Brand Improvement Recommendations for Toyota
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The modern age of business can be defined as age of competition. The competition within an industry is gradually increasing with the expansion of business as many new players are entering into the market. There are several reasons behind this intensifying competition. Firstly, globalisation is one of the primary reasons for expansion of trade and business that lead to increase competition. Many business organisations have found greater opportunities in overseas market, and free trade policies and agreements between multiple countries facilitated their market expansion programs. The domestic markets have turned into global markets that heightened competition rivalry among existing domestic and new multinational enterprises. Since last two decades, the society has been experiencing a rapid technological improvement. The technological advancements have led to change the structure entire trade and business. The management tasks and operational process are now backed with technology like e-commerce and e-business. A better grip of technological advancement helps a business organisation to gain an upper hand position. Finally, enhancing economic condition of consumers and increasing their disposable income have strengthened their purchasing power. This has also changed their consumer buying behaviours and they have developed their specific brand preferences (Vashisht, 2005, p.68).
In the modern and competitive business world, business organisations always try to position itself in market for avoiding unnecessary competitions. In this process they aim to achieve strong competitive advantages and core competencies that enable them to gain upper hand position in the market. There are multiple ways to achieve competitive advantages; however, brand development is the most preferred way for creating high business value. The increasing demands of brand development is due to two primary factors i.e. urge for acquiring higher market share and increasing concern towards consumer value. The modern management style and thought process of decision makers have transformed. The modern management concept more focuses on long term benefits by creative a sustainable businesses environment where stakeholders' wealth and value creation is the first priority. When a company is able to meet these responsibilities towards stakeholders, society, community and environment, it is able to create a high brand image in the market. Managements in modern organisation culture follow management theories and models which are very effective in achieving common organisational goal. In this respect, they concentrate on two-way communicational system within cross-functional teams and with its consumers. For example, the existing management system deliberately tries to implement integrated marketing communication that focuses on better marketing strategy for enhancing consumer values. These efforts made by the modern managements are very helpful in brand development and hence, they try to draft specific plans for branding strategies.
This paper will attempt to deal with brand improvement strategies for Toyota Motor Corporation and primary aim of this paper is to offer a plausible set of recommendations based on findings of primary research and secondary research data analysis. At first, a brief description of Toyota Corporation will be offered to understand fundamentals of it. The second section will explain the research question and objective based on which the entire research methodology will be constructed to obtain viable and valid results. The third section will present theoretical background and models relating to marketing and branding. Marketing and branding are interrelated with each other and the later is an integral part of marketing. Multiple marketing theories and models are very helpful for brand development. Moreover, many scholars have developed brand specific theories and models which facilitate brand management tasks. The fourth section will include the research methodology, and research framework will be framed as per the requirements of this research paper. Finally, based on data analyses and its findings, the entire project will be summarized and a set of credible recommendation will be developed.
A Company Overview: Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota Motor Corporation is a multinational automobile company and it is famous as Toyota in global market. The company is a Japan-based company and it is present in the most of the international markets. Sakichi Toyoda laid the foundations of automobile company and latter, in 1933, his son Kiichiro Toyoda opened an automobile department after conducting an extensive research on engines powered by gasoline. Automobile department was known as Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd. One of the sister company of Toyota, called Hinode Motors (now known as Aichi Toyota) introduced its first A1 prototype cars and G1 truck during 1935. In 1937, Kiichiro Toyoda established Toyota Motor Company Ltd. and in 1938 he started producing SB trucks in its Honsha plant in 1938 (Toyota-a, 2011). Toyota brought a revolution in automobile industry of Japan during 1930s to 1950s by incorporating innovation and growth oriented business model.
At present, Toyota is one of the leading and the largest automobile manufacturing in the world. It is also one of the pioneers in automobile innovation which is the company's core value. The technological expertise is prime competitive advantage that has helped the company to cater the global automobile market. Since the inception of Toyota, the company is committed to produce reliable and value added vehicles, Innovation is the major tool for the company and it also uses its technological expertise in meeting social and environmental responsibilities. In order to operate in the global market, the company has formed its seven specific guidelines and principles. These principles mainly include with business ethics, respects and honour for every country and its culture, and develop a growth oriented organisation with the business partners etc (Toyota-b, 2011).
Presently, Toyota's global headquarter is at Toyota City, Aichi of Japan and its president and representative director is Akio Toyoda. As of March 31, 2010, the company owned nearly 397.05 billion yen of capital. It has a number of subsidiaries and affiliated companies over the world and currently, it has nearly 320,590 employees in its international business (Toyota-f, 2011).
Currently, Toyota is trying to use its innovation for bringing development in the society and environment. The company has realized increasing negative impacts of industrialization and carbon emission from increasing number of vehicle. Therefore, the company is now focusing on eco-friendly cars like hybrid and electronic cars. Toyota has identified three major environmental issues relating to its vehicle manufacturing and hence, it has developed and incorporated necessary steps for making the things better for environment. Firstly, it attempts to enhance its transmission and engine efficiency by downsizing measures. Secondly, energy management is another major task for Toyota in this respect. Finally, for reducing overall vehicle load, it tries to lessen rolling resistance, air drag and vehicle mass (Toyota-c, 2011).
Quality and safety are two major parameters for Toyota and hence, the company strive to bring constant development in its operational and management process. Toyota's production system “is steeped in the philosophy of "the complete elimination of all waste" imbuing all aspects of production in pursuit of the most efficient methods” (Toyota-d, 2011). The global operation of Toyota is primarily based on two concepts of modern management. “The first is called "jidoka" (which can be loosely translated as "automation with a human touch") which means that when a problem occurs; the equipment stops immediately, preventing defective products from being produced” (Toyota-d, 2011). The second concept is the just-in-time process that helps it to maintain a smooth process of operation without maintaining high inventory.
