What should Nicole Vichon do now? Be specific! Explain your answer and support it with facts and
analysis of facts and data from the case.
The question is based off of the Saralyn Mills Case Study. Below I have attached a copy of it.
SARALYN MILLS, LTD.
Nicole Vichon, marketing manager of Saralyn Mills Ltd. – a Canadian company – is being urged to approve the creation of a separate marketing plan for Quebec. This would be a major policy change because Saralyn Mills’ international parent is trying to move toward a global strategy for the whole firm and Vichon has been supporting Canada-wide planning.
Nicole Vichon has been the marketing manager of Saralyn Mills, Ltd., for the last four years – since she arrived from international headquarters in Minneapolis. Saralyn Mills, Ltd., headquartered in Toronto, is a subsidiary of a large US-based consumer packaged-food company with worldwide sales of more than $2.8 billion in 2005. Its Canadian sales are just over $450 million, with the Quebec and Ontario markets accounting for 69 percent of the company’s Canadian sales.
The company’s product line includes such items as cake mixes, puddings, pie fillings, pancakes, prepared foods, and frozen dinners. The company has successfully introduced at least six new products every year for the last five years. Products from Saralyn Mills are known for their high quality and enjoy much brand preference throughout Canada, including the province of Quebec.
The company’s sales have risen every year since Nicole Vichon took over as marketing manager. In fact, the company’s market share has increased steadily in each of the product categories in which it competes. The Quebec market has closely followed the national trend except that, in the past two years, total sales growth in that market began to lag.
According to Vichon, a big advantage of Saralyn Mills over its competitors is the ability to coordinate all phases of the food business from Toronto. For this reason, Vichon meets at least once a month with her product managers – to discuss developments in local markets that might affect marketing plans. While each manager is free to make suggestions and even to suggest major changes, Nicole Vichon has the responsibility of giving final approval for all plans.
One of the product managers, Marie LeMans, expressed great concern at the last monthly meeting about the poor performance of some of the company’s products in the Quebec market. While a broad range of possible reasons – ranging from inflation and the threat of job losses to politics – were reviewed to try to explain the situation. LeMans insisted that it was due to a basic lack of understanding of that market. She felt not enough managerial time and money had been spent on the Quebec market – in part because of the current emphasis on developing all-Canada plans on the way to having one global strategy.
Marie LeMans felt the current marketing approach to the Quebec market should be reevaluated because an inappropriate marketing plan may be responsible for the sales slowdown. After all, she said, “80 percent of the market is French-speaking. It’s in the best interest of the company to treat that market as being separate and distinct from the rest of Canada.”
Marie LeMans supported her position by showing that Quebec’s per capita consumption of many product categories (in which the firm competes) is above the national average (see Table 1). Research projects conducted by Saralyn Mills also support the “separate and distinct” argument. Over the years, the firm has found many French-English differences in brand attitudes, lifestyles, usage rates and so on.
LeMans argued that the company should develop a unique Quebec marketing plan for some or all of its brands. She specifically suggested that the French-language advertising plan for a particular brand be developed independently of the plan for English Canada. Currently, the Toronto agency assigned to the brand just translates its English-language ads for the French market. Nicole Vichon pointed out that the present advertising approach assured Saralyn Mills of a uniform brand image across Canada. Marie LeMans said she knew what the agency is doing, and that straight translation into Canadian-French may not communicate the same brand image. The discussion that followed suggested that a different brand image might be needed in the French market if the company wanted to stop the brand’s decline in sales.
Per Capita Consumption Index,
Province of Quebec (All of Canada = 100) *
Prepared packaged foods
The managers also discussed the food distribution system in Quebec. The major supermarket chains have their lowest market share in that province. Independents are strongest there – the “mom-and-pop” food stores fast disappearing outside Quebec remain alive and well in the province. Traditionally, these stores have stocked a higher proportion (than supermarkets) of their shelf space with national brands, an advantage for Saralyn Mills.
Finally, various issues related to discount policies, pricing structure, sales promotion, and cooperative advertising were discussed. All of these suggested that things were different in Quebec and that future marketing plans should reflect these differences to a greater extent than they do now.
After the meeting, Nicole Vichon stayed in her office to think about the situation. Although she agreed with the basic idea that the Quebec market was in many ways different, she was not sure how far the company would go in recognizing this fact. She knew that regional differences in food tastes and brand purchases existed not only in Quebec but in other parts of Canada as well. But people are people, after all, with far more similarities than differences, so a Canadi8an and eventually a global strategy makes some sense too.
Nicole Vichon was afraid that giving special status to one region might conflict with top management’s objective of achieving standardization whenever possible – one global strategy for Canada, on the way to one worldwide global strategy. She was also worried about the long-term effect of such a policy change on costs, organizational structure, and brand image. Still, enough product managers had expressed their concern over the years about the Quebec market to make her wonder if she shouldn’t modify the current approach. Perhaps they could experiment with a few brands – and just in Quebec. She could cite the language difference as the reason for trying Quebec rather than any of the other provinces. But Vichon realizes that any change of policy could be seen as the beginning of more change, and what would Minneapolis think? Could she explain it successfully there?
ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS
1) Evaluate Saralyn Mills, Ltd.’s present strategy of treating all of Canada and eventually the world as one Market. What are the strengths/advantages and weaknesses/disadvantages of this strategy?
2) What should Nicole Vichon do now? Be specific! Explain your answer and support it with facts and analysis of facts and data from the case.
*An index shows the relative consumption as compared to a standard. In this table, the standard is consumption of each product category for all of Canada. The data shows, for example, that per capita consumption of cake mixes is 7% higher in Quebec and pancake consumption is 13% lower compared to all of Canada. As a rule of thumb, Marketing Management at Sara Lyn viewed a Per Capita Consumption Index of either 10 percentage points above or below as a significant difference suggesting a meaningful difference in consumption behavior
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