Marketing is the pre-sales practice that breathes life into a commodity such that consumers can embrace it. It is a fantastic function that gives a product its name. Products are real and invisible physical entities that serve human society’s needs and desires. Products are salable only after they blend with the virtue of the marketing activities. This particular paper focuses on the 360 degree marketing activity for a company which manufactures and retail innovative toys for the kids.
Brief about the Company
Soul Mate is an organization that specializes in creating and innovating toys for children. Boys and girls aged two to eighteen were selected as the demographic profile for Soul Mate’s goods. The name itself denotes a fondness for children. For the past four years, the company has been on the market. The main markets are the United States and Canada. The US business accounts for the lion’s share in sales. The business is one of the most forward-thinking toy producers on the industry. They market their goods in unique Soul Mate shops throughout the United States, as well as in a few limited distribution locations in the United States and Canada. The corporation is a newcomer to the market. However, it enjoys a 15 percent market share in the US toy market. The Soul Mate’s biggest formula for success is to have the highest quality goods and the greatest customer experience in the market. Soul Mate has had a fruitful four-year ride in the United States, and it now aims to demonstrate its influence in foreign profitable markets such as India and Brazil.
Vision of the Soul Mate
The company’s mission is to become one of the world’s most ethically acclaimed leading creative toy producers.
Mission of the Soul Mate
The Soul Mate’s goal is to offer high-quality goods and services to potential consumers in order to earn their loyalty and spread awareness and happiness among children. Soul Mate aspires to be the children’s soul mate for all time, allowing them to savor their idyllic childhoods.
Strength: Soul Mate is guided by passion and a desire to succeed. The corporation has a brand that appeals to children’s emotions. The corporation has been in existence for more than four years. It has its own discount stores where they offer only their own brands. The business has a well-trained analyst staff that holds an eye on the emerging industry developments. The key strength is the confidence that has been formed between the children and the real customers, the parents. They have an old toy replacement scheme that involves exchanging it for a fresh one, which is a major strength of the companys.
Weakness: Weakness is an aspect that is usually unseen, but becomes apparent when something goes wrong. The product selection, on the other side, is the biggest flaw. It has a product selection that isn’t too extensive. Spy toys, board games, dolls and miniature models, and computer games are also part of the merchandise line. They don’t pay attention to the vehicles and remote-control toys.
Opportunity: The toy sector is not yet saturated, and there are just a few major names in the business, so there is room for development. Soul Mate’s potential plans include focusing on underserved lucrative markets such as India and Brazil, where consumers have strong buying habits but need access to high-quality goods. Opportunities are beckoning the Soul Mate; all it has to do now is response.
Threat: A toy’s product life span is very limited. And the creation and psychology of toys are rapidly evolving with the passage of time. One of the most serious challenges is extinction. To succeed in today’s intensely dynamic market climate, the enterprise must be creative. The immersive platform, on the other hand, is a huge problem solver for Soul Mate, since it allows kids to play demo games and maybe some free multiplayer games that are allowed under Soul Mate.
Product Line and the Depth and Breadth of the Line
The Soul Mate’s merchandise line isn’t too extensive. The products in the product line are the spy gadgets like spy sunglasses, guns, spy video makers, spy phones spy watches and many more, other products in the products line are scale models of super heroes, dolls, board games, video games, mind games, educational games such as spell check, general knowledge booster etc. and the most important product in the product line is the online games.
It is always good to keep the product line short as long product line would dilute the brand image. It should be remembered that Soul Mate is dealing with the innovative toy market and this segment is very small and the product range are also very small. However, the new products should always be in the pipe line to support the downfall of any old toys.
Soul Mate maintains the high quality of the toys; they never compromise on the quality. It has been seen in the past that for the low quality parameter twenty five percent of the toys were returned to the warehouse. (Vecchio, 2003). It is better for the toys to remain on shelves for long time but, getting bad remarks from the customer for poor quality is really a bad remark for the company.
Differentiating Soul Mate from the Closest Competitors
Wild Planet is the main competitor for the company. The Wild Planet was launched in 1993. Wild Planet’s toys are gender specific and encourage the boys and girls to explore their world (Ryan et al; 2000). The Wild Planet sells the innovative toys like Soul Mate and some of their products are Spy gadgets, Spy Guns, innovative knowledge box for kinds and many more. They also have their exclusive toy stores like Soul Mate. The main weakness of the Wild Planet is the short product line. And the branding and advertising is not that strong. Soul Mate would apply all the product ideas of Wild Planet to be in the competition. And at the same time it will spend some more money on the advertising and branding so the Brand Soul Mate would come to their mind fist while they go for buying toys. For most of the toy maker it is very vital to think like a kid if they want to understand the demand of the kids. “Think like a kid” (Giacobello, 2001) the new theme for the toy industry nowadays.
The Target Market
Target group (TG)
Identifying the target group is very much important; it is the most important factor to be known to predict the manufacturing rate. Proper identification of the target group would lower down the cost of manufacturing and the cost of sales and promotion. Soul Mate’s target group is consisting of kids who are aged between two to nineteen. According the demographic profile of the United States it can be seen that the population of the kids aged between zeros to nineteen was almost 80,500,000. In 2000 which was 28.5 percent of the whole population. And it is expected to be 26.3 percent in 2025. (The changing demographic profile of the United States 17).
Pricing and Distribution Strategy
It is very clear from the market view point that pricing strategies are becoming operational and sales oriented than the strategic and market oriented. (Sodhi, and Sodhi, 2008). Soul mate can have three levels pricing strategy, and they are basically senior level, middle level and customer service level. Sometimes it can be seen that a floor manager or a store manager can reduce the price of a product or rather he or she can give a price discount of five to ten percent that is an example of the operational pricing level. (Sodhi, and Sodhi, 2008).