Table 1: Consolidated Vehicle production
As Toyota has been able to capture significant share of market in these regions, its financial position has been quite strong. The following table and graph present key financial performance indicator and sales revenue by region.
Table 2: Consolidated Performance
As per the above figure and table, during 2009, Toyota faced loss due to the effect of global economic crisis. However, with the recovering economy, the company has been able to regain high profitability. From Japan and North American market, Toyota earns the highest revenue. Besides, from other markets like Europe and Asia, the company generates high revenue.
Toyota was in the face of a grim crisis when one of its leading models of the Lexus and Prius brand was badly hit by a series of manufacturing defects in the US which led to loss of innocent lives. The company had to pay a major price for this defect as its public relations strategy was widely criticised. In addition to this the company had to face major lawsuits which led to payment of hefty fines by the company and large scale product recall that had a wide impact on the brand image of the organization.
The discussions have pointed out the fundamental features and condition of Toyota that make it a successful company in the global automobile market. The efficient operations with technological expertise are the primary base of the company. In each market, it has developed trust and confidence among the target consumer group and hence, it has been able to capture higher market share.
The research paper will be looking at the branding strategies which Toyota may adopt to augment its tarnished brand image. The discussion will be carried out with an analysis of earlier branding strategies of Toyota. Adding to it, some relevant branding strategies of other leading organisations will also be taken into account; so that, an appropriate branding framework can be developed for the company taking references from the company as well as its competitors.
“[Branding is] a 15-second elevator pitch that every employee in the organization can not only get and articulate, but can talk about their role in bringing that to life” -Davis, M. S. (Wiley, 2003, p.1). In today's competitive world of business, marketing and advertising have significant contribution to create ‘branding' of any product or service or may be of a whole organisation.
The significant portion of branding has experienced a dramatic shift in the last few decades. Both the traditional branding and the role of brands were subject to continual review and redefinition. According to Kotler, a brand can be defined as “the name associated with one or more items in the product line that is used to identify the source of character of the item” (Guzman, n.d., p.1).
The American Marketing Association (AMA) has defined a brand as a name, sign, term, design symbol, design or a combination of them which are intended to categorize the products and services offered by one seller or group of sellers. The brands are also used to differentiate them from those of their competitors. Keller has expressed a different view. According to him, whenever an organisation introduces a new name, symbol or logo for a new product, he or she has created a brand. However, today those brands mean much more than that. According to these definitions, in simple term it would not be wrong to say that the brands act as identifiers. Earlier, brands and brand building processes would be thought as just another step towards the marketing or selling off products. Since a long time, brands were treated as a secondary step of the marketing process. According to Kotler, branding has become a significant issue in the product strategy.
The brand communication strategy has its focus towards representation of the brand and the creation of the brand image. In the year 2000, Aaker and Joachimsthaler mentioned that as per the traditional branding model, the objective is to develop the brand image (Ali, 2007). The brand image is a strategy element driving the short term results of the product as well as the organisation. In the year 1997, Kapferer mentioned that the brand is an external sign whose responsibility is to disclose the hidden qualities of the product or service (Nijte, 2005, p.20). In today's competitive business environment, the challenge is to develop a string and distinctive image. The brand is expected to serve as the identifier of a product by displaying the distinguishing elements from the competition.
Powerful brands develop meaningful metaphors in the consumers' minds. The meaningful images are created through development of brand image and enhancement of reputation by differentiating and potentially having an affirmative influence on the consumers' buying behaviour.
The Keller Model has a considerable contribution in the branding theory. The model has identified the concept of customer based brand equity and the brand hierarchy. According to Keller, brand equity is the effect that the brand knowledge would have on the consumer response to the brand marketing, which would have the effect happening when the brand is known and the customers would possess favourable, strong and unique brand associations. This customer-based Brand Equity (CBBE) model has identified about four steps, representing the questions asked by the customers and displaying a branding ladder. In this model, each of the steps is dependent on the achievement of the earlier one. All these steps consist of six brand building blocks which would have a number of sub-dimensions. While building a strong brand, the objective is to reach at the apex of the pyramid where there would exist a harmonious relationship with the customers. At the very first stage, this model should represent a correct brand identity by answering the customers' question ‘Who are you?'. The aim is to develop an identification of the respective brand and display an association with the respective product class or the specific requirements. The initial stage involves of the brand building block ‘salience'. The next step considers the question ‘What are you?'. The question is answered through the establishment of brand meaning in their minds and associating the brand with certain properties. In this step, there are two brand building blocks: performance and imagery.
The following step is ‘brand response', whereas the appropriate customer responses to the brand identification and meaning are brought out. This step is also achieved with two building blocks judgement and feelings and answers the question- What about you? The final step in the model is ‘brand relationships' where the brand response is transformed to a passionate, active loyalty relationship between the customers and the brand. This stage addresses the customer question -What about you and me? The final brand building block is ‘resonance' which is at the apex of the pyramid.
“Keller's conceptual framework provides guidance in building, measuring and managing brand equity. While Keller claims that the model can be applied in a B2B context and a consumer environment, it does not appear to have been tested for industrial brands. The similarities and differences between business and consumer markets have long been debated with organisational buyers found to differ in many ways, suggesting that the application of such a model in a B2B setting will pose challenges” (Kuhn & Alpert, n.d., p.3).
