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The replacements

By Ned Roberto, Ardy Roberto
First Posted 05:06:00 06/15/2007

Filed Under: Marketing

MANILA, Philippines -- Question: We have just received a mandate from our global office to kill one of our products. It is in a really strong market and has attained an equally strong participation in it. After some months, we?ve identified a suitable replacement product. How should we introduce this replacement product to the same market base? What will guarantee a smooth transition?

Answer: There are of course many considerations to take. We?d like to focus on two key considerations: (1) transitioning with consumers, and (2) transitioning with your sales people.

Your major concern (among many others) in transitioning with your consumers is how to transfer the image of quality of the replaced brand to the replacing brand. Assuming that product development has successfully given the quality of the replaced brand to the replacing brand, the issue of smooth transition with consumers becomes a matter of equating in the minds of consumers the replaced brand with the replacing brand.

One way of accomplishing this is to follow the process of conditioning that Ivan Pavlov, the Russian physiologist, successfully demonstrated in his experiment with dogs. Pavlov, who was actually doing research on the role of salivation on the digestive system, discovered that his dog will still salivate from just the ringing of a bell without food being served. This will happen once the dog has been conditioned to associate the ringing of a bell and the serving of food. The conditioning process goes along these steps:

Ring a bell, serve food; dog salivates.
Ring a bell, serve food; dog salivates.
Serve food, ring a bell; dog salivates.
Serve food, ring a bell; dog salivates.
Ring a bell; dog salivates.

The ringing of the bell has successfully been embedded in the dog?s brain as the same as the serving of the food. So with just the ringing of the bell, it salivated even without food being served.

How will this work with your replaced and replacing brands? For easier explanation, let?s give a name to each of the brands here and let?s say we?re talking about an instant noodle soup category. Call the replaced brand as ?Intercontinental Instant Noodle Soup? and the replacing brand as ?Royco Instant Noodle Soup.? Next, let?s say that your global head office gives you two and half or three years to follow its mandate. Here?s how the transfer of the meaning of quality soup will happen when you do this on, say, the brand package. Please observe the differences in the type size.

First half year: Intercontinental Soup, Royco Soup; Quality Noodle Soup.

Second half year: Intercontinental Soup, Royco Soup; Quality Noodle Soup.

Third half year: Royco Soup, Intercontinental Soup; Quality Noodle Soup.

Fourth half year: Royco Soup, Intercontinental Soup; Quality Noodle Soup.

Fifth half year: Royco Soup; Quality Noodle Soup.

Can this really happen? Yes and it did happen precisely to Royco Soup of Unilever way back in the 50s. And it had happened and continues to happen to quite a few other brands faced with a similar dilemma. Did you notice the way the Magnolia ice cream brand name was slowly phased out by the Nestlé brand name when Nestlé bought Magnolia? (Nestlé bought Magnolia ice cream in 1996 from San Miguel Corp. In 2004 the Magnolia brand ice cream was relaunched by San Miguel). Anyway, Nestlé did the brand name replacement/conditioning game in the same manner. First it was:

? Magnolia Nestlé Ice Cream.

? Then it became Nestlé Magnolia Ice Cream

? Then it was just Nestlé Ice Cream

Condition your consumers the same way Pavlov did so that they accept changes and replacements easily and smoothly. (By the way, Pavlov did win a Nobel Prize in 1904 for his research work on ?conditioning.? So apply this Nobel Prize-winning technique to your marketing and you?ll see consumers ?salivating? for your product.)

Now, what about the second consideration concerning the effect on your sales people?

We?re often asked: ?Why are the sales people a major consideration?? This question has a simple answer. In any company, sales people are responsible for generating sales. We suppose that?s why we call their department the sales department. Anything that affects the sales people?s motivation and capacity to deliver sales should obviously concern any company?s top management.

If the about-to-be replaced brand is a leading brand, it?s easy to appreciate that this is a major source of sales, incentives and bonus for your sales people. That?s your most basic problem here. For your sales people it?s all about their take-home pay.

So address this concern directly. Give a realistic assurance that sales from the replacing brand will be equal to and will grow just as much as the replaced brand. Back up this assurance with a good and doable plan to make it happen. A key part of that plan is your campaign to get the quality image of the replaced brand effectively transferred to the replacing brand.

Present this plan of yours to your sales force and sincerely solicit comments and suggestions. Get more and more of your sales people to buy in into the transition and become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.

Keep your questions coming. Send them to us at MarketingRx@pldtDSL.net. God bless!

Previous stories:
Jay Levinson?s advice: Get yourself a 'marketing coach' ? 06/08/07
Success is in follow-through; failure is in comfort zone ? 06/01/07
Timing is (almost) everything ? 05/25/07
?Is co-op marketing effective?? ? 05/18/07
?Is co-op marketing effective?? ? 05/11/07
?Can we outsource our marketing?? ? 05/04/07

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