No area of the marketing plan surpasses the selection of target markets in importance. If inappropriate markets are selected, marketing resources will be wasted. High-level expenditures on advertising or sales will not compensate for misdirected marketing effort. Target markets should be selected from a previously developed list of available segments. These include segments currently served by the organization and newly recognized markets. A target market is simply the segment at which the organization aims its marketing message. A target market generally has four characteristics. It should comprise groups of people or businesses that are well-defined, identifiable, and accessible; members should have common characteristics; they should have a networking system so that they can readily refer the organization to one another; and they should have common needs and similar reasons to purchase the product or service. In the Mississippi case study, it can be seen that the commission is focusing its efforts on producers in three areas: locally, New York, and Los Angeles.
Once the market has been segmented and a target market identified, the next step in the marketing plan is positioning. Positioning is a communications strategy that is a natural follow-through from market segmentation and target marketing. Market positioning is ultimately how a company wants the consumer to perceive the product or service in a given market, and the company’s efforts to achieve this perception. It is used to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage over competitors.
Three steps are necessary to develop an effective position in the target market segment: product differentiation; prioritizing and selecting the competitive advantage; and communicating and delivering the position.
Step One: Product Differentiation
Product differentiation describes a technique that enables organizations to gain competitive advantage by offering a product that has features not available in the offerings of competitors. Product differentiation has the potential to assist companies in gaining a competitive edge and can distinguish them from competitors by offering competitive advantages. A competitive advantage offers greater value to the consumer by providing benefits that justify a higher price. These advantages can be established through product attributes, features, services, level of quality, style and image, and price range. The key elements will shape how the consumer perceives the product. Physical attribute differentiation is achieved by enhancing or creating an image in the consumer’s mind through tangible evidence.
Service differentiation is an increasingly important way of gaining competitive advantage. Service quality has been more frequently identified as a key factor in differentiating service products and building a competitive advantage. Studies show a positive and significant relationship between customers’ perceptions of service quality and their willingness to recommend the organization or location. Likewise, research on service quality and retaining customers suggests that willingness to purchase again declines considerably once services are rated below good. For film commissions, high quality service is critical, and many commissions are focusing on service as a way to gain competitive advantage. New York for example, has a ‘Concierge Service’ available to productions that supports the entire production cycle. This includes story development support and tie-ins to NY agencies, scouting assistance and budget analysis, locations access to premium sites, hotel, car rental, and vendor discounts, assistance in sourcing pre-production office space, and assistance with global premiers and launches.
Step Two: Prioritizing and Selecting the Competitive Advantage
Positioning is much like a ranking system, and an organization must decide where it wants to be in the hierarchy. Some companies have an image of high quality, service, and price—others, of being low budget. Neither image is better or worse. However, once the position is established, it is very difficult to change it in the consumer’s mind. Therefore, companies must be very cautious in selecting the most effective combination of competitive advantages to promote and to contribute to building their positioning strategy.
It is important to promote not only one benefit to the target market, but to develop a unique selling proposition (USP), a feature of a product that is so unique that it distinguishes the product from all other products. The goal of a USP is for a company to establish itself as the number one provider of a specific attribute in the mind of the target market. The attribute chosen should be desired and highly valued by target consumers. If the marketing mix elements build the brand and help it to connect with the customer year after year, the total personality of the brand, rather than the trivial product differences, will decide its ultimate position in the market. Although it is difficult for film commissions to find an effective USP in such a competitive and free market, it is essential to offer something new. Therefore, it is important for a commission to create a new good, service, or benefit that can be offered to consumers by that commission alone.
Step Three: Communicating and Delivering the Position
The final goal of an organization in the positioning process is to build and maintain a consistent effective positioning strategy. The overall aim of film commissions is to attract attention from potential customers and to delight them with product offerings that cannot be beaten by competitors. Programs and slogans that support the organization’s position must be continuously developed and promoted in order to establish and maintain the organization’s desired position in the consumer’s mind. Quality, frequency, and exposure in the media will determine how successful the positioning strategy will be.
Film commissions can differentiate their products by using branding, a method of establishing a distinctive identity based on competitive differentiation from other products. Branded products are those whose name conjures up certain images—preferably positive ones—in consumers’ minds. These images may relate to fashion, value, prestige, quality, or reliability. Image is an important element of customer perception.