Today, there has been a considerable shift in the brand management processes. Concerning with the brand management process, Aaker and Joachmisthaler have discussed the traditional branding model where the brand management team would be responsible for creating and coordinating with the brand's management programs (Guzman, n.d.). In such a case, the brand manager was not at the top of the management hierarchy and his focus used to be the short term financial results of both the brands and products in the respective markets. The basic objective has been the coordination with the manufacturing and sales departments. The coordination is necessary in order to solve any problem associated with sales and market share. According to this strategy, the responsibility of the brand has solely been the concern of the marketing department. In general, majority of the companies thought that focusing on the latest advertising campaign would mean concentrating on the brand itself. The model is strategically significant and reactive rather than being creative and visionary. The brand has always been referred to as more like a series of tactics and never like any strategy.
In 1997, Kapferer has mentioned that before the 1980's, a different approach was there towards the brands (Kapferer, 1997, p.23). Earlier, the organizations wished to purchase a producer of pasta and chocolate. After 1980, the consumers are looking for Buitoni and KitKat. Such an instance displays the fact that earlier, the consumers were not bothered about the brands; rather they were more focused on the required product. However, after 1980, the consumers are aware of the product names. Buitoni has established the brand name in pasta and KitKat has marked its position in the world of chocolate. This distinction is quite significant. In the first case, the organizations wish to purchase the production capacity and in the later years, they want to create a place in the consumers' minds. In other words, the shift in the focus towards the brand would start as it was understood that the brands are more than plain identifiers. According to Kapferer, a brand serves eight functions: Identification, Practicality, Guarantee, Optimization, Characterization, Continuity, Hedonistic and Ethical. Identification of the brand would enable the consumer to clearly see, make sense of the offer and to quickly identify the required after products (Kapferer, 1997, p.29). Practicality would enable the consumers to save on time and energy through identical purchasing and loyalty. Among the other function, optimization is significant one to make the customers sure of finding the same quality indifferent to the time and place of the product or service. The characterization in brand management reflects the confirmation of the product or service image, presented to others. There must be continuity in the brand which is supposed to bring in satisfaction through familiarity and intimacy with the brands, which were used or consumed by the customers since a long period. The brand is supposed to bring in satisfaction linked to the brand attractiveness; the brand is required to be hedonistic. The brand is also required to be ethical as satisfaction of the consumers must come through reasonable behavior of the products and those must be reflected in its relationship towards the society. Among these eight functions, the first two are quite mechanical and are concerned with the essence of the respective brands. The brands are expected “to function as recognized symbol to facilitate choice and to gain time” (Guzman, n.d., p.2). The next steps are meant for reducing the apparent risk and the final three steps are related with the pleasure side of any brand. The brand value emerges from its ability to attain an exclusive, positive and significant mark in the minds of a large customer base. As a consequence, the organizations must carry out branding and brand building to develop the brand value. He has perceived the brand value to be in monetary terms and accounted the same in the intangible assets. However, according to Doyle, brands fail to explore the value creating opportunities if the managers pursue strategies, not oriented to maximize the shareholders' value (Guzman, n.d.). There are four factors which could be there in the consumers' minds and which could be combined to establish the perceived value of any product or service brand. This would also determine the “brand awareness; the level of perceived quality compared to competitors; the level of confidence, of significance, of empathy, of liking; and the richness and attractiveness of the images conjured up by the brand” (Guzman, n.d.).
According to the theory by Kapferer, adding brand image, perceived quality, evocations, familiarity to the brand awareness would create the brand assets which can also be thought as the brand added value perceived by the customers (Kapferer, 1997, p.123). Deducting both cost of branding and cost of invested capital from the same would be equal to the finance value of the brand or brand equity value.
‘Identity' is very significant for any individual or for any entity to make others feel its presence. In case of marketing, it is very necessary to remain in the mind of target consumers and in the market. It is very important for any business organisation to create a unique identity in market and this identity is very crucial for generating sales revenue. The business organisations or companies can develop identity as per its corporate name, product or services. There are some examples of such identity. Xerox Corporation is a world renowned company that offers printers, copiers, scanners, projectors etc. The company was very successful for its photocopier machines. It used it corporate brand name for marketing the photocopier machines and now, the photocopier machines are now famous as ‘Xerox Machines'. Another famous example of developing identity using product name is ‘Marlboro Cigarette'. It is the world's largest selling cigarette brand manufactured by Altria Group & Philip Morris International. The company's corporate identity is not so popular but it is popular for its product identity i.e. Marlboro. However, the above examples have been explained to make understand the importance of identity for being successful in market and for being famous among the target consumers groups. Therefore, every company must try to build its unique identity though its corporate name, product or services. Each product or services and each company have its own unique identity and consumers' perceptions for each identity are different from other competing product. For example, consumers perceive Mercedes as premium brand as it offers its premium cars to very niche market. On the other hand, Wal-Mart is perceived as low-cost brand as it offers ‘every day low price' to its consumers (Talley, 2011). Both the companies (Mercedes and Wal-Mart) have developed their own typical identity as per their core marketing approaches.
The above discussion has focused on importance and some example of identity. In marketing this identity is known as ‘brand identity'. Different scholars and critics have presented their views regarding brand identity and how it is important for companies for their sustainability in a market. In this respect, Jean-Noël Kapferer has related the brand identity with globalisation. He has offered the definition of brand identity from the globalization perspectives. He believes that brand identity must help a company in globalising of its brand image. He has explained that “the brand must have as identity that will serve as medium for its globalisation, in both tangible and intangible terms” (Kapferer, 2008, p.488). Sometimes, brand identity and brand image is considered to be similar or identical but these two terms are very different from others. The brand image of company or of a product can be defined through the others perception i.e. consumers' view; whereas, brand identity is a company's attempt to project itself before its target consumers (Wilson and Blumenthal, 2008, p.58). Therefore, it can be defined that brand image is an outcome of an attempt to develop brand identity among the consumers groups. Hence, building brand identity is very crucial step for buildings brand image. In the process of framing brand strategy, establishment of brand identity is the foremost task for a company as it offers a company purpose, aim, direction and proper significance to a brand. In order to explain a brand identity, Aaker has identified three prime components in a brand identity. The following diagram shows these three components.
