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Market segmentation studies indicated the existence of a super premium catfood segment. But several attempts of the petfood subsidiaries of the Mars group had failed to launch a new brand above its own market leading premium brand Whiskas. The last attempt some years ago in Germany resulted in a test market flop with „Cleo“ in flat premium cans. The R & D department had developed a new super premium product with high quality ingredients which was offered in an innovative packaging (deep drawn bowl). This „last“ super premium catfood attempt was tested thoroughly by the Mars group.  Market simulation and a test market in northern Germany were carried out. But the results were contradictary. The market simulation – based on the so called „Relevant Set approach“ – predicted a flop but wasn’t able to provide any concrete optimisation advice. Sales development in the test market , however, was positive.

Given the strategic importance and the potential high investment in a new packaging line, it was decided to use a second market simulation method.  In the method selection process the objectives, proven reliable determination of market potential and the ability to provide concrete optimisation advice, were the key influencing factors. It was obvious that these criteria would play an essential role for the strategic launch decision in Europe. Mars decided to use a method for the first time, which is nowadays named “$ales Effect market simulation”.

The second simulation forecasted a larger market opportunity. The analysis also indicated the existence of a larger optimisation potential group within the so called „cat lover“segment. These respondents didn’t perceive a superior cat enjoyment compared to their current catfood main brand. – This contradicted significant cat preference results in numerous blind product tests. – Their perception was influenced by the observation that their cats didn’t finish a Sheba pack size per meal (no empty “plate proof”). Additionally research indicated that the initial Sheba 150 gram size was too big for an average cat per meal. Therefore, when Sheba was launched nationally its packaging size was reduced to 100 gram. This change influenced the perceived cat preference of Sheba positively and convinced the larger optimisation potential group to switch to Sheba.

Advertising effect tests also provided sound advice in other marketing decisions. In one of the tested TV commercial alternatives Sheba was decorated with a dill weed. Cat owners with a more rational attitude to their cat disliked and rejected that idea. But for the highly emotionally involved “cat lover” segment this decoration scene was perceived as ultimate  proof of quality. That scene significantly enhanced their trial purchase intention and was therefore maintained in the commercial, making it one of the most effective commercials ever broadcasted for Sheba. The nowadays named “$ales Effect Market Simulation” yielded a good fit between forecasted and real market values. The deviation in the predicted market share were only 0.2 percent points.

Methods used: Qualitative methods, market simulation, product effect tests, packaging effect tests, advertising effect test.