The growing demand for coffee and stiff competition in the specialty coffee sector calls for immediate action to enhance a brand’s visibility and ultimately boost its competitiveness and sales. One way in which firms can attain these goals is through appropriate brand positioning. Scholars define brand positioning as a tool of competitive warfare that helps customers recognize the real difference among competing products by creating a distinctive image in the consumers’ minds (Saqib, 2020). In essence, brand positioning involves shaping consumers’ perception of a brand.
Scholars aver that there are numerous tactics of brand positioning. In their study, Heinberg et al. (2019) focus on nostalgic brand positioning for emerging and developed markets. The authors posit that nostalgic brand positioning is “a strategy designed to evoke positive effect in an individual by creating associations with the past” (Heinberg et al., 2019, p.2). This brand positioning technique helps enhance brand equity in the market by emphasizing elements such as emotional attachment, brand authenticity, and brand local inconness. Grebosz-Krawczyk and Pointet (2020) also support this view and posit that nostalgic positioning appeals to consumers’ emotions, experiences, and memories. The authors also recommend this brand positioning strategy for fashion, food, luxury products, and cosmetics, especially perfumes.
Prior studies have tested the correlation between consumer emotions, satisfaction, and loyalty intentions. A survey conducted by Kuhn (2018) reveals that a coffee shop customer’s dining experiences influence customer satisfaction and positive consumption emotions. The positive consumption, in turn, mediates the dining experience and consumers’ loyalty intentions (Kuhn, 2018). In essence, consumers’ emotions are vital in influencing subsequent purchase intentions and brand loyalty. This perspective supports the idea of the ability of nostalgic brand positioning, which is based on emotional attachment, authenticity, and memories, to influence customer loyalty to a given brand.
However, the literature also reveals that nostalgic positioning does not yield uniform benefits in all markets. According to Heinberg et al. (2019), nostalgic positioned brands in developed markets reap minimum gains from enhanced brand innovativeness, unlike in emerging markets. This view suggests that brand innovativeness is well suited for emerging markets such as the UAE’s coffee specialty sector.
Besides brand positioning, market targeting is also a vital element in a firm’s operations. Petrovski and Neto (2017) aver that market targeting is critical for Kano Model’s effectiveness. The Kano model is among the earliest proposed models of measuring customer satisfaction (Rotar & Kozar, 2017). Lin et al. (2017) also add that the Kano model helps understand customer needs by identifying and classifying the quality attributes. For a firm to effectively use the Kano model in assessing and enhancing customer satisfaction, it must have a clear audience selection from whom the requirements of their demand can be derived. Kotler also mentions that targeting is essential because it helps firms identify a specific set of consumers and avoid resource wastage (cited by Petrovski & Neto, 2017). Arguably, firms with a clearly established set of consumers can identify the former’s requirements and direct resources to complete satisfaction of these needs, thus avoiding wastage as would be the case of serving an undefined population.
Existing literature also proposes multiple consumer targeting strategies, with the most common being differentiated and mass targeting. According to Gioko (2017), mass targeting, also known as extensive targeting, aims at a broad consumer market that desires the same product attributes. Nadube and Didia (2018) also state that extensive targeting is suitable for firms with established businesses in related markets. This information suggests that mass targeting may be well-suited for large firms with numerous businesses in the same market.
On the other hand, differentiated targeting is proposed for businesses with different nature of product portfolio. As noted by Akbar et al. (2017), differentiated targeting, also known as micromarketing and niche marketing, focuses on specialization, constricted markets, and long-term relationships. Compared to large firms, SMEs are more suited for differentiated targeting because of their low-cost budget. Besides, SMEs’ need to build consumer loyalty and develop a close and lasting relationship with their clients deems differentiated targeting suitable in their operations.