As per the above figure, three essentials of brand identity are core identity, brand essence and extended identity. The core identity refers to the “timeless center of the brand” that must consist of basic features of a company like its values, ethics, belief etc (Salver, 2009, p.41). Brand essence can be defined as soul of a company's brand that makes the core brand more comprehensible, accessible and valuable. The extended brand helps to add more value to the core brand's identity. These three components are not basic integral part of a brand strategy but understanding of brand identity helps brand managers in recognising the prevailing brand position (Salver, 2009, p.41).
Toyota has attempted to develop its brand identity for each of its brand product like Lexus, Prius, Innova, Corolla etc. The brand identity is basically determined by specific features of the product. For example, Toyota Prius has been able to develop its brand identity among the tech-savvy and environmentally conscious people and Lexus had gained its specific brand identity among the luxury car market. Lexus has been a premium brand for its target consumers as they perceive Lexus as high quality and value added vehicle. Toyota has successfully understood the core brand identifies and brand essence, and it has promoted its distinct brand products in accordance to target market (Toyota-h, 2011).
To establish the strong brands in a cheaper, better and faster way, the organisations require pursuing a different, effective and efficient approach altogether to the brand building. The cornerstone of the brand building is the fusion of future economics, organisational capabilities and customer insights. Brand building demands the organisations to focus more on the segments which would drive the organisation develop organisation propositions and deliver products according to the customers' preferences (McKinsey& Company, n.d., p.12).
In the above sections of literature review, the importance and explanation of brand image have been discussed. However, without proper understandings of brand identity and brand awareness, the brand image cannot be formed for target market. A company can build a higher brand image in the mind of consumers when it is able to successfully create its pre-determined brand identity through brand awareness programs. Therefore, the importance and understanding of brand awareness is significant in brand image building process. For building a strong brand, it is necessary to incorporate brand identity and brand awareness. The following model shows the importance and correlation between brand identity, brand awareness and brand image.
The above model shows that in the process of brand building, brand identity and brand awareness are the two primary areas followed by brand image & association, brand quality, brand loyalty and brand broadening.
As per the above figure, brand loyalty is an outcome of brand image that is an effect of successful creation of brand identity and brand awareness. Brand loyalty provides a company a competitive advantage over its key competitors that helps it to counter and avoid unnecessary competition. Brand loyalty can be defined from the availability of brand loyal consumers. However, Knox and Walker has identified that there is significant difference between brand loyalty and repetitive purchasing (Ranchhod and Marandi, 2007, p.80). They explained that “this lack of clarity has led to a great deal of difficulty in interpreting many of the brand loyalty studies” (Ranchhod and Marandi, 2007, p.80). However, they also admitted that brand loyalty also includes the repetitive purchasing and word-of-mouth marketing from consumers' end. Therefore in order to develop significant amount consumers, plausible brand awareness programs are inevitable for a company.
Brand awareness defines the strength of a brand in a consumer's mind, and a strong effect of brand awareness determines the longevity of brand's image in target consumers' mind. According to Keller, brand awareness includes performance of brand recall and brand recognition. Bran recall refers to consumers' ability to regain a brand from their past experiences while making any buying decision. Brand recognition is consumers' knowledge regarding a specific brand. The consumer should be able to recognise their brand when they are given wide ranges of choices. McLoughlin and Aaker have been able to understand major draw backs in implementing brand awareness programs for a company. They believe that, most of the companies consider brand awareness as a promotional mix and hence, they more focuses on promoting a product rather than brand development or brand awareness. Brand awareness is also very necessary for creating brand equity. McLoughlin and Aaker have designed a model showing brand awareness and its important outcomes.
As per the above figure, brand awareness is directly related to brand equity which includes brand related assets and liabilities. Successful implementation of brand awareness and better brand equity lead to develop higher brand loyalty and brand association of consumers.
While discussing about the brand awareness, it is necessary to deal with the consumers' buying behaviours. Brand awareness deals with consumers' perception for an offered brand that helps them in recalling the past experiences while buying. The influences of brand awareness are very substantial in the process of making a buying decision.
Gustafson and Chabot have provided five major steps for planning and implementing brand awareness. These five major steps are given below.
- Cleary identify and understand potential target consumers and market
- Develop a unique name, slogan, and logo for a company or for offer product brand
- Offer value added features and services along with offered branded product or services
- Effective promotional mix and advertising focusing on brand creation
- Develop proper public relation with consumers by following-up the post-sales period (Gustafson and Chabot, 2007)
The above steps are very helpful in establishing a strong brand awareness programs to build brand image in the mind of target consumers.
Recently, Toyota has faced a drastic brand crisis in its Swedish market due to quality issues. It caused to develop a negative brand image in the mind of target consumers. Moreover, in American market, the company faced a crisis, and mass media played very active role in spreading the ‘Toyota crisis news'. However, due to previous effective brand awareness programs, certain group of loyal consumers were not influenced by that crisis news. This case provides an evidence for the importance of brand awareness creation in the mind of the target consumers. On the other hand, the prevailing management of Toyota was not able to cope up with that crisis situation. In such situation, management could have restructured its entire brand awareness program to maintain its corporate image (Feng, 2010).
