These colorful, cheerful, uniform and sweet candy coated chocolates that are the M&M candy are a perfect association for what we call the M&Ms of Marketing: your Marketing Mix. Contrary to popular belief, marketing is not simply a fancy term for ‘sales’ or ‘advertising’ but rather a philosophy or better yet a strategy that guides your business. The M&Ms of your marketing mix, like the M&M candy, must be aligned, colorful, creative, have an appealing or sweet message that is uniform and consistent through all your mediums. Your marketing plan, therefore, is a focused, uniform guide that conveys a clear and consistent message to a chosen audience. An audience that has been carefully selected because they are most likely to respond to your marketing message by acting on the desire you’ve created: the desire to buy M&M candies. Isn’t that a mouthful!
Let us take it piece by piece.
The art of Marketing is defined as the management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies customer requirements profitably. In other words, marketing is having the right product, in the right place, at the right time, for the right price.
The term Marketing Mix was coined by Neil Borden (Borden, N. 1964) who first started using the phrase in 1949. Borden claims the phrase came to him while reading James Culliton’s description of the activities of a business executive:
(An executive is) “a mixer of ingredients, who sometimes follows a recipe as he goes along, sometimes adapts a recipe to the ingredients immediately available, and sometimes experiments with or invents ingredients no one else has tried.” (Culliton, J. 1948).
The basic Marketing Mix of the 60’s consisted of the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place & Promotion. Product: define your product and which market segment it targets, Price: establish its pricing strategy, whether it’s 99 cent psychological pricing, penetration pricing which is a strategy to undercut the competition by setting lower prices, or skimming where you have an exclusive product that you can sell at a higher than market price. Place: which channels you use to sell your product. Promotion: the message you will use to create your brand image. All four together are used to convince your target customer to buy your candy, rather than your competitor’s candy.
Based on the marketing mix variables above, a simplified version of the M&M brand candy Marketing Plan might look something like this:
Product: The first step in the marketing mix is to clearly define your product and which category you want to identify it with and essentially, compete in. M&M’s markets itself as a candy with milk chocolate and therefore can effectively competes in two categories: candy and chocolate. It is placed next to the chocolates as well as next to the candies on store shelves. In this way it is associated with both chocolate and candy but also allows M&M’s to differentiate itself, thereby providing them with a competitive advantage. Packaging is another factor inherent to the product. The design on the package would be left up to the promotion people but the size and type of packaging is very much a core part of the product itself. M&M’s candy offers different size packages, different flavors (nuts inside) and different size candy (think, M&M minis).
Price: within the range of candies per size they would persue a Penetration strategy to establish themselves firmly into the marketplace.
Promotion: big M&M characters in ads to appeal to the child-centeredness focus of a mother. Economy size bags that appeal to households with children, and so on.
Place: sold in all grocery stores and pharmacies and bodagos.
The marketing mix of the 60’s has evolved into something more complex 30 years later and now includes People, Process, and Physical Environment in the mix. Process came about to refer to the popular buzzwords ‘quality management’ or ‘continuous process improvement’ and is about how an organization is run, how streamlined and organized it is and how focused every aspect of an organization is on the organization’s strategy. Physical environment refers to an actual physical structure that represents a very big part of an organization, if applicable. The Googleplex, Google headquarters, is a perfect process example since it so developed and huge that it is a city and world and culture of its own.
Market segmentation and competitive advantage are two other basic elements of a marketing strategy. In Market segmentation, consider the world your orange and each category of people a different segment. We can segment by thousands of different variables but the most common marketing variables are age, gender, socio-economic status, spending habits and lifestyle. So an M&M candy might target women (gender) who are mothers (lifestyle & age), who tend to buy brand name snacks (spending habits) for their kids.
A solid marketing strategy is a critical component to the success of any product or business and helps you stay focused and compete effectively in today’s marketplace.
Suzannah Raff is a business coach in private practice in New York. She also teaches college Management, Marketing & Entrepreneurship courses. You can visit her websites: www.koshershopaholic.com, www.eatingforreal.com and www.raffbusiness.com for more information about her businesses and coaching services.