- Dove’s use of Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning to Achieve a Competitive Advantage
Dove is one of Unilever’ master brands whose success has been drawn by careful segmentation, targeting a particular segment and positioning the product to fulfill the people’s needs. Segmentation theory acknowledges the heterogeneity of all markets (Jaman 2012). Consequently, companies like Unilever are able to generate their marketing mix after analyzing the behaviors, characteristics and needs of each market and create a communication strategy that appeals to them. The theory also asserts that there are several homogenous groups within any market (Jaman 2012). The success of any firm in a market depends on whether it can be able to target the groups that feel ignored by competitors (Ramaswamy 2013).
The Dove product segments the market according to self esteem levels (Deighton 2008). Unilever submits that there are people that believe that the current definition of beauty is attainable, while others believe that it is not. This is an example of psychographic segmentation because it is directed at the emotional state of consumers. The fact that it segments the target into male and female means it also uses demographic segmentation (Khan, 2013). It also focuses on the benefits that the brand can offer consumers, which qualifies it as benefit segmentation; it is not based on observable characters but aims at making consumers perceive positive change in their minds and attribute the change to the products (Jaman 2012). The brand targets the latter group and goes ahead to promote their product in a way that appeals to them; that makes them feel the need to use the products. Since the brand’s management based their segmentation on market research, they did post hoc market segmentation (Hunt & Arnett 2004). This is in recognition of the fact that in the dynamic contemporary society, miss-segmenting a market is worse than assuming that the needs and attributes of a mass market are the same (Ramaswamy, 2013).
In practice, the created segments must be in actual existence and not a creation of a marketer’s imagination (Hunt & Arnett 2004). It must also be quantifiable in terms of purchasing power and market size. The aforementioned conditions are often difficult to fulfil because of the non-existence of readymade data. However, the managers of the brand were able to comply with the standards. There are millions of people in the US, and around the world, who believe they are not beautiful because of the current definitions of beauty (Deighton 2008). The segments created from self esteem issues are also measurable. Slender women feel more comfortable in their bodies and feel confident in their bodies than bigger women. The inclusion of a psychologist in the segmentation process is testament to the segments created by self esteem issues. Data is not in any way needed to prove that the self esteem issue exists in human beings and that causes that can be addressed through the use of beauty products are more prevalent in women than men.
One of the key requirements for segmentation is that the business prospects of the segments must be substantial and stable for a relatively long period of time (Jaman 2012). The issue of perceptions of beauty has been around for a long time. It is also poised to stay for a long time to come. Therefore, the segments created and the one targeted is financially viable and stable. Therefore, the segmentation process of the Dove brand creates a competitive advantage for the company. In addition, Unilever’s research revealed that it is only a meagre 2% of women that find themselves beautiful, means that 98% of women fall under the target market, making it quite a sizeable segment (Deighton 2008).
The brand’s mission is not to “make women feel more beautiful”, but rather to make “more women feel beautiful (Deighton 2008).” This means that the product is not positioned to enhance the appearance of women, but to make them feel better about their real selves. It changes the idea of beauty from an elitist one to one that is all-encompassing, egalitarian and celebratory. This augurs well with the brand’s target segment; women that feel like they do not fit into the perception of beauty. As Unilever’s competitors compete in changing the appearance of women, Dove, through its products, incorporates all women in its broad definition. This emotional appeal hands it a competitive advantage, by challenging existing norms. It is assisted by the fact that its new model of beauty would be appreciated by more people, including those that have issues with themselves.
The segmentation, targeting and positioning strategy adopted by Dove does not rely solely on descriptive factors but rather factors that have a causal relationship with buying behaviour in the future. Basing their strategy on factors that can predict consumer’s buying behaviour in the future enables them to pursue a segment that its competitors never knew existed (Jaman 2012). The technique used by Dove underscores the belief that real market segments exist because of the fundamental reason that people consume particular products simply because they seek certain benefits. Therefore, any brand seeking competitive advantage must show consumers that its products shall provide the benefits (Hunt & Arnett 2004). In this case, there is a true segment that seeks to feel beautiful and would consume Dove products just to attain that benefit. This hands the brand a competitive advantage over its competitors.
