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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
One of the truths of modern business is that there is almost nothing that your competitors can’t duplicate in a matter of weeks or months (Jeffrey:2000). If you have a great idea, you can be certain that somebody will copy it before long. And not only will they follow your lead, but they may also be able to do a better job or sell the product or service at a lower price. The question then becomes, “what competitive edge does one have to offer that cannot be copied by anyone else?”.The answer, ones or own brand.
A consideration of the chaos that would be at the point of purchase if manufacturers, have no means of distinguishing their products from that of competitors would readily pinpoint the importance of branding in marketing warfare. Consumers would definitely be put through the rigours and time consuming task of determining what product to choose from the list of unbranded products. The likely event of choosing the wrong product among the several unbranded products is there, given the unscrupulous behaviour of some middlemen. This assertion is buttressed by Okafor (1995:100), quoting Morden (1987), who posited that, “Customers seeing a favoured brand (to which they may exhibit loyal behaviour), may cut short the analysis of alternatives prior to the purchase decision, and proceed more rapidly towards the purchase”.
In developing a marketing strategy for malt drinks, which is carbonated non-alcoholic malt drinks; the manufacturer has to confront the branding decision. Branding is a major issue in product strategy and has become a potential marketing tool. An increasing number of products are sold on self-service basis, and branding must perform many of these sales tasks.
In the past, most products went unbranded. Producers and middlemen sold their goods out of barrels, bins, and cases, without any supplier’s identity. The earliest sign
of branding were in the efforts of medieval guilds to require crafts people to put trade marks on their products to protect themselves and consumers against inferior quality. Today, branding is such a strong force that hardly anything goes unbranded. A powerful name is said to have consumer franchise. (Adirika, E. O, Ebue, B. C, and Nnolim, D. A, 2001:184).
Moreover, a realization of the fact that branding as a marketing tool affects other product management decisions, confronts one with the fact that its impact on marketing activities and consumers cannot be overemphasized. Okafor (1995:100), captures the very essence of branding, when he opined that “apart from the herculean task that will be associated with trying to decide what manufacturers’ product to buy from all the unbranded products, other product management decisions based on market segmentation, promotion, product positioning, pricing etc, would have been practically impossible”.
A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. The word brand began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp (Scott:2004)).
Powerful brands create meaningful images in the minds of consumers (Keller, K. L., (2001). Creating a strong brand identity builds mind share – one of the strongest competitive advantages imaginable. As a result, customers think of your business first when they think of product category. For example, when one thinks of milk, more likely than not, one thinks of Peak brand. Likewise, when a child wants noodles, the chances are often a choice of Indomie. The reason behind these strong brands – product association is that these companies have built rock solid brand identities.
Marketers consider branding as an integral aspect of the total marketing strategy as well as a vital factor in product planning and development. Sometimes, the way in which a product is perceived by the market by merely hearing the brand name is a good determinant of the product’s success or failure. e.g. Fayrous.
From the foregoing importance of branding, marketers and producers alike are developing increasing interest in this strategy. The Malt Drink Industry in Nigeria is
not an exception to this increasing adoption of branding as a strategy for winning the heart of consumers.
Malt drink have acquired a household recognition, such great awareness is further manifested in the fact that some people have problem of controlling their in-take of malt drinks on health ground, while others contend with their financial inability to have as many bottles as they really desire. This is attributed largely to the popularity, which malt drinks like Maltina, Amstel Malta, Guinness Malt and Hi-Malt have acquired in recent times.
Marketers are no longer in doubt as to whether consumers need the products in the marketplace, but are more interested in knowing why consumers prefer one brand of a product to the other. Thus, marketers usually design strategies that will facilitate the marketing or selling of their products.
However, one of the vital elements in the marketing of any product is branding. Branding is one of the elements in the product planning activities of a firm. A brand is any word, letter, symbol, device, design, term or a combination of any of these that is used by a manufacturer or seller to identify his goods or services and to differentiate them from those of the competitors. (Olakunle K. Olakunori 1999:185-187).
