Using new product development to grow a brand

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 Kellogg’s and the marketing mix

With annual sales of more than £4.5 billion, Kellogg’s is the world’s leading producer of cereal products and convenience foods, such as cookies, crackers and frozen waffles. Its brands include Corn Flakes, Nutri-Grain and Rice Krispies.

Kellogg’s is a global organisation. Its products are manufactured in 19 countries worldwide and sold in more than 180 countries. In an uncertain world where the organisation’s strategy is to focus on products and brands that are either the market leader or in a strong second position the company believes that this focus upon core and successful products enables it to provide consistent and reliable returns and rewards for its stakeholders.

The need for change

When a company like Kellogg’s is investigating a change in its marketing it can consider four elements. These are known as the marketing mix or 4Ps:

  • Product - This element relates to how the company offers meets the changing needs and wants of customers. The growth in healthier lifestyles creates opportunities for Kellogg’s to increase the number of products for this segment.
  • Price - The amount a company charges for its product is important in determining sales. Superbrands like Kellogg’s can charge a premium because of the strength of the brand and product quality.
  • Place - Where customers can purchase the product is also an important factor in determining sales. If a brand like Special K is not stocked in supermarkets where most purchases are made, sales will be lost.
  • Promotion - Communicating the availability of a product is essential for sales to be made. Kellogg’s uses above the line promotion like TV advertising as well as below the line promotion like on-pack promotions and sampling.

In considering Special K, the company concentrated on changing the product through new variants. Although Special K was already a well-established brand, its full potential had never been reached. It was viewed as a stand-alone product, and Kellogg’s had not created any variants or brand extensions to develop the core product.

Managers can decide when to make key changes to a core product by analysing its position within the product life-cycle. Life-cycle analysis accepts that products have a finite life, and analysts chart a product’s performance through several phases, from its launch through various phases of growth until it reaches maturity and eventually decline.

A product’s life cycle may last only a few months (e.g. with a fad or craze) or, as with Special K, for many years. Although it was a successful product, Kellogg’s recognised the opportunity to stretch the brand by investments that would:

  • revitalise it
  • extend and further develop its growth phase
  • help to delay the onset of the maturity phase.

Kellogg’s was convinced that such investment would help to maintain the brand’s strength in a rapidly changing market place.

 The product life-cycle

The traditional product life-cycle shows how a product goes through 4 stages during its life in the market place. At each stage in the product life-cycle, there is a close relationship between sales and profit so when a product goes into decline, profits decrease.

When a product is introduced to the market, growth is slow due to limited awareness. As the product is establishing itself, sales will start to increase during the period of growth. As the product reaches maturity, the company needs to inject new life into the product, either by creating brand extensions or variants otherwise the product will reach maturity and start to decline.

Before taking any investment decisions, Kellogg's undertook market research. It wanted to answer these questions:

  • What changes taking place in society are likely to affect the product?
  • How might new technologies affect our business?
  • What are likely to be the future market trends?
  • Where are the opportunities within the market place?
  • What new categories would appeal to the target market?
  • How far do consumers think the brand could stretch into the market for different product categories?

Kellogg's had to understand how the product could be extended into a series of variants which would keep the core product strong, but grow the brand as a whole.

Manufacturing capability is another key issue. If launches of new products are successful in global markets, Kellogg's must have the manufacturing capacity to meet consumer demand as well as the supply chain necessary to reach those consumers.

 Special K - cereal

Initial developments came from Kellogg's in France, who introduced red berries into the cereal. This new product performed well. Market research in the UK, including consumer tests, also identified a real opportunity within the UK market.

In October 1999, Kellogg's launched Special K Red Berries in the UK. From the outset it performed well, with very little damage to the core brand: most sales were additional and above expectations; consumers did not swap the 'old' product for the new variant.

Evaluating the launch revealed further scope for product development. It was, however, important to ensure that any new products tasted different from the original Special K and the Special K Red Berries, so as not to harm their sales.

Extensive product development research was carried out by food technologists. Kellogg's then tested the product with quantitative research. Kellogg's launched Special K Peach & Apricot in February 2003.

 Special K - bars

Kellogg's already knew that women who are keen to watch their weight and shape seek a range of solutions throughout the day - not just at breakfast. With the help of both users and non-users of existing Special K products, market researchers undertook further quantitative tests of product ideas across a range of food categories.

The research identified that cereal bars offered the strongest opportunity to develop Special K as a healthy snack. The brief was then developed and the Special K bar was launched in July 2001, with significant television coverage. Consumers were also able to sample the bar through specific promotional activity. The Peach & Apricot variant was added to the portfolio in February 20

 Growing the brand

Kellogg's soon came to realise that the variants were responsible for a huge growth in the Special K brand, without a drop in sales of the core cereal product. New product development had transformed the brand within the UK. This in turn gave a great opportunity to roll-out other developments in other markets, including the USA, Australia and Canada. Product research showed that the UK products could be adapted to meet the individual tastes of consumers within those markets.

The Kellogg's strategy was truly global; it developed an idea in Europe which it then adapted and applied worldwide. Within the space of 2 years the extensions to the brand had achieved global coverage, and were providing not only significant developments in sales value and volume of Special K products, but also a huge boost to the brand's equity.

Supporting such expansion was not always easy for Kellogg's UK. Initially it produced all the Special K variants sold within Europe. The UK company had to increase its manufacturing capacity and also refine supply chainmanagement processes to ensure that the product would be available at the point of purchase. It had opened a portable foods plant at Wrexham, to produce bars. Other capacity was created by commissioning the production of Special K cereal in Spain.

 Creating a stronger position

When contemplating long-term investment decisions, brand managers face two key questions.

  1. In what projects should the company invest?
  2. What level of investment should be approved?

For the Kellogg company, market research suggested that using funds to develop variants on Special K looked like a comparatively low risk project that offered the prospect of a good rate of return. This was largely because it involved developing and extending a brand that already enjoyed huge consumer support in ways that could be adapted to the market place worldwide. The judgement has proved to be correct, to the benefit of the company and its many stakeholders.

Kellogg's | Using new product development to grow a brand