In an industrial B2B market, the brand name and its associations are shorthand for everything that is on offer. Quality, reliability and value are embedded in a buyer’s perception of that brand. This report reviews Recticel’s approach to branding, more specifically the UK medical division Foam for Care UK. The first section of the report begins with a brief introduction to the organisation, followed by discussing the importance of internal communication and cross-functional unity. The second section of the report considers how external communication is a supporting factor of product and brand management. The third section of this report concludes with a recommended integrated communications plan for the organisation considering the topics covered in the report.
1. Organisation Summary
Organisation Name: Foam for Care UK (a division of Recticel Limited [owned by Recticel SA])
Type of Organisation: The company is a member of the Recticel Group, which organises its worldwide activities into four business lines. Foam for Care UK falls under the Flexible Foam business line, which produces polyurethane foam and associated products for domestic, industrial and medical applications.
Size of Organisation: Recticel SA has a total of 98 production units in 28 countries across EMEA, Asia-Pacific and North America with around 6,000 employees. The organisation achieved an annual turnover of €1.46 billion. Foam for Care UK has 15 staff members across sales, product development and product assembly, with an annual turnover of £2 million in 2017. This contributes to Recticel Limited’s annual turnover of £134 million.
Products & Services: Foam for Care UK specialises in the design and production of specialist medical mattresses, cushions and accessories, primarily using polyurethane foam. FFCUK’s product portfolio consists of six local brands to suit a range of healthcare environments, as well as an ‘own brand’ service – an opportunity for customers to request a bespoke specification.
Customer Base: FFCUK primarily services Business to Business customers (B2B), selling to both original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) and distributors who specialise in healthcare equipment. These products are then sold on to a range of acute and community care environments, such as hospitals, nursing homes and mental health institutions. Some distributors also operate and manage NHS Community Equipment stores under license.
Competitors: Foam for Care competitors are OEM’s and distributors that buy in medical mattresses, cushions and accessories, along with the manufacturers that not only supply them but may also supply directly to the end user. The main professional competitors include Invacare, Stryker and Renray. This is an extremely competitive market, with multi-million pound tenders regularly being released by the NHS, along with a more recent wave of international, low cost competitors.
Culture and Values: Recticel’s core values strongly influence the corporate identity of the company, and are reflected in the smaller business units such as Foam for Care UK. The five core values are: we strive for results, we innovate to create value, we act with respect and integrity, we cooperate to win, and we take ownership and feel accountable (Recticel, 2017). In an efficient, sustainable and balanced manner, Recticel aim to add value and achieve steady, profitable growth for all of its clients and shareholders (Recticel, 2017). This is explored further in Appendix 3.
b) Methods for Internal Communications
As discussed by Bottazzo (2005), a company’s employees are one of its main groups of potential stakeholders. As a result, the satisfaction of employees is considered equal to the satisfaction of customers and shareholders, becoming an important element of an organisation’s strategic mission. This has created a paradigm shift of internal communication from one-way informing of employees, to a two-way communication with the inclusion of training, education and motivation.
The goal of internal communication is to achieve employee-company advocacy, with workers buying into the missions and values of the organisation and reflect those to other potential stakeholders. Therefore it’s necessary for Recticel to maintain the use of different platforms for everyday communication, including email, telephone, webinars and Skype – which allows a range of users to ‘dial in’ to a meeting and share computer screens. For a multi-national company, well-rounded communication from management is crucial – to offer information, support and a sense of community for plants that cannot be supported through emails or phone calls alone (Pinsky, 2015).
Recticel address this through an internal intranet system, RICK (Recticel Intranet Centre of Knowledge). RICK contains all of the documents, training and support required by individual plants to help run their business successfully. In a manufacturing environment, changes can take place rapidly – this method of instantaneous communication will assist individual plants to sync their business activities.