Penetration or Skimming Pricing
Penetration pricing is a pricing where the price of a products it reduced in such a manner so it attracts more clients towards it. It is basically to gain the market share (Longenecker et al; 2005) but in case of niche market it is not the way of doing the pricing. Soul Mate is kind of a niche product but not that high in price the skimming pricing would restrict many potential buyers to buy their products. The Soul Mate should follow the variable and dynamic pricing strategy where setting up more than one price to offer price concession in different modules of stores. Soul Mate can set a flexible pricing of the whole product line and in other hand some products which are prices lower than the market rate can help to win more market share. Along with the product line pricing the premium pricing is also very much important as with the help of these kinds of pricing strategy the higher quality products are priced highly. (Pride et al; 2009).
Distribution Channel and Strategy
The distribution channels are the most important factors to be taken care of. The Soul Mate have Two kinds of selling points one is through the super markets in the US and Canada and through the exclusive showrooms across the United States. Proper logistics and supply chain management is very much important for the international distribution. The Soul Mate is having multiple distribution partners in US and Canada. This is to be noted that Soul Mate should look for those distributors who distribute their toys to the retailers who sell only toys. Developing a proper channel of distribution is very much important and for the better implementation the Soul Mate is also equipped with the proper ERP system. For the upcoming global markets like India and Brazil Soul Mate should go for the ad hoc model with exclusive distributors who will distribute their products to some selected stores only to check the customer feedback.
Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communication
Soul Mate should implement the proper advertising strategy wisely to restrict the advertising budget and at the same time to reach its target group in a smooth manner. Soul Mate should choose the Banner or hoarding ads as these kinds of ads are geographically restricted. Banners should be put in those places where the target group can see that. This strategy would restrict the dilution of the brand and also this would save more money. TV advertisements are not recommended as the organization is not appealing to the mass and it can dilute the brand. PR (public relations) can create wonders for the products which are focused on the small group of people among the society. Soul Mate products are not for everyone. It is basically for the kids who are living the fast and upper middle class lives
Innovation is another tool which can create a new need within the market. And these innovations are possible for the toy makers if they start thinking like kids. Soul Mate should take the initiatives to build one internal team who would be in touch with kids all the time. The weekly play sessions should be done in the Soul Mate Stores to understand the kids mind.
Measuring Customer Satisfaction
Most of the organizations analyze the customer feedback data and use other tools to measure the customer satisfaction. The expectations of the customers are not the same (Cochran. 2003). Soul Mate should have a sound system to document all the customer details. The company should have all the data about the customer it should have the birth date of the customer or the kids of the customer, it should have the anniversary dates and all the feedbacks about the last purchases should be documented properly.
Branding and Promotion Strategies
Brand is an intangible asset of the company. The brand is the name, logo or some marks associated with the product which distinguishes the product from the other identical products. (Clifton, Simmons, and Ahmad, 2009).
Co-branding is a form of branding where two or more brands come together to retain their identity in the competitive market. In this case all the brands are given focus and these campaigns are among the medium to long term strategies. (Begemann, 2008) For an example McDonalds give away Disney toys with the happy meals. Soul Mate should do Co- branding with the Gaming zones in the United States. In this case the top ten kids who will spend the highest time with the highest wins in the gaming zone will get a Soul Mate gift as per his or her choice. With this co-branding the kids will try to be more sharp and interested in winning the games.
Toys are having very small life span. It varies from one to three years. So multiple branding is much better than the brand extension. The innovative toy market can be treated as the hospitality industry for the kids as they give the ultimate luxury to the kids and in this kind of market the multiple branding has become one of the main branding strategies as the risk of single branding failure is low. (Bowie, and Buttle, 2004). Toy industry is very much risky sometimes; one mistake can wipe out the whole product line. The different segment is having different brand names in Soul Mate, for an example the mother brand in Soul Mate but the different product groups have different names. The spy gadgets know as Spy-Mate, which itself is a brand. The board games are known as Soul-Board.
Ethical Issues Related to Quality, Environment and Pricing
The toys can become dangerous sometimes for the toxic materials used in the toys. Nowadays toys are infused with arsenic, lead paints, and other poisonous materials which are silent in nature, but can be a disaster for the kids. So, choosing a healthy toy has become a matter of luck (Rogers. 2009). However, Soul Mate is strictly against the toxic materials. The toys come with the instruction how to use and all the information related to the toys. The best part is the affiliation of Soul Mate with HealthyToys.org (Rogers. 2009).
The Unfair trade practice act plays a vital role to regulate the proper pricing in the market. This act put a lower limit on the prices of the products mainly in wholesale and retail levels. Selling the products bellow the cost is illegal in many places in the United States. (Perreault, 2007). The Robinson-Patman Act (of 1936) is also very important to follow in some parts to restrict the illegal competition. According to this law, selling the same product in the same store in different prices to different buyers is illegal.
The future plans are the most important factors to be taken very seriously. The toy industry is very fragile in nature, they manufacture thousands of toys every year as the life span of a toy is not too ling. So, considering short life span Soul Mate must have a great future strategy to keep its position properly in the market. The new product development and increasing the product line would be a great initiative. And the toy recycling must be done by the company to retain the abundant toys so they can modify those or they can give it to the child care camps for free so the poor children can also play with them . However, the global expansion would be a great step but, this step should be taken carefully.
From the marketing concept one has to remember the quality of the product and the strength of the brand. Building brand and gaining the customer trust in very important. The innovative concept would also help the company as well as the brand to grow high. Positioning and target group is to be judged accordingly to have a sustainable potion in the market.
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