Case study rev 1

Marketing communications are all the promotional methods available for a company
to interact and deliver messages to it’s target audiences. The rapid increase in the
number of options available is due to the growth of information technology and the
mass adoption of disruptive communication technologies such as smart phones and
hand held tablet devices (Alalwan, 2018; Bessant and Tidd, 2011; Kotler and
Armstrong, 2010;). It is fundamentally changing the marketing communications
landscape away from traditional mass media outlets of press and broadcasting.
Instead companies now need to explore and understand a plethora of
communication channels available for them to interact with customers. This change
is compounded by tough economic trading conditions driving a demand from senior
management for investments to be made more cost effectively; with better
performances and greater accountability expected (Gabrielli and Balboni, 2010;
Hodge et al, 2018; Nath and Mahajan, 2008; Ilchul et al, 2004;). Consequently,
understanding what returns are gained from expenditure on marketing
communications is important (Alalwan, 2018; Einwiller and Boenigk, 2012). It is
suggested the most effective marketing communications are planned, integrated and
results orientated. This enables companies to deliver the right message, using the
right medium to a specifically targeted audience in a manner that elicits measureable
results (Eriksson, 2018; Kahinde, 2010).
SMEs make up 99% of the local economy in NI, and the wider UK (NISRA, 2017).
Yet, the vast of majority of research on marketing practices and marketing
communications focuses on larger organisations operating at a national and
international level. SMEs are not scaled down versions of large firms, and have
different managerial characteristics (Ates et al, 2013; Eriksson, 2018; Gilmore et al,
Context – Case Company Profile
The case company, WhitePot Ltd, is a tightly controlled family owned SME based in
Northern Ireland. It was established in 1975 to retail carpet tiles and quickly added
wall and floor tiles to its product portfolio.
As outlined in Appendix 1, WhitePot Ltd has grown from one small tile retail outlet into
one of the largest importers, retailers, distributors and manufacturers of ceramic and
porcelain tile products in Ireland (Duedil, 2014). It has done so by consistently and
incrementally diversifying its offering to differentiate itself within the highly fragmented
and polarised tile industry and wider construction sector; categorized with a small
number of larger manufacturers/distributers and a much larger number of smaller
suppliers all targeting what is generally described as a difficult but improving market
(Keynote, 2017). As confirmed by WhitePot Ltd’s Chairman, it has survived tough
economic and recessionary periods, when others have not, by focusing activities on
being responsive to market changes, sensible financial administration, flexibility and
continually innovating, driven by a need to differentiate in a low margin, highly
competitive market;
“This recession feels like we survived a heart attack. At one point
our retail business was down 50%. Several of our key competitors
went out of business. We survived because we had diversified. We
could have been like Gilroy Tiles or Tile Market or Frackletons if we
hadn’t taken risks and diversified” (Chairman and Owner)
Most recently, in 2017, while operating in a declining local market, WhitePot Ltd’s
Managing Director successfully undertook a pilot project to create new export market
development opportunities for its relatively unique manufacturing business (Ansoff,
1957; 1989; Coulter and McKeag, 2013). As defined by WhitePot Ltd’s Managing
Director and presented in Table 1 the company has now developed diverse
commercial activities in four distinct but interlinked, challenging and competitive
“In reality we now have four separate businesses with distinct sets of
customers with distinct wants and needs. Under the WhitePot Ltd
brand we operate in tile retailing, wholesale distribution, commercial
contracting and manufacturing.” (Managing Director)
Table 1: WhitePot Ltd’s Commercial Activities and Markets
Target Market Segments
WhitePot Ltd operates two retail brands;

There are three WhitePot Ltd
branded outlets. They supply
mid to high range products to
retail consumers and trade

It has two Tile Factory Outlets.
They supply discounted tile
products at the budget end of
Northern Irelands retail market
These activities concentrate on (but are
not totally dependent upon) historical and
church restoration projects in Ireland.
These activities relate to the supply of
tiles and associated products to smaller
independent tile retailers further down
the supply chain
The facility produces two types of

Larger batch production of
borders and mosaics for
distribution and retail Market

Single bespoke productions of
decorative tile designs, to
specification; normally
designed by WhitePot Ltd and
manufactured using high power
water jet cutting technology
The middle and upper end of
consumer markets in Northern
Ireland. Aims to satisfy demand and
desire for better quality products and
gain higher margins
Lower middle to budget end of
consumers in Northern Ireland; to
satisfy an appetite for quality at
affordable prices
Focuses on Architects and building
Contractor; primarily in Ireland)
to Revenue
Smaller Tile retailers throughout
Larger tile manufacturers, distributors
and retailers in UK
Focuses on the Interior design and
architect market at the high end of
market (primarily in London and
South East of England). It promotes
to Architects servicing the
construction contacts industry in
Source: WhitePot Ltd (2017)
This diversity in commercial activities and markets creates challenges for a company
to communicate effectively with fragmented target audiences, in completely different
market segments, in a way that is organisationally manageable and sustainable. Even
more so in a family owed SME where approaches to marketing practices tend to be
unconventional, ad-hoc, determined by the perception of the owner/managers and
limited by its resources, knowledge and skills (Alalwan, 2018; Gilmore et al, 2001).
This is further complicated by the need to cope with an increasing number of marketing
communication methods to reach customers using both traditional and modern nontraditional media.
Recognising that companies must continually innovate to sustain competitive
advantage in an increasingly saturated market place WhitePot Ltd has, to date,
displayed an ability to identify and exploit its resources and opportunities to
maximise the benefit for the company (Hodge et al, 2018; Sirmon and Hitt, 2003;
Eddleston et al, 2008).
Whitepot Ltd have appointed you to work as a research associate to evaluate its
marketing communication practices in order to identify practical opportunities to
enhance its processes; with the ultimate aim of improving sales and revenues. You
are to complete your study by September 2021. However, the Managing Director
would like a preliminary research proposal of no more than 2,500 words on his desk
by 10th January.
Your key tasks are to:
1/ Identify a title for your project;
2/ Identify a set of research objectives for your project
3/ Conduct a preliminary literature review (minimum 10-15 high quality references)
4/ Outline and justify appropriate research methodology to undertake the study
5/ Outline a project plan to execute the study.

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