Brand Positioning can best be described as the process of identifying the niche of the market for a certain brand. This can be assumed as one of the oldest marketing tricks as it was found as early as in 1969. During the start of marketing policies the organizations focused only on the benefits which took them away from competition in the market which may also form differentiation.
When we talk about the term ‘positioning' we need to realize what it actually means. It can be defined as making a place in the customers' memory, providing them with reasons or characteristics of brands that would make them choose their brands instead of same brands in the industry from different providers. Customers will only remember the goods when they have once compared the similar properties with other brands. It is the human memory schema.
A new technique, Brand Concept Maps (BCM), has come into light eliciting first and higher order brand associations while overcoming the limitations of existing techniques. Brand Concept Maps are significant technique to measure brand associations. These maps help answering various questions related to brand evaluation and protection. To measure the brand associations, the links among the brand and its associations are evaluated. There are certain steps to create the brand concept maps: Elicitation, Mapping and Aggregation (Loken & John, n.d.).
It would not be wrong to say, brand concept maps make significant contributions in the arena of brand measurement. The technique offers an appropriate way out to the present methods of appraising the brand associations. The maps are expected to create a free association, rating scales by identifying the most significant brand associations and showing the relation among these associations. The relations also revealed the amendments with the changes in the attributes. Brand concept maps can also be assumed to be a reliable and valid technique for brand management.
Brand repositioning refers to the changing the brand positioning. A specific positioning statement may not be suitable for a brand. The following are various reasons, which drive a company to reposition its brands.
- The brand has a confusing or non-existent image
- The respective organisation is altering its strategic direction in a considerable way.
- The organisation is planning to enter into a new business where the present positioning seems to be irrelevant.
- The competitors are enhancing their value propositions.
- Renewal of the company corporate culture has led to the review of brand personality.
- Any company can reposition its brand to broaden the appeal of its brand to the additional consumers or the consumer section for which present brand position is irrelevant. However, there can be certain repercussions for a brand in this regard. Broadening the target consumer base may make the company to lose its appeal by diluting the brand's meaning to the existing consumers.
In today's competitive environment, review of the brand positioning should be carried out in a more frequent pace. Competitive pressure, new entrants and changing consumer requirements have reduced the brand's positioning. At the same time, companies have to bear a considerable amount of marketing expenditures to reposition the brand. As a consequence, in most of the times, the repositioning of brands failed to establish any improvement in the overall image of the company or market share of the same.
The brand repositioning must be done to ensure relevance to a customer's standpoints and beliefs, as that the company can align its repositioning strategy to reflect the same beliefs of its customers. The brand repositioning must be done looking at the combination of the customers' attitudes and the situations reflecting customer insights. It is very significant to make the existing customers feel comfortable about the repositioning of the brands. The company must recognise the customers' permission to see reasonable and logical extension of the existing brands. The company can take the advantage of brand's unique emotional benefits to change the consumers' present perception about the current brand to the intended one. The company must identify the pathway of the performance signals or attributes, convincing the consumers of the new brand positioning. This will also lead to the product or service development ensuring unfailing performance on those respective attributes. Prior to the introduction of new positioning, the company must track and evaluate the product performance against the desirable attributes from the customer perspectives. The company can adopt ‘interim positioning to ascertain the credibility and performance of the respective brand.
While repositioning any brand, it is essential for the marketers to capture both the emotional as well as physical requirements of the customers. The company is also required to realise the dynamics of any situation driving those requirements of the customers. For an instance, isotonic beverages such as Gatorade and Powerade are thirst quenching drinks. However, the consumers are likely to perceive them in the wide context of exercise, sports and physical activity. The parameters or frame of reference sets, which would drive the consumers' preference, will be significant in the repositioning of a brand (McKinsey& Company, n.d.).
“The Toyota brand was built primarily on utilitarian attributes—reliability, quality and dependability.” (McEnally & Chernatony, 1999, p.4-5). When the company wanted to move up to luxury car image, the company management came up with a new brand as they were apprehensive about the fact that the customers may stretch on the concept of the Toyota brand to push that upward to include that in the luxurious car brand segment. This way, Toyota has repositioned itself in the luxury automobile segment.
Brand communication is of considerable importance as it would give information to the customers. The communication can be in terms of transactions such as coupons, mailshots, brochures, websites and direct response ads. However, most of the communication does not consist of any information or any transaction.
Communications can have immediate selling aim which can result to be more productive. While being associated with the direct sales, the direct results could be easily available. However, other communication processes can reap results in the long term, which would be more advantageous for the brand in the long term (Clifton & Ahmad, 2009, p.132).
Product Mix and Product Line Decisions
Product mix is the set of all the product lines and products which are offered to the customers by the organisations. A company product would have a specific length, depth and consistency.
Product Width: The width of a product mix would include the number of distinct product lines in the product mix.
Product Mix Length: The product length in the mix refers to the total item numbers in the product mix including all the product categories, manufactured by the organisation.
Product Depth: The depth of the product mix includes a number of variants, which are offered in each product.
Product Consistency: A product mix consistency refers to the way the products are closely related in the end use.
The product line decisions are pretty closely related as they would perform a similar function which is targeted at the specific consumer groups and the products are marketed through the same channels.
The marketer feels that he or she can increase the profit either by adding or dropping down the products from the product or brand lines. The stretching can take place in the downward direction. In the process, the company would find that the offerings of the company are at the high price market and stretch the same in the downward product market.
