Friday, 27 February 2015

Entrepreneurs go bananas !

As another example of hands-on learning approach that entrepreneurial students favour, this weeks class of Royal Holloway MSc Entrepreneurs enjoyed considering the consumption of bananas and the business opportunities that might be available in this space. This week studying entrepreneurial marketing with MBA Director and marketing specialist Justin O'Brien students were pleasantly surprised when they found a number of bananas on the tables in front of them. Justin is a strong proponent of 'fun learning' as evidenced here at the Chocolate Factory,  with bananas offering an 'out-of-skin' learning experience.

Having escaped the ridiculous regulators of the European Union (who sought to standardise irregular fruit and impose norms of straightness and minimum length @14cm) European consumers are now free to enjoy bananas with abnormal curvatures, whatever that means ! Although relatively high in carbohydrates, bananas can form an important part of a balanced, healthy diet.  Popular with kids, as they are easy to open (unlike oranges) and kind to rupturing gums and milk teeth (unlike hard apples), the big challenge for bananas, with their in-built natural wrapping, is bruising and the risk of total mush-down

Creative advertising conceptualisation
Inspiration for the case study came when a highly entrepreneurial close friend of Justin, who has family in Canada, was offered the UK franchise for a new product in 2005. The highly engaging and interactive case study used real bananas and students were able to inspect examples of version 1 and 2 of the innovative banana guard proposition. The case provides students with the chance to consider the optimal marketing mix that would optimise value from such an opportunity; could revenues confidently exceed significant sales, marketing and operational costs ? 

Students considered Everett's innovation diffusion 'early adopters' and how direct sales at consumer events like the Ideal Home Exhibition and PR through lifestyle magazines could be used to generate sales using premium pricing and innovation appeal in the first year, followed by a lower price skimming approach once the novelty impact had worn off. 

B2B approaches of using a co-branded guard (leading banana company Fyffes, Del Monte or food retailer Sainsbury's ?) might see the modestly priced, but emotionally appealing, consumption enhancing  merchandising item capture additional channels-to-market. Costing around 0.87 Canadian Dollars to produce and retailing for between £4-£7, competitively priced imitators quickly followed on.

Using a relatively simple product proposition, the banana guard case study offers  up a number of positive and negative promotional associations that are considered against key contextual ideas such as healthy eating, convenience, well being, fun, children friendly and humour (but not sexual innuendo).

Students working in buzz discussion groups were invited to identify the key market segments, noting the features and benefits of the banana guard. 
School children's lunch boxes and sporty types were selected, although images with fit and healthy attired individuals eating bananas were found to be a difficult creative conceptualisation. One image concept, that was highly suggestive, was used to provocatively consider the ethics of overt and over sexualisation in the context of what might be considered good taste or appropriateness, in a  brand that had children and parents firmly in its sights. Edgy companies such as Ryanair and Bennetton have persistently used highly controversial images to give their advertising 'outrage' PR amplification. 

Product line innovator Banana Guard also now offer related, branded solutions, with amusingly names such as; 'Froot guard' and 'Froot case' for other fruit shapes and a traditional bread shaped 'S'wich case', using child friendly primary colours and seeking to expand their product offering firmly in the 'lunch box' marketplace.

Fun learning at Royal Holloway