Winning Competitor’s Customers

A way to expand the number of brand users is winning competitors’ customers. Examples of this approach abound. Marketers of Puffs facial tissues are always wooing Kleenex customers. Volume can also be increased by convincing current users to increase their brand usage:

(1) Use the product on more occasions. Serve Campbell’s soup for a snack. Use Heinz vinegar to clean windows. Take Kodak pictures of your pets.
(2) Use more of the product on each occasion. Drink a larger glass of orange juice.
(3) Use the product in new ways. Use Tums antacid as a calcium supplement.

Managers also try to stimulate sales by modifying the product’s characteristics through quality improvement, feature improvement, or style improvement.

Quality improvement aims at increasing the product’s functional performance. A manufacturer can often overtake its competition by launching a “new and improved” product. Grocery manufacturers call this a “plus launch” and promote a new additive or advertise something as “stronger,” “bigger,” or “better.”

This strategy is effective to the extent that the quality is improved, buyers accept the claim of improved quality, and a sufficient number of buyers will pay for higher quality. In the case of the canned coffee industry, manufacturers are using “freshness” to better their brands in the face of fierce competition from premium rivals, such as store brands where customers grind their own beans in the store. Kraft’s Maxwell House will tout coffee sold in its new Fresh Seal packaging and P&G’s Folger’s ads will show how its Aroma Seal canisters plastic, peel-top, re-sealable and easy-grip packages will make its ground beans fresher.

However, customers are not always willing to accept an “improved” product, as the classic tale of New Coke illustrates.

Battered by competition from the sweeter Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola decided in 1985 to replace its old formula with a sweeter variation, dubbed the New Coke. Coca-Cola spent $4 million on market research. Blind taste tests showed that Coke drinkers preferred the new, sweeter formula, but the launch of New Coke provoked a national uproar. Market researchers had measured the taste but had failed to measure the emotional attachment consumers had to Coca-Cola. There were angry letters, formal protests, and even lawsuit threats, to force the retention of “The Real Thing.” Ten weeks later, the company withdrew New Coke and reintroduced its century-old formula as “Classic Coke,” giving the old formula even stronger status in the marketplace.

Feature improvement aims at adding new features, for example, size, weight, materials, and additives, accessories that expand the product’s performance, versatility, safety, or convenience. In 1998, after years of research and development, Vlasic created a cucumber 10 times larger than the traditional pickle cucumber. The chips, sold as “Hamburger Stackers”, are large enough to cover the entire surface of a hamburger and are stacked a dozen high in jars.

Pfizer also embarked on feature improvement for its Listerine brand.

In India almost all the market leaders in consumer goods like HLL, P&G, Godrej, Park Avenue etc., have embarked on improved packing along with superior quality particularly of products like bathing soaps, edible oils, detergents, shaving creams occasionally giving 20 to 40% free in a larger pack in the same improved packing version. This has diverted the staunch brand loyalists to go in for the other brand because of the free attraction and improved looks.