The upward stretching of the product line occurs when an organisation enters into the upper end through a line extension. The companies extend the product line to gain higher growth rate, enhanced profit margins. Adding to it, the company can extend the product line in the wish to be a full line marketer.
Line Filling is another marketing strategy to position as well as reposition the brands. A product line can also be extended by the addition of more items within the current product range. For an extent, looking at the various consumer requirements Toyota can increase its product line by adding more car models in it (Verma, 2009).
Line Modernisation is another strategy to enhance and re-develop the brands of any company. The company sometimes may feel that the length of the product line is adequate; however, at the same time, product line is required to be modernised. The company may have a range of products; however, it is required to modernise the product line. The companies can plan the improvements to encourage the customer migration to the higher valued and higher priced product items. However, they must remember certain facts such as extension or improvement in the product line may result in damaging the sales of the other product line. A company can establish strong reputation by introducing new and enhanced products in the product line.
Line featuring is another strategy to establish and develop the brands. The company may have both the high priced as well as low priced product lines. The company may try to boost the demand for any specific brand line.
The product line managers of any company must periodically review the product line for the car models which may be responsible for depressing the profits. In line pruning, the organisations identify the weak product items through the cost and sales analysis. For the brand management, a specific portfolio of the brands can be cut short to enhance the profitability. The company also can tighten any production or extend the same to enhance the profitability.
The marketing communications and promotion mix of an organisation consists of the explicit blend of personal selling, advertising, sales promotion and public relations measurements which are used by the company to pursue the advertising and marketing objectives. The five major types of promotion include
Advertising: Advertising is any paid form of non personal promotion of various ideas, merchandises or services by a recognized sponsor.
Personal Selling: This can be assumed to be a personal presentation carried out by the firm's sales force to make sales and develop the customer relationships.
Public Relations: Establishing the good relationship with the public the company may opt for the favourable publicity, by developing a good corporate image and managing or heading off adverse stories, rumours and events.
Direct Marketing: To boost the sales, a company can directly communicate to the targeted individual consumers to obtain a prompt response from them. The marketers can use telephone, mail, fax, email and various other non personal measurements to directly communicate to the specific consumers. These are also done to communicate a direct response.
Sales promotion: A company can motivate the sales personnel by offering them incentives. The company can also offer promotional offers to encourage the purchase or sale of a merchandise or service.
Each type of promotion has its own measurements. Advertising includes the forms of print, media, outdoor and other forms. Personal selling is fostered by sales presentations, incentive programs and trade shows.
Sales promotion includes point-of-purchase displays, premiums, discounts, coupons, specialty advertising, and demonstrations. Tools like catalogues, fax transmissions, telemarketing and online marketing are used in the direct marketing of products and services. In this arena of advanced technology, marketers can now communicate through traditional media forms such as newspapers, radio, television and telephone. At the same time, the new forms like cellular phones, fax machines, pagers and computers are welcomed by the marketers to foster promotion and sales. More companies have been encouraged by these new technologies. The advancement in technologies has enabled the companies to move from mass communication to focus more on targeted communication and one-on-one dialogue.
“At the same time, communication goes beyond these specific promotion tools. The product's design, its price, the shape and colour of its package, and the stores that sell it—all communicate something to buyers. Thus, although the promotion mix is the company's primary communication activity, the entire marketing mix— promotion and product, price, and place must be coordinated for greatest communication impact” (Pearson Canada, n.d.,p.536).
The Changing Communications Environment
Over the past few decades, the organisations across the globe have shown enough efficiency in the mass marketing. Many companies have shown excellence in selling highly standardised products to the masses of consumers. In the entire process, they have developed successful mass media advertising techniques to successfully implement their mass marketing strategies. This has been possible by regular investment of a considerable amount of money in mass media, reaching a large customer base through a single communication tool. However, as the business environment has changed, marketing communication managers have to face new realities in the arena of marketing communication. Two major factors have been influential to change the face of marketing communication. “First, as mass markets have fragmented, marketers are shifting away from mass marketing and developing focused marketing programs, designed to build closer relationships with customers in more narrowly defined micro markets. Second, vast improvements in information technology are speeding the movement toward segmented marketing” (Pearson Canada, n.d., p. 541). Adding to all these, in today's market, information technology has helped the marketers to track the customer requirements more closely. They are now able to fetch more information about the customers both at the individual as well as house hold level. Advancement of new technologies has also opened new communication avenues.
In the marketing communication of Toyota, the company had recognised the luxury or premium messages the company wanted to put forward. However, it was aware that the brand could be undercut by the middle class perception about the existing dealerships. “To carry the Lexus brand, Toyota required its dealers to establish separate Lexus-branded dealerships that oozed the luxury image” (Segal, 2006).
Integrated Marketing Communication
In today's competitive business environment, any company's marketing programs need to employ customers using an entire range of marketing tools. The environment demands the integration of all forms of communication and messages and where the significance of integrated marketing communications lies in. At the initial stage, ‘Integrated Marketing Communications' means the integration of all the promotional tools, so that all of these tools can work in harmony.
“Integrated Marketing Communications encompasses general advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion and public relations. None of the four elements of IMC is inherently superior or inferior; they all have important functions in an integrated campaign. The campaign should focus on a “big idea” and a graphic look those threads through all four elements. This maximizes the chances that consumers will get the message and then have the message reinforced and layered in their memories without the “cognitive dissonance” that arises from mixed messages or incongruous graphic element” (Jones, 2008, p.3).