RICK boosts the company’s efforts of ‘on boarding’ – the introduction of new employees to the company. In a company of this size, the automation of an on boarding programme streamlines talent management initiatives and improves productivity long term. A personalised level of access to the intranet system facilitates a steady flow of well-timed information to new employees (Friedmann, 2012). There are instances where automation in the ‘on boarding’ and communication processes have their disadvantages. In large manufacturing companies like Recticel, where most employees work the assembly line rather than at a desk, not all employees have the same access to information and training.
As discussed by Friedmann (2012), the most successful internal communication systems recognise this disconnection, and work to achieve a balance between automated and personalised delivery of information. Recticel tackle this with the use of ‘Town Hall’ meetings.
In accordance with Welch & Jackson’s internal communications matrix (2007), ‘Town hall’ meetings are predominantly one-way communications by senior management with all employees to discuss organisational/corporate issues such as goals, objectives, new developments, activities and achievements.
‘Town Hall’ meetings are particularly important for Foam for Care, as they not only create an awareness of Recticel’s changing environment, and an understanding of evolving goals. It helps remote team members such as production workers to feel a sense of belonging and to understand how their work is benefitting the company will help them to feel validated and will further promote teamwork and collaboration. However it’s also important for Recticel’s senior managers not to overload internal stakeholders with unnecessary information, as this ‘noise’ prevents them from understanding the relevant information in full (Fill, 2009).
c) Integrated Communications – Resources
The marketing communications market is developing at a rapid speed, accompanied with changes in the marketing theory and practice due to growing trends (Dmitrijeva & Batraga, 2012). Other factors include the accelerated development of technology, and the changing behaviours of Procurement teams.
As a result, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) are becoming more valuable, creating a varied and appropriate mix of marketing communications to maximise marketing efficiency and to appeal to the modern buyer.
For a large company with a range of strategic business units, the implementation of an effective IMC is complex and involves a wide range of different management tasks. For Recticel Group, these tasks are mostly managed by the MarComs Director and their small team. Centralisation allows the organisation to utilise wider resource to achieve its objects, and ultimately minimise risk (Quester and Conduit, 1996).
In terms of financial resources, Recticel divide a smaller portion of their marketing budget per business unit (such as Foam for Care) depending on business performance of the previous financial year. This is split across department Sales Managers, who become in control of this budget for the financial year. Dividing business units ensures that all products are catered for and focussed on individually, and that other internal stakeholders such as Product Managers are supported effectively.
When dividing the funds, Recticel will consider the strategic planning of each business unit for the financial year. For example, if a business unit is working on a new product release or a new business venture then they will require greater funding to cover integrated communications. This kind of decision must be liaised by a business line manager, who reports directly into senior management. Smallbone (1972) highlights that the allocation of funds for campaigns is one of the primary problems facing marketers, if not one of the major strategic problems – Recticel’s policy of restricted funding and control supports this.
As a B2B organisation, local marketing responsibility revolves around personal selling. This may include the creation of product literature, local advertising and exhibitions. For some local marketing communications, business units use external agencies. These agencies assist with design, planning and events management in line with company strategy. This can include the design and construction of exhibition booths, and production/print of product literature in line with corporate brand strategy. Ultimately, Foam for Care and/or Recticel always own the bulk of campaigns internally.
Corporate support is offered to local business units such as Foam for Care UK to create a unified brand image and communication style through marketing documentation access on the intranet. Training courses are available through Recticel University (RECUN), on topics such as effective corporate communications and high-impact presentation skills. Offering this continuous training to customer-facing employees not only ensures they are fully equipped with the latest industry trends and tools; it allows Recticel to effectively manage its integrated communications by developing cohesive communication skills.
a) Brand Building
A multitude of brand identity frameworks have been developed to assist in the understanding of brand building. For Foam for Care, several brand identity frameworks could be applied to build analyses. For example the customer-based brand equity (CBBE) model. The premise is that the power of a brand lies in the minds of customers and the meaning that the brand has achieved in the broadest sense (Janiszewski and van Osselaer, 2000).
