The proliferation of internet had given rise to new possibilities, due to the unique characteristics of digital media, on these aspects: interactivity; intelligence; individualisation; integration; industry restructuring; and independence of location (McDonald and Wilson, 1999). In other words, it is possible to deliver more personalised, accurate, relevant and yet timely services and messages to consumers, regardless of the location of a business. In such a situation, to develop a virtual brand became utmost important aspect of business management; as it is through a brand that a particular business can be differentiated effectively form the competitors.
From another perspective, the 4Fashion brand was developed earlier to target this particular segment of consumers: middle class consumers with age range from 18-40 years old, whom lead busy and fast-paced lifestyles, whom are fashion conscious – from United Kingdom. To differentiate the 4Fashion brand form other competitors’ brand, the unique brand identity of 4Fashion was developed and characterized via Kapferer’s (2008) Brand Identity Model. The 4Fashion brand, under this particular model is shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Brand Identity of 4Fashion
This report will articulate about a virtual brand marketing communication campaign on 4 Fashion. This will be done via these steps: (i) review of the external environment (macro analysis), (ii) review of the competitive environment (micro analysis), and finally (iii) providing recommendations to promote, strengthen and develop 4Fashion.
To conduct a situational review on competitive brand, the PEST Analysis upon the fashion industry will be conducted. Taking the framework developed by Constantinides and Foutain (2008), which is shown in Figure 2 below, the various forces in the external environment are those uncontrollable stimuli. These stimuli will be researched, so that a marketing plan can be developed by managing those controllable variables (i.e., marketing mix of 4Fashion), to suit those uncontrollable stimuli in the business environment.
Figure 2: Uncontrollable Stimuli
Overall, political situation in UK is stable. However, the legal aspect that should be concerned of by e-marketers is about the Data Protection and Privacy Laws.
Economy growth of UK going forward is expected to be slow, around 1-2% per annum (Moore, 2013; Leach, 2012). Then, UK is a developed economy, and that have some impacts upon marketing communication strategy of a company. First of all, as compared to emerging countries, consumers in developed countries pay greater attention to the emotional brand connection delivered by a brand (Pauwels, Erguncu & Yildirim, 2013).
As shown in Figure 3 below, societal factors that affect the attitudes of consumers, thereby (within the context of this report) the actual purchases and brand profitability on a brand. For that, some crucial societal trends will be discussed below.
Figure 3: Factors Affecting Purchase Behaviours of Consumers
Source: Dennis et. al. (2009)
As shown in Figure 4, fertility rate has been slow (Brewer, Ratcliffe & Dsmith, 2011). That trend is accompanied by the rising proportion of single people living in the UK (Benady, 2013). Indeed, it is expected that in year 2030, one fifth of the population in UK will be aged above 65 (Figure 5). The aging demographic will affect how consumers’ changing needs on fashion products.
Figure 4: Fertility rate in UK
Source: Brewer, Ratcliffe & Dsmith (2011)
Figure 5: Aging Issue in UK
Source: Roberts (2003)
Yet, one very critical trend is about the rising consumer awareness on the needs to preserve the natural environment (Goworek, Fisher, Cooper, Woodward & Hiller, 2012), of which there are also evidences that corporations are paying attention to such phenomenon (Haddock, 2005), in their communication strategies (Figure 6).
Figure 6: UK Companies and their Respective ‘Green’ Communication Strategy
Source: Haddock (2005)
Due to the rise of internet technologies, internet had already become part of marketing activities, as most of the firms do use internet for marketing purposes. Indeed, internet is a complementary marketing tool to those traditional marketing channel or medium (Harridge-March, 2004). The implication is that not to leverage on opportunities offered by internet will cost dearly for a firm in the near future.
Aside from that, it is also crucial to aware that new technologies such as internet can have impacts upon the internal environment (i.e., within a firm), and that it can be leveraged to enhance marketing-oriented culture within an organization (Taps and Hughes, 2004). This suggests that internet shall be used not merely for external marketing, but also in the context of internal marketing, in aligning the employees to serve the customers better.
In this section, critical analysis and review on competitors’ brand will be performed. For that, the position of competitor’s brands as compared to 4Fashion is shown in Figure 7 below. It can be seen that brand such as ‘asos’, ‘NET.A.PORTER.COM’, ‘4Fashion’ and ‘Urban Outfitters’ are all brand of strong brand awareness. ‘4Fashion’ brand compete in the low price segment, of which the direct competitors are actually: ‘asos’ and ‘Urban Outfitters’.
Figure 7: Positioning of Brands
To better analyse the various aspects of these competitors’ brand, differences and comparisons of these brands, from these dimensions: brand objective; commitment on the brand; the strategic direction of the brand, core strengths of the brand, main weakness of the brand, the competitive position of a brand, as well as the likelihood that a brand will change; are presented in Figure 8 below.
Figure 8: Comparison of Brands
Then, through the use of the Ansoff (1965) matrix, the main strategies employed by each brand can also be observed and analysed. For that, 4Fashion will obviously pursue a market penetration strategy, as to gain market shares, since it is a new brand (and that it is reasonable to expect that the growth rate of 4Fashuon in the near future will be high). Such a strategy is also employed by these brands: SHOPSTYLE, POLYVORE and NET.A.PORTER.COM.
However, brand such as URBAN OUTFITTERS seemed to focus more on market development strategy, as the firm is found to place greater emphasis on the new Asia market, rather than the UK market. Yet, a brand such as ‘asos’ would likely engage more on product development strategy, as it not only has good presence globally, but also has quite a broad product portfolio.
