The original ‘Mini', created in 1959, was designed to be a small, practical and economical car targeted at the working class, due to its low price. However, years of rebranding and celebrity endorsements transformed the ‘Mini' into one of the most recognisable and highly coveted cars worldwide. To analyse how this transformation occurred, and understand how effective ‘Mini' is at meeting the wants and needs of its consumers, I will investigate how Mini uses strategies such as brand identity and stretching, competitive positioning and the use of retail environment, to appeal to its target market.
In order to identify how a brand should market their product they must first accurately segment the market. By following the STP process and applying variables such as behavioural, demographic and geographic to the market, Mini is able to segment the market and create an appropriate consumer profile. They have identified their target market as 25-45 year olds in urban areas, earning a high income. They are primarily middle class and have a relatively high degree of loyalty to the brand, which shows strong links to the brands ‘symbolic' positioning in the market. Demographically, the consumers are defined as ‘bachelor stage newly married couples' or ‘Full nest' (married with youngest child under 6). Individualism is important, and their behaviour is likely to be energetic and extroverted, therefore meaning style will be an essential consumer want. However due to the high-cost nature of the product, style, though important, is likely to come second to quality. Identifying an accurate target market is crucial to the success of a marketing strategy as, ‘by focusing marketing efforts on certain segments, the impact of limited resources can be increased.” (Dibb 1998).
Jobber's ‘Anatomy of Brand Positioning' theorises that brands should base there positing, around the following 6 aspects; brand values, assets, reflection, personality, heritage and domain. ‘Mini's' current market position shows that in order to align the marketing strategies with the needs of the consumers, they have focused on emphasising 3 of these factors; values, heritage and personality. Strong emphasis on these have allowed ‘Mini' to create high brand loyalty and a recognisable brand personality, therefore adhering to the desires of the consumers. Sufficient segmentation of the market has shown the unique and ‘easy going' wants of the consumer. The brands history as an iconic and quintessentially British car provides this, whilst allowing the consumer to remain individualistic through offering a choice of adaptations to the original models, for example the iconic British flag on the roof. Mini celebrates the individual driver and encourages the personalisation of the cars. Mini stresses that “everybody wants their car to say something different about them. Fortunately, the MINI can say anything.” (Bueno, 2018). The understanding of their consumers has allowed Mini to retain its reputation as a ‘trendy' vehicle and remain successful, whereas other once ‘iconic' vehicles such as the Citoren 2VC have become obsolete. The fun-loving and playful values which are intrinsic to the brand are echoed throughout their advertising. Campaigns such as ‘Not normal' in which Mini pushed the uniqueness of the car by intentionally marketing it in unconventional ways has allowed the personality of the brand to remain intact since its conception. ‘Mini' opts for non traditional advertising distribution channels, to align with the essence of the brand. For example, rather than generic TV adverts, ‘Mini' famously publicly challenged Porsche to a race, by running ads' as well as hiring an aeroplane to fly over their headquarters. Despite Mini losing, the challenge gained widespread media coverage and the unexpectedly close result proved ‘Mini' to be a viable alternative to a luxury car. Thus proving to the consumers that their desires for a vehicle were being fulfilled. The 26% increases in sales in the following financial period (2011) (McCarthy, 2018) proves how successfully ‘Mini' can identity and target the needs and wants of their consumers. ‘Minis' strongest asset is the positive emotions provoked through their brand logo. They have capitalised on this by utilising brand stretching to allow them to move into other markets. Brand stretching refers to the use of an established brand name for products in unrelated markets. (Baines & Fill, 2014) 'Mini' has diversified their income by creating a lifestyle range, such as clothing and memorabilia, centred on the iconic logo. The success of this range proves that ‘Mini' is extremely efficient at understanding the desires of the consumers, as ‘Mini' identified the energetic and fun values which attracts their target market, and has based the collection around these.
Hackley suggests that competitive positioning is the ‘defined set of associations' that are linked to a brand. ‘This set of associations defines the brand in relation to, and differentiates it from, its competitors (Hackley 2009). By using the dimensions of symbolic to functional appeal and price to create a perceptual map, ‘Mini' can be identified as a highly symbolic, mid price ranged vehicle, and therefore evoking a clear position in the consumers mind. However, one of ‘Minis' largest competitors, the Ford Fiesta, is located much more central on the map, having a higher functional appeal, making consumers regard it as unremarkable in contrast. ‘Mini's' symbolic appeal is significant compared to that of its main competitors, due to the affordable pricing. As ‘Mini's' main competitors are seen as more practical cars, their functionality is prioritised over their symbolism to the consumer. However through strong brand identity and personality, Mini has differentiated themselves and managed to create a consumer attitude which evokes both functional and emotional responses.(Bhat & Reddy,1998) BMW's acquisition of Mini in 2000, provided them with the technological advances necessary to increase the quality of their cars. This was vital as the market for efficiency compact cars is growing, especially in the premium sector, for example, VW Beetle, BMW 1 series and Audi A3. (Simms & Trott, 2016)The increase in quality indicates that Mini is effective at meeting the wants of the consumers as, by shown through the consumer profile, a high quality car is one of the primary desires of the product. Therefore, ‘Minis' Consumers are attracted on a rational level due to the reassurance of quality and the product performance, as well as emotionally due to the brands image. In the context of Jobbers anatomy, this unique positioning is one of Mini's most invaluable ‘assets'. ‘Mini' has capitalised on this position and used it as a competitive advantage in the increasingly saturated market. This has culminated in ‘Mini' developing long term brand loyalty, resulting from repeat purchases. This proves the effectiveness of ‘Mini's' brand identity as no other non-luxury car have managed to create and retain the cult following of the ‘Mini'.
Environmental psychology suggests that the physical environment is ‘very influential in communicating the firms image and purpose to its customers'. (Bitner, 1992) The environment invokes different emotional states which then may influence behaviour within the store. Bitner (1992) applied this to create the theory of Servicescape. In this theory he highlights the importance of ‘atmospherics, physical design and decor elements' (Bitner, 1992) in influencing consumer behaviour. ‘Mini' has utilised this theory by creating show rooms which express the values of the company. Due to the extroverted and energetic nature of the target consumers, ‘Mini' has created retail environments which differ largely from most car showrooms. They have achieved these by providing both ambient and functional stimuli. Visual stimuli of the showroom include focusing largely on colour and disorganisation of the store. The eclectic nature of the store is designed to appeal to the adventurous side of consumers, and further reiterate brand personality. Bright coloured hues are used to evoke excitement and high energy responses. Additionally, ‘Mini' integrates a visual concert of ‘framing' cars in order to make the cars looks toy like, and emphasise the individualism of the brand. By creating these attention grabbing displays, ‘Mini' is enticing consumers to spend time within the store thus encouraging sales. Additionally, ‘Mini' hires young, energetic sales staff as ‘personal influence can help the customer visualise the benefits of a given service. These staff further encourage consumers to spend more time in store and thus become more invested in the brand. However, as only consumers who physically enter the store will experience these strategies, it can be said that other strategies such as competitive positioning are more effective at tending to the consumers needs.
In conclusion, through the implementation of a variety of branding strategies, ‘Mini' has been extremely successful at meeting the desires of the consumers, based on the target market. By segmenting the market and adhering to the wants of the target audience, ‘Mini' has been able to create a brand image which is recognisable world wide, as well as a formulating a brand personality to match the core values of the organisation. This unique personality has enabled ‘Mini' to achieve a differentiated position in an ever growing market, and enabled ‘Mini' to expand into new markets, based on the brand alone.
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