Classical models of brand management such at the CBBE model pay insufficient attention to staff as brand builders – placing more emphasis on external issues such as image (de Chernatony, 2010). Kapferer’s hexagonal brand identity prism (2004) considers that whilst brand image is best understood from the picture of the recipient, brand identity is best understood from the picture of the sender (Konecnik, & Go, 2008) – and so it highlights where the dimensions of values and relationship connect sender and receiver to let the brand flow as a message (Kapferer, 2008). In a B2B environment, this model is more suited as it is a greater representation of interpersonal relationship building.
Applying Kapferer’s model, for brand identity the Physique of Foam for Care UK for example can be highlighted by the organisation a ‘quality driven, industry leading support solutions provider’. And with the strapline ‘The Passion for Comfort’, the Personality of the FFC brand could be considered as established, product oriented, honest, meticulous and accountable.
For brand image, Foam for Care customers tend to identify themselves as innovators of medical support solutions, with quality at the centre of their product portfolio. The ‘quality brand’ perception (Reflection) of Foam for Care as a result differentiates the brand with a number of competitors, particularly those with economical product and pricing.
Once brand identity has been understood, this can be applied to building a brand. Methods of brand building available to Foam for Care centre on people and product. Foam for Care relies heavily on personal selling as a brand building tool; it is therefore important that their values and behaviours align with the brand’s desired values. In de Chernatony’s (2010) study of brand management, it clarifies the importance of culture in brand building and discusses how an adaptive, and consistent culture throughout an organisation is connected to healthy brand performance.
Foam for Care can also brand build by user experience – this is where the target audience perceives product quality, functional benefits and brand image as a given. By making the customer the most important component of the brand, focus is placed on the design and usability of products to drive brand strategy.
As highlighted by scholars such as Keller (2001), building a strong brand with significant equity will have a range of great benefits, including customer loyalty, less vulnerability in the competitive market, and increased marketing communication effectiveness. As discussed above, Foam for Care position themselves as quality driven and industry leading – building a brand based on this physique enhances FFC’s credibility with customers, and in the healthcare industry. As this credibility builds, it also adds recognition, loyalty and competitiveness. If a company is well-known and trusted, a sale is far more likely.
b) External Communications throughout the Product Lifecycle
Used to describe the lifespan of a product, the product lifecycle (PLC) has four distinct stages: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Critical factors that drive the dynamics of PLC include change in technology and change in consumer tastes (Grant, 2013). Each stage is associated with a change in the product’s marketing position, so differing marketing strategies are required because competitive advantage is related to different key success factors (Cox, 1967).
For Foam for Care, original product ‘Tri-flex’ can be considered when analysing the PLC. For context, Tri-flex is a three-part mattress – developed to both prevent the development and aid the treatment of pressure ulcers in 24/7 use bed patients.
The introduction stage of a product’s life cycle is an opportunity to build an awareness of a product in certain markets. In the healthcare industry, it is important to build trust and credibility amongst key influencers. As discussed by Goranova (2016), to win consumers’ trust, it is most profitable for a company to invest mainly in public relations. This will involve significant communications regarding milestones – clinical trial results, financing and new partnerships. The target audiences (distributors, end-users, investors) will vary, and so this will involve increased personal selling efforts – equipped with a price skimming strategy, to represent the product’s innovation and exclusivity on the market.
During the growth stage of the product’s life cycle, the demand grows and the competition increases. As a result, promotional thrust will shift from creating awareness towards encouraging repeat purchases and brand preference (Blythe, 2009). This can be achieved through a range of marketing tactics such as trade magazine advertisement, presenting a full service and package deal with the product – such as supporting equipment, and a no obligation product trial service. This is an example of enhancing value through the augmented product. The product can also be presented industry tradeshows for in-person demonstration; the aim being to present the capabilities of the product that could not be replicated by a competitor dynamic model.
Once the Tri-flex mattress reaches the maturity stage, the company will seek to maintain market share and product differentiation due to increased competition (Blythe, 2009). A key differential for the Tri-flex is price vs performance – and so a direct marketing campaign can be carried out over several months to demonstrate the clinical benefits that the Tri-flex mattress has compared with the fully electric dynamic mattress. At a fifth of the cost and providing the same results, this campaign should be aimed at procurement staff who are driven on cost efficiency.