Promotion is a significant component of the marketing mix. The component includes a mix of communication tools. All these communication tools work better when they are together in synchronization, rather than in isolation. The togetherness has greater significance as they consistently speak one single voice at one time. The marketing gets enhanced as the integration simply goes beyond the fundamental communication tools. There are certain other levels of integration including internal, external, horizontal, vertical, and data integration. This is the way which would help in strengthening integrated communications.
Horizontal integration can occur across all the marketing mix and across all the business functions. For an instance, the production, finance, distribution and communication units should work in coordination and must be conscious about the decisions and actions in which the messages are communicated to the customers. While a number of departments such as direct mail, sales and advertising can coordinate with each other through appropriate data integration. Integrated marketing communication requires the marketing information system to collect and share the relevant data across various departments. In the vertical integration, the corporate objectives and corporate missions must be supported by the marketing and communication objectives.
The other types of integration such as internal integration demands all of its internal marketing components to be integrated, keeping all employees informed and motivated about all the new developments including new advertisements, new service standards, new corporate identities, new strategic partners, new service standards etc. On the other hand, external integration demands the external partners to work in close coordination to deliver an efficient solution. These external partners are components like advertising, PR agencies and offer a cohesive message or an integrated message.
Benefits of Integrated Marketing Communication
Integrated marketing communications in any company requires a considerable amount of efforts which in turn delivers a number of benefits. These benefits can create competitive advantages enhancing revenue and profitability while saving money, stress and time. Integrated marketing communications wrap up the communications around the customers and assist the customers through various stages of the purchase process. Through an integrated marketing communication process, an organisation simultaneously secures its image developing a dialogue and nurturing the company's relationship with its customers.
The ‘Relationship Marketing' creates a loyalty bond with the customers, protecting them from the unavoidable arena of competition. The ability of an organisation to retain a customer for a prolonged period is surely a strong competitive advantage. IMC also enhances profits through increased effectiveness and productivity. At a fundamental level, an integrated message is more effective than an incoherent myriad of messages.
In this competitive world, a steady, integrated and clear message has a better chance to communicate with the customers. Another research has suggested that the images shared through advertising, direct mail boosting both advertising awareness and the responses of the customers. So, integrated marketing communications can boost up the sales by expanding the messages across all the communication tools to open up more avenues for the consumers to become aroused, aware and in turn make them to purchase.
Carefully integrated messages also offer timely reminders, updated information and promotional offers to the purchasers. The planned sequence of these messages helps the customers by assisting them to move through the stages of the buying process. This, in turn, helps the customers to make choices in this busy, competitive world. Integrated marketing communications also helps to make the messages more reliable and therefore more convincing. This has reduced the risk from the customers' perspectives, which would, in turn, reduce the search process and assists the customers to dictate the consequence of the comparisons among the brands. Communications individually send disjointed messages, diluting the impact of the communication messages. Communication of the messages individually may also create confusion, frustration and anxiety in the customers. On the other hand, an integrated communication would offer an encouraging sense of order.
Consistent images and appropriate, useful messages would help in nurturing the long term relationships with the customer base. The consumer databases can help to identify the customer requirements more precisely and the same information can be used throughout the buying life.
The Integrated Marketing Communication helps the company to save on the costs by sharing advertisements, exhibitions and sales efforts. The company would be able to reduce the agency fees as a single agency would be used for all the communications. Even if there are many other agencies, using integrated marketing would save on the time as all the agencies would come together for the briefings, strategic planning and creative events. All these are expected to bring down the workload and following stress levels. This is also a significant benefit of integrated marketing communication.
However, a company may have to face many challenges while trying to implement integrated marketing communication. The employees may take an adverse attitude to the changes. Adding to it, there can be certain other issues while communicating through wide base of target audiences including stifled creativity, functional silos, time scale conflicts and a lack of management know-how.
Managers in the inflexible organisational structure protect both the budgets and their power bases. It was sad to notice that the some organisational structures detach data, communication and even the managers from each other. For an instance, there may not be any coordination among the PR departments and marketing divisions. It is very important that PR department must report to the marketing. In many instances, the sales force rarely meets the people doing advertising and promotional activities. The consequences can be adverse when the sales representatives would be unaware of the promotional offers. He or she would not be able to inform the customers about the same, which would in turn, result in comparatively lower sales. All these can be intensified by the internal power battles among the divisional and functional managers where the specific managers may not prefer their decisions or budget to be modified or influenced by someone in the another division.
Integrates Marketing communication can be a barrier to the creative ideas. It does not encourage creative idea and innovative sales promotion activities unless those fit into the overall marketing communication strategy. An advertising company may not be enthusiastic about the creative ideas generated by a public relation executive or a direct marketing consultant. The joy of wild creativity has lost its space. However, in the process of integration, creative challenges can be greater and in turn more satisfying being operated within an integrated and rigid environment. There can be an issue regarding the time line in the integrated marketing. For an instance, image advertising is designed to cultivate the brand over a long period of time. However, in the process its time line may not be in alignment with the advertising and sales promotions which are designed to be for shorter term as these are meant to foster the quarterly sales figures. This demands a careful integration of all the marketing communication efforts to accommodate these two objectives without any conflict among them.
However, this kind of planning is not at all simple. A survey conducted back in the year 1995, revealed that the corporate managers lack expertise in the ‘Integrated marketing communication'. This is also true about the agencies involved in the process as there is more number of single discipline agencies. Very few people have the real experience in the arena of marketing communication. The lack of knowledge in the marketing communication disciplines is intensified by a lack of devotion. The managers must understand the barriers to become successful in the implementation of integrated marketing communication.
