More and more firms and organizations have realized that the brand name associated with their products or services is one of the most important assets that they own. A brand embodies a company’s identity and the quality, ideals, ethics, and customer commitment for which it stands. It is the heart and soul of the decisions on which products are brought to market and how. It also enables management to strategically and effectively steer the destiny of a product or company while building value.
For this summative assessment, you will imagine you are an executive in charge of branding and strategic positioning initiatives at a company of your choice. (The company may be a place for which you currently work or have worked in the past, a company of interest, or a new business that you are creating, subject to instructor approval.) You will build a comprehensive business plan for the launch of a new product, service, or business idea at the company. Your plan will evaluate current branding strategies, describe the target market and its unique features, assess existing organizational strengths, weaknesses, and core competencies with respect to the new idea, determine pricing strategies, and establish continuous improvement processes that span the life cycle of the product or service being offered. You will also consider how consumer trends and ethical business practices might impact your plan.
Ideally, your business plan should be the next step in developing the product, service, or other business idea you started conceptualizing in the previous Business Environment, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship course; however, you may choose a different idea with instructor approval. Note that you will continue to build on this business plan throughout your 600-level MBA coursework, culminating in the capstone in which you will tie things together and either begin to implement your plan (if feasible), or create a plan for implementing it (if implementation is not feasible).
The project is divided into three milestones, which will be submitted at various points throughout the course to scaffold learning and ensure quality final submissions. These milestones will be submitted in Modules Three, Five, and Seven. The final product will be submitted in Module Nine.
In this assignment, you will demonstrate your mastery of the following course outcomes:
• Evaluate branding strategies by applying appropriate marketing and management analysis
• Defend target market choices by analyzing the unique characteristics of potential markets that impact business success
• Justify pricing decisions based on relevant target market analysis, business goals, and market conditions
• Assess the strengths and weaknesses of organizations in strategically planning new business activities
• Assess consumer trends and business ethics for determining their potential impact on branding image and business success in a global environment
• Design business-wide continuous improvement processes for regularly reviewing branding and business activities and implementing needed changes
Using your business idea from the previous Business Environment, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship course, or a new idea with instructor permission, imagine you are an executive at the relevant company. You have decided to take this idea to the next level by producing a comprehensive business plan to present to senior management and potential investors in order to convince them to back the project. Your plan should focus on key elements of marketing and strategy, such as branding, customer base, existing resources and capabilities, pricing, and other factors that could affect the project’s success. It should highlight the merits of the project based on a detailed internal analysis, showing how the idea fits with the company’s mission and vision. Remember that a well-constructed business plan provides concise, accurate information that allows busy executives or investors to quickly grasp the essentials of your idea, the key need or want it addresses, and how you will meet that need or want.
Specifically, the following critical elements must be addressed:
I. Executive summary. Briefly explain the key features of your business plan and why your product or service is better than that of your competition in the eyes of the target market. Remember that your goal is to give the intended audience the most essential information up front, while convincing them to read further for details.
II. Context. This section should provide leadership and potential investors with background information on the company’s current brand and how the new product or service fits with that brand. Be sure to do the following:
A. Lay out the key defining features of your company’s brand and how these features drive business decisions. For example, how are these factors an extension of the company’s mission, vision, and values? What are the non-negotiables for a product or service to carry the company name?
B. Assess how the new idea fits with the company’s existing brand and how that impacts your business plan. Support your response with relevant research and analysis. For example, will the product or service be part of a new brand or an existing brand? How will that affect the way you market the product both within the company and to consumers?
C. Evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s existing branding efforts (or branding efforts for similar products or services if yours is a new company). What does the evaluation suggest for the new product or service? Support your response with relevant analysis.
III. Need. Use this section to define your target market and explain how your product or service fills a critical need or want for that market.
A. Define your target market and its unique characteristics. Be sure to discuss the following:
i. Basic demographics. What are the key demographic features of the individuals or businesses who are most likely to purchase your product or service? Support your response with relevant market research. For example, how might age, purchasing power, decision- making authority, or other factors affect the product or service’s appeal to potential customers?
ii. What other behavioral or psychographic characteristics of your target market might affect their purchasing decisions? Support your response with relevant research.
B. How does the new product or service meet a specific want or need of the target market that you identified? In other words, what principal benefits or key features would the target market find appealing? Support your response with relevant market research.
C. Based on your analysis above, why is this target market the best strategic choice for the success of your product or service?