The Malt drinks under study here, Maltina, Amstel Malta, Guinness Malta, and Hi-malt are all brand names which are vocalized and also used to distinguish a particular malt drink from the other.
Branding according to Okpara (2002:160), is the imaginative process of creating a unique, relevant and harmonious name, term, sign, symbol or its combination in order to identify a company’s product and to differentiate them from those of the competitors.
Branding is the activity used to establish malt drink identity, which is also about providing a means of differentiation
Branding can stir feeling and make connections among consumers. Malt drink branding is all about more than a brand, trademark or slogan. It is based on how the drink makes customers or consumers feel.
The competitive nature of the brewery industry has precipitated the need for these firms in the industry to introduce their product in the market through branding.
The importance of branding cannot be overemphasized, especially when one considers the several functions it performs on consumers’ decision and satisfaction. Firms in the Brewery industry, such as Nigerian Breweries Plc, Guinness Breweries Plc, Consolidated Breweries Plc, etc, seem to be typical examples where branding as a marketing device plays an important role.
The fact that all companies aspire to build brands that eventually get etched in the culture of the society and become cultural icon is a sure pointer to the importance of branding (Raj:2007).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In the contemporary marketing environment, it has always been a difficult task to say exactly which factors motivate the consumer to prefer a particular product to another. Most marketers have paid attention to factors which in their own estimation determine consumers’ preference for their products without giving due consideration to factors which in the consumers’ reckoning influence their buying decision. The result is that marketing plan designed for a particular product may fail to attain the desired and targeted result for reasons that consumers are unpredictable in their behaviours, especially with multiple brands such as those of malt drinks.
Consumers of malt drink, in most cases, evaluate the quality of a particular product by the alternatives of its brand name in relation to others. The fact that brand war among the breweries seemed to have moved on to the shape and size of Malt bottles, as is the case of Maltina in their promotion recently including the brand name, the vitamin and sugar contents, could be considered as a measure of the importance of branding of Malt drink.
Branding is one of the elements in the product planning activities of a firm. It has to do with the efforts a firm makes in choosing, developing, projecting and establishing its own brand(s) of products Olakunle (1999:185).
Branding is used to meet needs, such as the description of products, easy identification of products and services, speeds shopping by assuring consistence
quality, but its familiarity level leads to brand rejection, non-recognition, recognition, preference and insistence.
Often, when asked the non-price reason behind ones choice for a particular brand of product over another, most consumers will readily shout “quality”. However, one would accept this answer with a lot of ambivalence, given the fact that it is only on rare occasions that consumers would have what it takes to make an objective quality differentiation among alternative product brands. This category of consumers is highly informed and enlightened and their percentage is quite negligible.
Furthermore, quality status ascribed by consumers to certain product brands are not real but perceived. It is only a fragment of their perception. It therefore follows that those marketers who know how best to manipulate consumer perception and therefore better position their brands in the minds of the consumers will definitely emerge winners in the marketing warfare.
In consideration of these factors, the problems of determinants of brand patronages in consumers’ choice of Malt drinks become very pertinent as to elicit the following specific problems:
1. What constitutes the secret behind consumers preference of a particular Malt drink in favour of another type?
2. What factors influences consumer choice of a particular brand of Malt drink?
3. Could branding be significantly associated with taste or aesthetic values such as bottle designs and colour of labels?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The study attempted to achieve the following objectives, which were to;
1. Ascertain the relationship if any, between branding and consumer patronage.
2. Ascertain the factors of branding that are likely to influence consumers’ choice of Malt drinks.
3. Ascertain if there is any significant variation in the packaging of different malt drinks.
4. Determine if there is any difference among the different brands of malt drinks.
5. Determine if price is a factor considered in consumers preference for a brand of malt drink.
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