value is created and captured for the firm. Brands that lay claim to the right meanings and leverage them effectively transcend competitors and benefit from greater usage pull, higher penetration, and stronger consumer relationship ties.