IV. Strengths and weaknesses. In this section, you should assess the ramifications of the new business idea on branding, operations, and planning within the organization, based on internal analysis.
A. Assess the company’s tangible and intangible strengths in providing the new product or service, along with any weaknesses or gaps. Your response should comprehensively address different aspects of the business, establishing clear links between the strengths and weaknesses you identify and how those affect planning for the new business activities. The factors you identify will depend on your business and idea, but might include things such as staff capabilities and turnover, organizational culture, production capacity, location, customer loyalty, supply chain relations, financial stability, or ability to acquire funding.
B. Assess the opportunities and threats that emerging consumer trends and company ethics may present to the success of the new idea.
i. Consumer trends. How might emerging trends in consumer preferences (e.g., buying local, support for green technologies, organic foods, etc.) impact the branding and business success of the new product or service you are launching in the current global marketplace? Justify your response, identifying the trends that are most relevant to your product or service and how they apply to your target market.
ii. Ethics. How might perceived ethics violations affect the branding image and ultimate success of the new product or service in a global environment? Support your response with specific examples. For example, do different target populations have different perceptions of what constitutes ethical behavior? How do consumers respond to those violations and what is the impact on business (e.g., product avoidance, lobbying for new regulations, etc.)?
C. How might the factors you identified above affect branding and operations across different departments in the company? How does your business plan take this into account? For example, does organizational structure help or hinder branding and launch activities? Do departments have competing interests? Do they communicate effectively?
V. Core competencies. Assess aspects of the company or new idea that set you apart from the competition and provide long-term sustainability in the market. How do those competencies affect your business plan? In other words, what things about your company, product, or service provide significant value to the customer and are very difficult to duplicate? How can you use that strategically?
VI. Pricing. Use this section of your business plan to develop and justify a pricing strategy for the new product or service. Be sure to address the following:
A. What are the fixed and variable costs to the company of producing, marketing, and selling the new good or service, and how do those fit with the company’s short- and long-term objectives? Support your narrative with a table showing calculations and any assumptions.
B. How much is the target market willing and able to pay for your product or service? Use target market analysis and research on competitors’ prices to support your answer.
C. Are targeted consumers willing and able to pay more for your product or service if it (or the organization, more generally) aligns with their
preferences for socially responsible and ethical behavior? Justify your response with evidence.
D. In light of your analysis, what pricing strategy and price is most appropriate for this product or service and why? For example, would skimming, penetration, economy, or premium pricing be most appropriate? What should the initial price be?
VII. Refinement. This section should highlight processes for reviewing and refining branding and other activities surrounding the new product or service.
A. How and when will you evaluate the success of the new product or service and its branding? Be sure to suggest processes that occur at regular intervals and extend across the business, explaining how results will impact decisions on whether to continue or to initiate exit strategies.
B. What regular, business-wide feedback loops and processes will you implement to support the new idea, keep it on track, and make mid-course corrections as needed? For example, will you adjust business functions and/or facilitate regular communication across departments? How will you collect relevant information and ensure its accuracy?
C. In planning for the future, how will you identify and integrate other factors that might affect implementation of the new idea into your business decisions and planning? In other words, what other things do you need to consider when moving forward?
Milestone One: Context, Need, Pricing
In Module Three, you will submit a short paper covering context, need, and pricing. This milestone establishes your chosen organization’s direction within the marketplace. This is important because it drives the subsequent activities, milestones, and the final project. Without a strong sense of the organization’s purpose within the marketplace, knowledge of consumer trends, and how to meet target market needs at the appropriate price, management is less likely to maximize the efficiency of business activities and more likely to miss fully meeting the needs of its chosen target market. This milestone establishes how the organization will differentiate itself from its competition through branding with a unique product or service offering designed to meet specific consumer needs or desires that are shaped by their demographics, personality, or buying style.
Milestone Two: Strengths and Weaknesses, Core Competencies
In Module Five, you will submit a short paper covering strengths and weaknesses and core competencies. For the company you have chosen, write a short paper that identifies and analyzes at least four, but no more than eight, strengths and weaknesses. Continue your paper by identifying and explaining three to five core competencies for the company you have chosen.
Milestone Three: Refinement
In Module Seven, you will submit a short paper covering refinements. Using the idea that you have chosen, write a short paper covering activities and items upon which success will be evaluated and how these will be evaluated, timing intervals for information gathering and analyzing feedback, what feedback loops exist or will be created, how these loops and the ensuing feedback will affect the overall organization, and what, if any, other factors should be considered as you move forward with your new product or service.
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