Written by Katey Alberty 

3M, Ecuador: Team 3M conducted field research in the city of Quito, Ecuador to determine ways to increase sales of 3M’s premium Super 33+ electrical tape.

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3M Team with Professor Hunsaker

Team 3M includes Katey Alberty, Solomon Frank, Nuno Muandumba, Jo-An Su, Emily Wilcoxson, and Shane Woodson. Nuno was unfortunately unable to join us in Ecuador but instead acted as our US research extension in Arizona. In our initial meeting with our client, they outlined our research by assessing communication channels to the end user, the order in which the store offered the electrical tape, and competitors in the market. We spent the better part of the next week walking the streets of Quito, talking to various store workers in ferreterias (hardware stores), electrical stores, and consumers. To ensure we got an expansive enough sample of large and small ferreterias, electrical stores, and consumers, we mapped out areas of the city with high concentrations of ferreterias and electrical stores. Our research quickly revealed a lack of awareness within ferreterias, electrical stores, and among consumers. Store workers were commonly offering 3M’s other electrical tape, Temflex, first. A large majority of store workers we conversed with had little to no awareness of Super 33+ or if it was held in store inventory. Along the way we interacted with various electricians who were more than willing to have a conversation with our team to discuss knowledge of 33+ and product preferences.

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Learning about Competitor Products

Throughout our research, one of Team 3M’s tasks consisted of defining our consumer segments. Initially this was divided between the formal sector, which includes electricians working on industrial projects such as oil and gas, and the informal sector which includes electricians working on smaller projects. It was important to make further distinctions in the informal sector to accurately create target segments within 3M communication channels. We classified the two segments as ‘educated’ and ‘self-taught’. The educated segment consists of electrical professionals who received a formal education to receive their title, such as electrical engineers. The self-taught sector includes those professionals who learned their trade through an apprenticeship or within a family business. 3M’s marketing efforts were focused on the self-taught segment.

The team discovered a professional electrical community in Quito called the Colegio de Ingenieros Electricos y Electronicos de Pinchincha (CIEEPI). A few members of the team came upon the community and formed a relationship with a marketing manager there. Through this connection we were able to disseminate a survey to CIEEPI members, most of whom were electrical engineers that are categorized as part of the educated segment. Survey questions consisted of information relating to Super 33+, chosen brands of tape, questions relating to place of purchase, and preference of product benefits. The survey also included questions relating to a web platform that 3M wishes to create for electricians purchasing the tape. The survey garnered 24 responses and a plethora of helpful information.

With the gathering of this information came an ‘aha’ moment for the team. This educated segment of electricians that 3M thought they had a handle on were purchasing Temflex over Super 33+. This group preferred security and durability over price but still reached for Temflex when making purchase decisions. This can be attributed to low product awareness of 33+. The team saw this as a huge opportunity for 3M to leverage such an accessible population, even though it wasn’t their originally specified target market.

Another responsibility we had was to validate, modify, or create new recommendations for 3M’s existing marketing material. A series of different marketing methods was given to us. We observed a couple of picture advertisements previously created for Super 33+, the Electrician’s Club, and Program Super 33+. The Electrician’s Club is a web-based platform that includes promotional items and other electrical product deals. One of the issues we noted was the name Electrician’s Club that excludes part of the informal sector. There is social stratification between the educated sector and the self-taught sector, so a more neutral name was necessary to be more inclusive. Program Super 33+ is a program created for ferreterias with incentives to promote and sell the tape to encourage store workers to actively sell 33+.

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Performing Market Research

In the final presentation to our client, we broke down our concluding findings from our research. Within this research, we discussed trends that we detected and gaps within these segments that offered opportunities for growth. These were discussed in depth when we offered recommendations for immediate, mid-term, and long-term solutions. Our recommendations were listed in the order of the most actionable and beneficial components.

Some immediate actions that the team saw major benefit in included creating a new advertisement comparing the qualities of Super 33+ to other brands, and one showcasing the economic value that Super 33+ provides to consumers by demonstrating product lifespan. The next category was Program Super 33+ and its incentives. Throughout our field research, we found strong validation that this program is on the right track and that store workers would be in favor of an incentivized program. However, we discovered that it would have most success when implemented at the electrical store level first as opposed to starting within ferreterias. The electrical stores were most susceptible to being a member of this program. The team placed incentives in front of store workers exploring which incentives stood out the most to them and what is missing within the framework. From there we were able to provide 3M with the most popular incentives, as well as new incentives such as discounts on additional 3M products, educational material relating to 33+ and other products, and store shout-outs on social media pages or the Electrician’s Club. The Electrician’s Club was the next order of business. The team suggested that a neutral name should be established to include both segments of the informal sector. Some of the names that were proposed were Electrical Professionals, Electrical Coalition, Electrical Alliance, Electrical Association, and Electrical Society. From our interviews and survey, we found that features on the website such as store locations, a tips section, product demonstrations, and a market specific informational section were valued by consumers. The presentation was well received by our client, and he said that he was “amazed by the caliber of work we provided, and that we had given insights that he expected would significantly impact the business.” This was an incredible way to conclude our project.

Team 3M had a wide assortment of talents that contributed to the success of the project. We worked harmoniously as a team and never faced any conflict. Overall, the global consulting lab has contributed greatly to each of our professional goals and has allowed us to apply classroom knowledge in a real-world setting.

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View of Quito, Ecuador