The segment that the management of Dove targeted is a premium segment; the customers are not price sensitive because of the product is perceptually different. Therefore, the segment is accessible to the brand because it does not have to compete on price because their product is differentiated, thus reducing competition. The target enables Unilever to attain a differentiation advantage, which leads to a competitive advantage. Due to differentiation, barriers to entry exist meaning that new companies need to do a lot so as to compete with Unilever in the same segment.
The market segmentation, targeting and positioning of Unilever enable Unilever to conduct research and make changes without losing market share. The brand has continuously evolved, but its sales have been stable and sometimes gone up. The brand changed its positioning from one of functionality to a point of view, while still maintaining its market share (Deighton 2008). Had it chosen a different segmentation technique, the targets and positioning would also be different. However, any huge changes to the brand like the change of a brand from a moisturizer to an idea on beauty, like Dove did, would have unsettled it and exposed it to competition. This shows that the current techniques have enabled it gain competitive advantage; there is no threat of competition even when the company is making whole scale changes.
In marketing, positioning does not entail changes to a product but rather what a brand to prospective consumer’s mind (Ramaswamy 2013). Its positioning enables the brand to be perceived as different even though the products within the master brand serve the same physical purposes as those of their competitors. According to the positioning strategy, Dove products enable women to take better care of their bodies. However, it all starts in the mind; they start by believing that they are beautiful since the product broadens the definition and strive to remain attractive by taking care of their bodies.
Despite its documented success and upsides, Dove’s segmentation, targeting and positioning is inconsistent with some of the products under the Masterbrand, for example, the firming cream. This is because the use of firming cream is consistent with stereotypes of beauty that the brand seeks to diminish. It is widely believed that women with firm bodies are beautiful, a belief that the firming cream enhances. Therefore, its products and positioning are in conflict, which can negatively affect the competitive edge that the brand ought to have.
Deighton, J. 2008. Dove: Evolution of a Brand. Harvard Business School , 1-13.
Hunt, S. D., & Arnett, D. B. 2004. Market Segmentation Strategy, Competitive Advantage, and Public Policy: Grounding Segmentation Strategy in Resource-Advantage Theory. Australasian Marketing Journal , 7-25.
Jaman, M. 2012. Critical Analysis of Segmentation Strategy For Potential Product Launch – Mapping The Customers. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research , 62-65.
Khan, T. 2013. STP strategy for New Product Launch-a Work in Progress. International Journal of Business and Management Invention , 56-65.
Ramaswamy. 2013. Marketing Management. New Delhi, India: Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
- Evaluation of Dove’s Chances of Continued Success as a Global Brand
For Dove to achieve continued success as a global brand, it must be able to appropriately adapt to the external environment and hence survive and flourish in the long run despite the level of competition. It must also take its opportunities and address threats to its business and market share in global markets. Therefore, before addressing its chances of continued success, an analysis of the brand’s opportunities and threats is imperative.
In the next 5-10 years, Dove has several opportunities on which it can capitalize to increase its sales and market share. The first opportunity arises from the other segments that the brand does not target. It targets women only (Deighton 2008). Men’s demand for body care products has been on the rise. Therefore, the brand can expand to men’s shaving creams and baby body lotions. The new market will surely be able to improve its sales and image as a huge brand around the world. The brand can also expand its product line to include post-natal and natural products.
Secondly, the level of consumer consumption in developing nations also creates a larger market for Dove products. Traditionally, they were buying less as compared to developing nations but that trend is slowly changing. In addition, the urban population in those nations has also been on the rise. Cognizant of the fact that Dove products are popular among urban dwellers, the rise of consumption rates of these groups presents the brand with an opportunity to augment its market share. The shift in levels of consumption is illustrated by the pie-charts below. BRIC refers to Brazil, Russia, India and China, while G7 is the traditional group of 7. RoW is the rest of the world; consumption increases from 17% to 22% in the course of the current decade.
The other opportunity is with regards to quality. The management of the brand can expand its appeal and acceptance around the globe by improving the quality of its products. The company can also unify its advertisements all over the world since the idea of self esteem is universal. That would enable it to reduce advertisement costs and drive prices down.