It is also possible to discuss about the direction of the marketing communication strategy via scholarly framework such as Generic Strategic Framework proposed by Porter (1980). For that, it is obvious that 4Fashion is pursuing a niche strategy, while other brands such as SHOPSTYLE seemed to be focusing more on a cost leadership strategy. The various brand, to a large degree, tried to differentiate itself from each other, either by focusing on the different market segment, different geographical area or focus on the quality of fashion (i.e., high, medium or low end of the fashion market).
From the competitive analysis, it can be noticed that the various brands do not actually competing face to face. Rather, they focus on different niche, of which that make the competition less intense among the industry players. In a way, the positioning of 4Fashion make the competition irrelevant (i.e., a Blue Ocean Strategy), as 4Fashion is supposed to be a brand that consolidate all other brands. In light of that, it is valid to consider 4Fashion as having an advantageous position in the fashion industry.
In this section, recommendation will be provided, based on input from situational analysis, competitor analysis and the online marketing tools currently available to the e-marketers. Then, in order to facilitate the discussions herein, the DRIP model by Fill (2005) will also be employed (to develop the e-marketing communication strategy).
D – differentiate: To differentiate effectively, 4Fashion brand will be positioned as the single brand that represents all other major brands. It is not ‘another’ brand developed to sell fashion related products to consumers. Rather, it is the brand of all brands. Such point of view is indeed first of its kind in the marketplace, and would be fast to capture the awareness and interests of the public.
R – reinforce. To reinforce the image, it is crucial to try to diver the consumers’ attention to 4Fashion brand, whenever they think of the other major fashion brands. This can be done by telling the consumers that they have the opportunities to evaluate all different brands, through the web portal of 4 Fashion; and therefore, they can make better choices. Indeed, even when a consumer have strong brand loyalty towards a particular brand, 4Fashion can still serve them because they can reach their preferred brand via 4Fashion – probably at a more attractive prices. In short, 4Fashion brand is the experience about ‘all brands’. It represents every brand in the fashion industry… and it is the new consolidator of all fashion brands.
I – inform. Due to cost constraints and the need to be truly effective, the two digital media mediums to be employed in this 4Fashion marketing communication campaigns are: email marketing and social media (Table 1). The use of social media is crucial as while the traditional ways of advertising have some effects on a brand; it is not a very effective mean to develop a strong brand – as consumers in UK seemed to discount information from advertisement significantly (Buil, Chernatony & Martínez, 2013). How to leverage on both these digital media will be further articulated below.
P – persuade: Based on research, to truly persuade the consumers in UK demands a business to appeal emotionally to the consumers (Kershaw, 2012; Christodoulides, Michaelidou & Argyriou, 2012). In order to establish the rapport or relationships with the customers, some strategies must be implemented. These strategies will be outlined through the use of the Marketing Mix Framework to be shown below (Table 2).
The first digital media tool is the use of email marketing. This can be done by setting up a landing page, of which persuade the visitor to the web-portal of 4Fashion, to sign up for newsletter (i.e., opt-in) to receive free e-book on Fashion survey. Then, the leads (i.e., list of interested clients) can be obtained, of which constant marketing communication programme can be sent to them every week. Email marketing is selected as it allows more targeted communication with customers, at relatively lower costs (when compared to the traditional advertising). Besides, such campaign can be automated.
Then, the second digital media to be employed is the use of social media. There are many types of social media, such as: Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Second Life, and Twitter (Kaplan & Haelein, 2009). One of the special characteristics of social media is that it allows user-generated contents, which make the communication process more interactive, as compared to other medium such as email marketing or traditional advertisement (Kaplan & Haelein, 2009). The use of social media is relevant as it allows for cost reduction, enhancing brand awareness (wider audience), and more importantly, it is about the fact of increasing popularity of social media among the society (Tsimonis & Dimitriadis, 2014). Indeed, as electronic words of mouth are becoming more powerful nowadays, the use of social media is indeed inevitable in marketing communication campaign of a firm (Pan, 2014; Shin, 2013; Sung & Cho, 2012). Then, it is noted that Facebook is most popular nowadays, as consumers spend long hours in such social media. For that Facebook will be used as the main social medium medium to reach, persuade and influence the consumers.
To outline the strategies to persuade and influence the consumers, key marketing activities, as detailed through the use of 8Ps of marketing mix (Goldsmith, 1999) will be employed.
- Product: 4Fashion will only market products or brands of good quality. Warranties will be provided. Besides, the main competitive edge of 4Fashion is about providing large selections for customers.
- Promotion: sales promotion will be given to those that sign up the newsletter offered by 4Fashion. Free gift will be provided to consumers that had participated in any sort of ‘green’ or environmental preservation activities (that are approved by the firm).
- Price: the price charged will be lower than the retail prices (i.e., as compared to when consumers buy from the physical stores). Consumers are allowed to pay via instalment.
- Place: The communication channel will be via: web-portal, Facebook fan page as well as newsletters (i.e., email marketing).
- People: customer services will be trained to be responsive, friendly, helpful and effective.
- Process: Customer orientation will be valued highly, and all business processes will be adjusted to meet customers’ preferences. All other business activities that cannot add value to consumers will be eliminated. Besides, constant feedback collected from customers via Facebook, as well as through the use of inputs from Google analytics, will be employed to continuously improve the branding effectiveness of 4Fashion.
- Physical evidence: a focus on delivering trustworthy, convenience and fun online experience will be critical to strengthen brand awareness and brand equity of 4Fasion.
Overall, this report had discuss about the general and competitive business environment facing 4Fashion, and based on these inputs, had also recommended the relevant communication strategies to enhance brand awareness and brand equity of 4Fashion.
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