The Marketing Scenario is a practical tool designed to help you make sure that you have a winning marketing strategy to support your brand. You will do a reality check on those dreams of success to learn if they make any sense.

Before we discuss the Marketing Scenario, I want to clarify a crucial notion regarding the marketing strategy. The marketing strategy is what we have come up with for achieving our marketing goals, and it should include two mandatory elements:

  • Which target consumers we can reach hold a viable potential to buy whatever we intend to sell?

  • What is the offer (the entire marketing mix) we will be presenting to these consumers to appeal to them and thus realize the said potential, given their alternatives?


You must not think of these as two separate questions but as two parts of the same idea.

Let me clarify. What are “target consumers with a potential to buy”? These are consumers (a sizeable enough group with buying power) likely to desire what you are offering.

Why would they want it? That is the potential that you are supposed to identify. There may be several reasons. For example, they may not be consumers of your kind of product yet, but they might be if something happens or if they are exposed to a certain message. It could be that they have special needs or preferences, which up until today were not catered to by any of your competitors (and don't forget: needs that are psychological, social, aesthetic, etc. are real needs).

Maybe they are bored with what they routinely buy. There might be certain consuming circumstances, or usages, that they are not familiar with yet. Perhaps they would have been willing to buy more had they been offered different terms of payment, or more convenient buying possibilities. When you identify such a situation, you know that the potential is there.

Identifying potential is only the initial stage of your mission, of course. Your strategy would also have to include something that you are going to offer these consumers that might improve their situation in a certain way, solve a problem, give them more than what they already get for the same price, or open new opportunities for them—in short, something that will motivate them to buy from you and thus materialize the potential.

The Marketing Scenario is a synopsis of the logic of your marketing strategy. In the same breath, it also enables you to make sure that that logic really works. The Marketing Scenario translates the marketing strategy to simple, everyday language. How will it happen in reality? How will the materialization of marketing goals occur?

I don't know whether you have already grasped this fact, but marketing goals are achieved through customer acts. So let's assume that we install a Webcam with enhanced psychological insight capabilities inside the market, and it captures the materialization of our marketing plan, one purchase after another.

What Is the Marketing Scenario?

The Marketing Scenario is an amazingly simple tool to use—only four questions (are you jotting this down?):

1. Who are the people we believe have the potential of buying what we intend to sell?

Yes, these are the same people we so often refer to as the Target Consumers. First, we must define our targets. This definition should clarify why these people, in particular, are being targeted. What is that potential we had identified? What do these people have in common that makes them probable prospects (in the sense that they are likely to be particularly interested in our offer)? Then, we want to do some profiling of our targets. We could use demographic, socioeconomic, psychographic, as well as lifestyle descriptions. Note that at times we target not a specific group but a wide, almost indefinable group of people in a specific mood, a specific situation, or a specific need or state.

Make room for another possibility. You can target not a defined group of consumers but a state of need/desire or a consumption context shared by many diverse consumers at one time or another.

2. What precisely should they be doing (that they are not doing already and will probably not do if we do not intervene) that would direct them to eventually choose our brand specifically?

I call it the Target Behavior. It is, by the way, the first and only objective of branding. What do they have to do so that your marketing plan will materialize (even before the actual purchase)? Do they have to go somewhere? To call? To agree to meet your salesperson? To stop and pick out your product from the shelf? Which activity that does not occur today would lead them in the correct path on the way to buying?

3. What is the sound reason that should motivate them to change their behavioral inertia?

How will they benefit from that change? Why would you, in their place, buy what you are offering? You can think of it as your differentiating factor (what makes you differentially better), or as your competitive advantage (what makes you comparatively better), according to your preference. I'd rather stay with the customers buying your product. What could make their situation better compared with their current standing and to the other options available to them in the market?

Remember that the benefit that you promise your customer can stem from one of three sources:

  • It can be closely connected to the product's core function (especially if there is something unique, perhaps innovative, about your product—or if it enjoys a sustainable competitive advantage).

  • It can be an extrinsic benefit, a value added in any ingredient of the marketing mix. Possibilities include an esthetically rewarding product design or packaging, an adjunct service, a purchasing experience, payment terms, delivery systems, your customer service, or even the entertaining value of your advertising (even though I bet that you are not in the habit of considering any of these factors as parts [elements?] of your “product,” they still are parts of the “whole” your customer is willing to pay for).

  • It can be an extrinsic benefit, an added value that makes the brand psychologically or socially instrumental.


4. How exactly will they extract the benefit (that which answers question 3) according to your marketing plan?

That is not a repeat question. Notice that the third question dealt with the “why” of the target consumer's planned motivation, and now we are trying to understand the “how” of your marketing plan. How are you planning to provide the benefit defined in the answer to question 3? If, for instance, you said that you are making something more accessible, easy or comfortable for them, now explain how it will become more accessible, easy or comfortable due to you product.

Let us look at an example—the introduction of Palm Pilot to the market. Just the main points:

  1. “Residents” of the business community, gadget fans, who manage a dynamic, constantly changing schedule and have not yet embraced the electronic organizers, or were disappointed by them because they were laborious to update and generally unreliable, annoyingly demanding effort every time they got damaged or a new and improved model appeared

  2. …will step into the nearest office equipment store and ask about the Palm Pilot

  3. …because at last there is an organizer which is not only sophisticated, small and wonderfully shaped but also easily kept up to date and preserves the stored data when damaged or when upgrading to a new model

  4. …because the Palm Pilot can “converse” with the PC, making the updating process simple to perform as well as enabling creation of backups that could be easily transferred to the next generations of organizers.


That is what the Marketing Scenario is all about. All you have to do is answer the questions.

Be precise. Be thorough. Be honest. Do it in writing. Even if you're absolutely sure that the answers are positively clear to you and there's nothing to be gained.

Take my word for it, there is. Only when your Marketing Scenario is totally translated to a written text should you proceed with the brand development process. Otherwise you will get trapped along the way, and don't say I didn't warn you.

‘But What If…?'

Now on to the really tough question: what if you find out that you have no marketing strategy?

Let us analyze the probable situations and see what can be done:

  1. There is no specific potential identified within a certain group of customers.

    Do not despair! I suggest that you try to think in terms of psychological or social instrumentality, as well as in terms of sensual experience. Almost always you will discover a certain refreshing essence to it, resulting from the process itself.

  2. You don't seem to manage a definition of the Target Behavior.

    Come on! Really!

  3. You cannot construct a good enough reason for them to change their behavior.

    Don't expect branding to work miracles. That could turn out to be an extremely pricey illusion! Nonetheless, the fact that you do not have a tangible factor of differentiation or uniqueness does not necessarily infer that you could not construct a non-tangible added value for your product.

    You could base a complete Marketing Scenario on an added value. Many brands, familiar to most, such as Marlboro, have been doing this for years! It will not be simple, but it is possible. You can do it, too.

  4. It is difficult for you to explain how your marketing mix is designed to help your customers extract the promised benefit.

    Go back to your desk. Put together a new marketing mix that works.
    How could I put it to you? I'll try the direct—straight-to-the-face—approach: If you don't have a convincing scenario, you will not have a brand.


A final word about the link between competitive-marketing strategy and brand strategy; I suggest that you give it some consideration:


The brand's strategy should be the translation of your competitive-marketing strategy into terms of a promise to your existing and prospective customers.


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Dan Herman, PhD, CEO of Competitive Advantages, is a strategy consultant, keynote lecturer, workshop/seminar leader, and author of Outsmart the MBA Clones: The Alternative Guide to Competitive Strategy, Marketing, and Branding (