There is also room for innovation that can propel the brand’s sales. Innovation can involve making alterations to the product or marketing strategy to enhance the appeal, accessibility and affordability of the products selling under the brand. It is innovation that can help it expand its market to the male and baby products segments because their needs, behaviours and attributes are totally different from those of women. The growth of the body wash segment and the sale of non-deodorant soap in the global market also present an opportunity that the brand can capitalize on. The company can put in the right measures to expand its share within the segment and that would directly translate to increased revenue, profit and contribution to the economy.
Since the fashion industry is slowly embracing women other than slender models, the brand can collaborate with the industry to promote its idea of real beauty and show how far the idea has grown. They can also start collaborating with some moderate feminist groups to promote their notion of beauty. However, they should avoid groups that would likely have a polarizing effect on the population. The brand also has the opportunity to integrate the marketing idea into all aspects of the brand and mother company. In that way, products will be created with a clear marketing idea in mind, which can only be beneficial to the brand’s sales.
The brand also has the opportunity to engage in more environment friendly activities and incorporate environment friendly measures to its operations and supply chain. Although it produces organic products, the process of making them as well as packaging can be transformed to become more eco-friendly (Ramaswamy, 2013). This would include ensuring it reduces the levels of emissions it releases into the air, reducing the amount of water used in its companies and not releasing waste products into water bodies. Contemporary customers are more sensitive to environmental conservation than the generations before. Therefore, environmental friendliness would increase its appeal to consumers.
The first threat that the brand faces is a consumer backlash if they perceive the real beauty campaign as unauthentic. That would deal a blow to the brand image. People consume products because they believe and trust the company and brand making them. However, if that trust is lost, the image loses its appeal, losing customers as a result. The bid to question socially accepted norms, values and definitions is against the whole idea of marketing. In marketing practice, companies conduct cultural comparisons before promoting a product in a different culture. This is because people are more comfortable buying products that appreciate their cultural orientation. The company might have triggered a fad, one that is set to die away as people stick by their definitions of beauty. If that happens in the next 5-10 years, it would kill off the brand and everything that it stands for. The brand also runs the risk of losing its attraction as an archetypal beauty product because of its attempts to change the definition of beauty.
The brand faces intense competition from other brands likes Nivea and Olay. Although Dove possesses superior marketing techniques as compared to other brands, brands like Nivea are expanding and could eat into Dove’s market share in the near future. This is particularly because Dove’s campaign is easily replicable by other companies to dilute its appearance as the only company vouching for a wider definition of beauty. The similarity of Dove’s products to those sold by other companies is also a threat. The similarity goes a long way in showing that Dove’s products are not any different after all. It can also destroy the brand image as it would appear like the company deliberately misled the public. In addition, if a competitor comes up with a product that enhances beauty, consumers would be tempted to change into the new product.
The brand also appears to undermine customers’ aspirations. Since women always want to look better, they would quickly ignore any product that does not promise to enhance their appearance. This is especially when a product comes at a high cost. Eventually customers might start questioning the wisdom of paying so much for a product that will make them look ordinary. If and when that happens, Dove’s sales would drastically go down. The brand also runs the risk of being known as the brand for fat girls. That would threaten the company’s appeal because of societal association of fatness and lack of beauty.
Dove has been quite innovative from a marketing perspective, continuously evolving the positioning strategy. With room for innovation as one of the opportunities, it has the chance to capitalize on one of its biggest strengths. However, it must also be able to prevent replication because that will dilute the novelty of the idea the brand has promoted for a decade. The male market can help it tweak its positioning to incorporate beauty without a gender perspective. The increase of organizations with which it can partner increases its chances of survival. The fashion industry and feminists can immensely reinvigorate the “Real Beauty” campaign and act as an endorsement. The acceptance of the new definition of beauty by the fashion industry can also cause a seismic shift in defining the concept for the benefit of the brand. The brand has personalized the concept of appealing to the ‘real self’ instead of the ‘ideal self’. This concept addresses the issue of women’s aspirations, proving that the real self is also a viable target in marketing. In view of the aforementioned opportunities and strengths, the position of Dove as a global brand is not under any imminent threat. The threats can be easily addressed as the company capitalizes on opportunities available.
Deighton, J. 2008. Dove: Evolution of a Brand. Harvard Business School , 1-13.
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