The initial marketing strategy of Toyota is intended to target the innovators as well as the initial adopters of the new technologies. Toyota has introduced vehicles which are environment friendly and at the same time, the company has come up with campaigns which have showed off this characteristic of Toyota brand. The company has enabled its customers to visit the website flaunting information about the development of Pirus. “Toyota used focus groups and clinics with target consumers to evaluate different aspects of the Prius. Toyota found that the consumers valued high technology, affordable price, clean operation, comfort, quality, convenient design, and safety” (Rodriguez & Page, 2004, p.2).
Developing Brand Strategy
With changing business environment and business concerns, the importance of brand has been increasing gradually. Business organisations are trying to achieve a higher brand position in market for developing consumer loyalty and high brand image. The above sections have covered important areas and factors of branding like brand positioning, brand image, brand identity, brand awareness, integrated marketing communication and consumer relationship for brand development. Understandings of these aspects are vital for planning brand strategy for a company. Traditional concepts of management do not focus on brand development strategy as they believe that constant higher performances help to build brand image in market automatically. However, brand strategies are helpful to deliver constant higher performances that lead to bring better brand establishments for a company.
In this respect, brand managers can follow brand strategy model to frame brand specific strategies. However, like strategic formulation process, it is necessary to scan the brand related external and internal environment before framing brand strategies. Understanding the brand environment is inevitable for drafting reasonable and relevant strategies. There are certain factors that influence a brand of a company rather than core business strategies.
The management of Toyota has realized that merely effective marketing strategy will not be able to counter the intensifying competition in the global automobile market. The management has recognized that it must invest for creating brand value rather than marketing of the product. Therefore, it has brought significant improvement in its business operations such as Toyota Production System which strives to enhance the corporate skills. According to Stefaniak, one of a Toyota's marketing communications professional, Toyota has started to focus on the creation of value-added framework for meeting consumers' preferences and “strong company reputations can contribute to the product being a safe choice” (Teresko, 2007).
This literature review is based on data and information collected from several research works, books and journal articles. Branding has been an integral part of marketing. With using appropriate marketing tools, a branding strategy cannot be developed for Toyota. As a result, in this chapter branding concepts have been discussed with a discussion of significant marketing tools. Concepts like Branding, Brand identity, Brand Repositioning, Brand Strategy have been discussed with the inclusion of marketing tools like product and marketing mix and integrated marketing communication.
Plutchick R has said that “Research has its origin in a team which means to go around or to explore... And it is a combination of Re + Search” (Khan, 2008, p.2). Research can be looked at as comprehensive, sincere, rational searching for the facts and figures, the inference or significance in accordance with the issue under study. The research is looked at as methodical, objective, well-framed scientific investigation processes. The research includes increasingly more methodological, objective and systematic investigation structure. At the end of this research, the research has the research must result into the systemic project report. As per Young PV, the research can be assumed as the systematic methodology of discovering the new information and data as well as verifying the old facts and figures, the trends, relationships among the information, explanation and interpretation of the same and the environment governing all these associations (Khan, 2008, p.2).
This research is carried out by verifying the old facts and figures about Toyota, verifying the information, analysing and interpreting the same. The competitive environment of the organisation, which has governed the operating activities, has also been discussed in this project.
A research must aim to seek answers to issues through the appliance of various scientific methodologies. This results in collection and analysis of unbiased as well as reliable data as scientific methodology ensures the accumulation of relevant data and information in compliance with the research process. However, sometimes it may become expensive to do the research through an outside agency. It is pretty important that the researcher must carry an affirmative attitude towards the entire research, the findings and its applicability. Thus it can be seen as the media to figure out the application of theory in the real life scenarios and at the end, infer a conclusion out of the entire research analysis. It is pretty true that the findings through scientific methodology are expected to reap valid results. However, one must ensure that the findings are not result of manipulations to reach at some pre-set ends. For an instance, presentation of some specific findings or biased sampling may result in deceptive research results. Hence, it cannot be denied that credibility in both the research information and research are expected. In this research, effort has been taken not to influence the results in any day, not even through some individual viewpoints. The research has been done based only on the facts either referred from other articles or fetched through primary and secondary analysis.
There are a number of advantages in scientific research. First of all this is objective in nature as the research does not rely on the opinions as well as individual experiences with pre-set biases. The research can control personal prejudice and subjectivity. The scientific methodology of research recognises all these biased information and controls the same by using several tested techniques and methods. This type of research is systematic as the research would identify the issue and frame out the suitable design and investigation plan to put recommendations to solve the issue. In such research, all the required steps, pre-set conditions and precautions are explored thoroughly in alignment with the pre-determined requirements. As irrelevant situations or cases can be eliminated or controlled from the accumulation of data and analysis of the same, one can expect proper generalised conclusions which are easy to infer keeping other things constant.
The research must not collect unstructured observations. Since the issue is defined at an earlier stage, the accumulation of data and information serving the explicit intention to understand solution to the issues. Hence, it eliminates the irrelevancy in the research process. The entire research process is expected to be purposive and systematic. The methodology identifies various tools, techniques and methods to realise and solve the problems with less effort and difficulty. The research must not incur much cost and at the same time must ensure the required quality by honouring a number of scientific research requirements (Khan, 2008, p.2-3).
There can be a number of research types. Descriptive research would include various surveys as well as various kinds of fact findings. The descriptive research would aim to describe the cases and situations. The researcher does not have any control over the required variables, rather the research would be more or less based on whatever has happened or happening presently. The descriptive type of research would employ a number of survey methods. In the analytical research methods, the researchers use readily available facts and figures and analyse the same to carry out a critical assessment of the same to infer a conclusion at the end.
In this project, a questionnaire has been used
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