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The youth market is probably the most difficult market for an organisation to compete in. Products for young people are often a form of self-expression – a fashion statement shaped by an infinite mix of influences which often change rapidly. Competing in such a market involves being close to customers, understanding their behaviour and the many different factors which influence it. In fast changing markets such as the youth market, it is important for an organisation to offer a ‘product’ that includes many of the features, benefits and services with which young people can identify. A product strategy goes beyond simply developing a range of products. It also involves providing a distinctive identity for the products with which users can identify. This process is known as branding.
As brands become familiar, they begin to represent a series of values or meanings. These may be tangible, such as the physical shape and packaging of a product, or less tangible such as brand personality. The challenge for a large organisation like Boots is to develop brand values and meanings with which consumers can identify. In marketing terms, 17 is a mature brand. It is a 30-year old brand with 350 products in its range. The target market for brand 17 is 15-19 year olds. Targeting is a process where marketing efforts are aimed at a particular market.
Over the past five years, the profile of the 17 brand has changed significantly. Initially, it was a budget brand identified by low prices. Now it is perceived as a ‘happening’, ‘with-it’ brand for ‘girls with attitude’. At first, however, the new profile for the brand was not being delivered instore. Although Boots’ attitudinal advertising had been successful in re-positioning the brand, this advertising promise was not being delivered in-store. There was a clear need to undertake research designed to re-launch the brand, further develop its profile and improve its market share.
For 17, this meant that the overall objective of the re-positioning process would be to:
- develop 17 as the teenage make-up brand
- evaluate its logo styles and packaging features to ensure an appropriate fit with the 17
- personality portrayed through the advertising
- match the consumer understanding of 17 with its new brand personality
- deliver this positioning in-store with new merchandising units.
This was an important moment for the 17 brand. For many users, the in-store displays looked out of date and the packaging and look of the brand needed to be improved. This was a key opportunity for Boots to grow market share and in doing so, encourage existing users of the brand to buy more.
The best brands convey a series of meanings for their customers. For the 15 to 19 year old market, 17 represents a range of values based on ‘girls with attitude’. The aim was to create a communications experience that would provide girls with a broader vision for their activities. The 17 brand would help them feel that girls can get what they want. The functional value of the brand would be to look great physically and this would be complemented by the emotional value of the brand which would encourage them to feel great.
- undervalue the brand
- cheapen the range of products
- suggest a basic product portfolio
- lack desirability.
It was important to raise the status of the brand so that it would reflect the personality and lifestyle of its users - becoming a brand in its own right which would go beyond ‘Boots for
Youth’. 17 was thus scheduled for a packaging re-launch in 1998. The research
objectives were to look at:
- colour - to look at the colour preference for the brand and make a decision whether to move away from the navy blue
- logo design - to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of six new logo designs
- pack design - to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the newly proposed design features.
Approaches to research
There are many different approaches to research. A popular approach in recent years has been by focus group. Focus groups comprise small groups of individuals and are used to discover the views which people have about issues relating to products. For 17, research was based on a number of friendship discussions amongst young women, plus a number of more detailed interviews. Stimulus materials were used for these meetings such as:
- boards showing the new logo styles and design features
- the range of 17 products
- examples of lipstick, nail varnish, mascara and other products from competitive brands
- 17 advertisements.
This research showed that the favourite packaging for 15 to 19 year olds had:
- unusual materials (such as a matt finish)
- dark colours (and were not plastic looking)
- recognisable markings (such as logos and designs)
- chunky, rounded shapes
- consistency across a range of products
- a touch of silver or gold
- practicality (pocketable, easy to use, with mirrors or applicators)
- conformist shapes.
Individuals unanimously preferred the deep blue of 17. It was seen as a strong point of distinctiveness. Black was considered to be lazy and predictable and green was not considered to be a colour of fun or assertiveness. The silver element of 17 was recognised to have higher status than ever before. Silver was valued by young women as being fashionable and chic, helping to develop a clean, simple and individualistic image. Silver was also considered the perfect complement to the blue. The matt finish was appealing and the new componentry shape of the cosmetics was positively welcomed. They provided intrinsic aesthetic appeal and an impression of quality. The current 17 logo was popular and none of the newly developed logo designs offered a strong rationale for replacement. It was, however, important to give the 17 logo greater prominence so that it would develop value in its own right.
These key design issues were identified through the research and aimed to provide a distinctive change to the 17 range. It was important that the process showed consumers that the repositioning was not simply a ‘tweak’. The new design could only have impact by emphasising the bold personality of the range to create a ‘must have’ brand.
- good quality
- sophisticated packs
- reasonably priced
- good range of products and colours
- not No 7.
The vast majority of respondents knew that 17 was only found in Boots. Although they felt that Boots and 17 had different personalities, they thought they worked together for mutual benefit. Boots had the quality, locations and environment while 17 had the understanding of teenagers and new ideas.
Feeding into strategies
A key benefit of using consumer research is the direction it provides for a range of marketing activities such as advertising. Consumers felt that Boots ‘should advertise more’, building the brand through different methods of advertising. In order to make the advertising relevant for young people, advertising should be through:
- television advertising
- bill boards
Promotions were also viewed as a key element of the re-positioning process
with five areas identified:
- a bigger area given over to 17 to include testers and new products
- information such as how to put make-up on as well as send off for advice
- discounts, samples and offers
- promotion by association, such as discounts on cinema tickets and sponsorship
- events such as 17 on tour with roadshows and fashion shows.
The research into 17 was undertaken to ascertain whether the consumer understanding of the 17 brand matched the brand personality ‘girls with attitude’. The research suggested that the re-shaping process would help 17 to move along the path from a value brand to become the teenage make-up brand. The ‘girls with attitude’ image portrayed by the advertising appeared to be particularly relevant for the teenage market and relevant for the future development of the brand. It set the scene for the further development of a product range with a distinctive identity targeted at young people.
It is not possible to introduce a new brand store-wide at one point in time. It is a difficult logistical operation and the position of current stock levels must also be taken account of i.e. old stocks must be used up. During 1998, the reshaped brand was introduced into Boots stores on a run-in/run-out basis in preparation for the re-launch in the summer. The re-launch was a key moment in the life of the 17 brand. Focused on the changing preferences of young people, it has improved the competitive position of the brand by injecting new life into it - providing it with a more promising future.