As firms outline their set of consumers, they must also craft an appropriate marketing strategy to understand consumers’ needs and wants better and ultimately drive purchases. According to Bianchi et al. (2017), social media is among the methods integrated into contemporary businesses as a high strategic priority and a medium of engaging with customers. As a strategic priority, social media marketing qualifies for holistic brand management in SMEs, as proposed by M’zungu, Merrilees, and Miller (2019). Appel et al. (2020) argue that the widespread use of social media as a marketing strategy by marketers is supported by the massive audience available on social media and across various sites. For example, a Facebook report shows that as of September 2018, the site had 2.27 billion and 1.49 billion monthly and daily active users (Facebook, 2018). Social media as a tool for engaging with customers and initiating sales gives rise to a new concept of s-commerce in marketing. As averred by Bianchi et al. (2017), s-commerce is a combination of social and commercial activities occurring on social media platforms.
Studies also examine social media marketing as a holistic concept in marketing. According to Godey (2016), social media marketing efforts incorporate five aspects; entertainment, interaction, trendiness, customization, and word of mouth. The interactivity dimension entails facilitating content and views sharing with a firm and other customers (Yadav, 2018). Arguably, a social media strategy that is interactive is ideal because it allows consumers to share content about a product, enabling firms to gain an insight into consumers’ expectations of a product.
Studies also reveal that personalization is essential in social media marketing. Yadav (2018) argues that personalization reflects the degree to which an e-commerce site offers tailored services to fulfill customers’ preferences. According to Yadav (2018), personalized social media marketing is ideal because it shrinks consumers’ information costs and augments the latter’s decision quality and shopping experience. Therefore, the more personalized a social media marketing strategy is, the more likely it is to enhance consumers’ shopping experience, satisfaction, and brand loyalty.
Studies also show that informativeness, trendiness, and word-of-mouth are critical dimensions of a social media marketing strategy. On the one hand, Yadav (2018) avers that informativeness is the degree to which social media marketing offers accurate, comprehensive, and useful information, while trendiness is perceived as the degree to which social media provides trendy content (Yadav, 2018). On the other hand, word-of-mouth is the perceived degree to which e-commerce’s customers share experiences on social media (Yadav, 2018). Arguably, a trendy, informative, and word-of-mouth based social media marketing strategy is ideal because it provides customers with relevant and up-to-date ideas that can trigger a purchase decision.
If used appropriately, social media marketing efforts can enhance the brand’s equity, customer loyalty, and satisfaction. This view is supported by empirical evidence from a study conducted by Yadav (2018), which shows that e-commerce exhibits a positive influence on customer loyalty towards online sites. Besides promoting brand equity, social media marketing is also a cost-effective strategy for promoting a SMEs product considering its low budget.
As firms define their brand positioning, targeting, and marketing strategy, they should ensure that all this information is contained in a strategic marketing plan. Izvercian, Miclea, and Potra (2016) observe that marketing activity planning is essential in SMEs because it enables the firms to define their short term and long-term goals oriented towards sales and consumer needs and desires. The authors also believe that marketing activities help firms adapt to internal and external environmental changes in their sector. A study conducted by Felica (2015) also reveals that a marketing plan vital in business because it helps coordinate and regulate all marketing activities within an organization. In essence, scholars view marketing planning as a critical activity that determines a firm’s survival in the industry and ability to meet its short- and long-term goals.
Further research conducted by Izvercian, Miclea, and Potra (2016) also shows that a large fraction of SMEs has either a “hasty” marketing plan or no plan at all. For example, studies conducted among Romanian SMEs revealed that two-thirds of the study respondents did not have a marketing plan or had a “hasty” marketing plan (Izvercian, Miclea & Potra (2016)). Studies conducted in Indonesia and the United States also revealed a high failure rate among SMEs, mostly attributed to the informal strategic planning process and lack of appropriate systems to help track organizational performance (Febriani & Dewobroto, 2018). Al-Maskari et al. (2019) also argue that some of the SMEs’ challenges are partially due to financial and operational issues. This view is supported by Izvercian, Miclea, and Potra (2016), who posits that the lack of financial resources, openness to a marketing orientation, and marketing research are significant contributors to a weak strategic marketing plan. The synthesis of this information suggests that SMEs’ adoption of a well-developed marketing plan may be constrained by financial factors and the former’s failure to conduct adequate marketing research.
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