Despite this, most products fall into the decline phase due to “replacement” products being offered, primarily through enhanced technology or unique design. In the instance of Tri-flex, it will be both the fully dynamic and ‘hybrid’ mattress models that see the sales of the Tri-flex make a gradual decline in recent years.
To reduce distribution costs at this stage, as highlighted by Blythe (2009) a harvest strategy can be taken by limiting promotion of the Tri-flex product family to selected to personal selling only – targeting distributors that actively work with nursing home groups.
c) Creative brief for an external communications campaign
Foam for Care Creative Brief
Project Tri-flex video
Project Manager xxx
Responsible Owner xxx
Date 12th March 2019
Project Objective To produce a product demonstration video for the Tri-flex mattress
As published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in 2014, pressure ulcers on average cost the NHS around £3.36 million per annum per trust – with around 4.7% of inpatients being treated for a bed sore. These guidelines recommend a frequency of repositioning for those at risk of pressure ulcers, and so this product is the result of years of work with leading clinicians in both acute and community care – to achieve effective positioning through the mattress itself.
Tri-flex is a three-layered foam mattress with a unique, foldable/rollable middle layer that provides numerous customisable positioning options for the user. The mattress has completed a successful clinical trial with case studies, which will be a key message driver in this campaign.
We have now prepared a campaign called ‘Shaping for Comfort’ (the tagline for the Tri-flex brand). This further represents the brand image and tone that we would like to present in marketing communications.
The objective of this communications campaign is creating awareness of the Tri-flex product, and to educate potential customers on the benefits of the mattress. As this may be used for overseas sales, we need to ensure that the video is accessible and reliant on visuals.
This is with a view to begin achieving sales with 3 to 4 distribution partners by Q2 2020.
Produce a video, no longer than 5 minutes, as a product demonstration of the Tri-flex mattress. This should take an informative approach in a community care setting, and should include real-life scenarios in which this mattress would be at its most useful.
In addition, a further 1 minute video based on the above edit for the Tri-flex cushion, and a demonstration of use in the same setting. The aim of this video is to demonstrate Tri-flex as a package offer.
Collect more product demonstration footage than is required for this video and provide raw footage for use in shorter, specific videos. This will allow a Sales person to cater a demonstration edit to a particular patients need when pitching.
Target audience for this mattress will be Management/procurement team of Care Home Trusts
A direct competitor to the Tri-flex mattress is the OSKA Series2-V2. This has an ‘off-loader’ function, which can be used to suspend the heel for ‘zero pressure’ (OSKA, 2019). Much like Tri-flex, this is a foldable layer. On the catalogue listing on the website, this product has an introductory video, as well as detail regarding product specification.
Indirect competitors to this product will include community care furniture suppliers such as Invacare and Drive Devilbiss.
Insights into Audience
In the community care industry, there is a large emphasis on cost-saving solutions. They are looking for mattresses that can assist nurses with manual handling, yet are simple to use. Carers in this sector of the industry will not be as well trained in patient treatment, and so procurement teams may be sceptical of over-marketed, over-complicated product campaigns.
Audience Reaction (in priority order):
- This is a great solution for positioning patients
- This mattress looks simple to use
- This mattress is a cost effective solution
- Complete a call to action (make an enquiry, visit the website, purchase a mattress etc)
- Straight-to-the-point, free of jargon
- Informative, but not information heavy
Must be flexible enough for standalone use for Sales teams and email campaigns as well as on the web, for example on the Tri-flex catalogue listing, or a campaign landing page.
Must be designed with the ‘Shaping for Comfort’ campaign visuals and tone in mind. All work must adhere to Recticel brand guidelines; this will include typography, use of images, and tone of voice. The company guidelines are available on request.
Budget and Timings:
Quotes should be received by 12th April, with a view of completion by 12th May in preparation for the campaign launch in Q3.
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