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The Cruiser Thorr Simulation

Brand Image Analysis

In a situation where sales of the flagship Cruiser Thorr have declined owing to the aging of the key “Baby Boomer” demographic and the reportedly low disposable income of young adults today, Thorr Motorcycles needs a vigorous new marketing plan.

For the incoming Marketing Manager, a new positioning decision is informed by:

  • Competitive product mix analysis showing gaps in safety image, service, price, and mass market appeal.
  • Consumer perceptions revealing unquestioned superiority for Cruiser Thorr on ‘lifestyle image”, “product design and styling” and “uniqueness”. While there is parity vis-à-vis Anzai and Espritique where “quality engineering is concerned, Thorr has fallen behind on service offerings, price, engine capacity, safety, and the image attribute of “cool”.
  • This last weakness is particularly important for the youth market where the brand is most vulnerable. The other critical concern of young buyers is price.

Accordingly, the Marketing Manager opts for those image parameters that have the most potential for redressing competitive gaps: cool, service offerings, engine capacity and safety. We opt not to address price because this may be an inalienable part of the whole performance, value and lifestyle cachet for Thorr.

The simulation outcome pointed out that the proposed positioning should have incorporated the three other fundamental parameters of quality engineering, price, and lifestyle image. Hence, the lesson learned is that even aggressive positioning to address competitive and market weaknesses should deal from brand strengths.

Positioning and the Marketing Plan

The decision at hand is between repositioning Cruiser Thorr or embarking on a line extension. Complementary issues include: a) Standing fast on price so Thorr can address weaknesses in service offerings; b) R & D has an engine that requires less maintenance and is more fuel-efficient, hence reducing cost-of-use; and, c) Will financing plans induce young buyers to trade up?

The fundamental problem, as we see it, is the long-term decline of Cruiser Thorr, the company flagship. Putting the $13 million marketing budget behind the launch of the RRoth line essentially condemns Cruiser Thorr to decline in the long term and the loss of the image advantage versus low-price alternatives. Hence, one chooses the option to reposition the brand by providing more services and offering financing plans to address the problem of acquisition cost.

Formulating the marketing plan

  • Maintain current levels
  • Add online marketing to engage the youth market
  • Keep all other partners in the value and service chain
  • Launch the aforementioned financial services
  • Create membership clubs
  • Provide more loyalty-building services to user groups
  • Consistent with the above, hold parties for Cruiser Thorr owners
  • Offer insurance and protection plans to address safety concerns
  • Offer free test rides (which cost nothing)
  • Hire celebrity endorsers to build credibility and appeal to impressionable young buyers

This plan comes in under budget and promises to achieve image parity with competitors on service offerings and quality engineering while maintaining superiority on lifestyle image and closing the gap on price.

In fact, the evaluation for this phase of the simulation returned top marks for our moves on:

  1. Providing financing options as a partial solution to price resistance.
  2. Maintaining the price in order to avoid risking the reputation of Cruiser Thorr.
  3. Avoiding spending more to enhance lifestyle image or to enforce a new, higher price.

Other fine recommendations that could no longer be added for lack of marketing dollars: product placement in movies, customization options and dealer training.

Post-Campaign Evaluation

A year into the repositioning marketing plan, one sees that Cruiser Thorr volume has improved year-on-year in each of four quarters and thus reversed the critical problem of declining sales. More important, the brand broke the deadlock for market leadership with Asian brand Anzai and forged ahead to take a clear first place.

The task being to convert the post-campaign market research findings into a new perceptual map, Marketing Management selected the items comprising the four fundamental image elements and assigned ratings of:

Lifestyle Image 8 Principally because of the:

  • 57% who “strongly agree” (SA) they enjoy the Cruiser Thorr riding experience;
  • The 44% who also assigned an SA rating to the idea that brand styling conveyed its sheer power.
  • The price cachet was very much in evidence of course.
  • And because of the potential demand conveyed by the 44% who admitted they loved cruisers, and the majority who strongly agreed that a Cruiser Thorr was a status symbol (64%) that matched their lifestyle (53%).
Price 7
  • Mainly on account of the two-thirds of respondents who checked off SA or SWA to the question 5 item about being interested in taking advantage of financing options if Thorr were to offer them.
  • Which does help offset the fact that less than one-fourth of survey participants could claim a budget of $25,000 to $27,000 for purchasing a motorcycle.
Quality Engineering 9
  • Optimal owing to the three-fourths who agreed that the Cruiser Thorr engine was unquestionably the best in its class.
Service Offerings 7
  • The repositioning platform made itself felt in, for example, the 57% who “strongly agreed” about availing of financing options
  • Likewise, nearly half were in strong agreement that dealer training and customization options mattered a lot.
  • On the other hand, there is room for improvement. Question 7 suggested that the suite of services Thorr rendered its customers was inadequate.

The simulation feedback gave kudos on assigning a 9 to “Lifestyle Image” for the very reasons given above. And it did not hurt that Thorr launched programs to increase customer delight with having bought into this rather exclusive clique. It was also appropriate to assign a perceptual map rating of 8 for “Quality Engineering” based on the market research finding that Thorr engines were best-in-class. Here indeed is one area where management hubris coincides with consumer perception.

The simulation agreed with the “7” rating put in for service offerings. Clearly, the new marketing plan responded to perceived deficiencies in this area. Consumers were particularly pleased about getting (more) customization options. As well, survey participants responded positively to the availability of financial services and to increased dealer training.

On the other hand, the simulation suggested that a perceptual map rating of 4 or 5 was more appropriate despite consumers learning (and liking the fact) that they could avail of financing plans at last. Clearly, assigning a rating of “7” was way off the mark in this case because price resistance is a problem.

Simulation Summary

By employing perceptual mapping hands-on, as it were, this simulation has demonstrated the importance of user imagery in analyzing marketing issues and moving forward with effective marketing plans.

Key learnings from the simulation included being attentive to market perception rather than management’s view of things. Despite the availability of financing options, for instance, and customers being delighted with Thorr for going the extra mile here, the post-campaign survey showed that price resistance remains.

On a final note, I am personally delighted to learn that the strategy of repositioning Cruiser Thorr was preferable to launching the RRoth line extension.


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