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By:
Mohammed Haroon Khan
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Head Cowgirl Marilyn Lysohir founded
Cowgirl Chocolates in 1997. Her two
favourite things in the world are art (she
has a notable career as a ceramic sculptor) and
chocolate. In fact her first job was working in a
chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Marilyn
mingled some favourite memories with some new
ideas to create an American original, Cowgirl
Chocolates.
Cowgirl Chocolates has won a total of 16 product awards
and 2 packaging awards and is located in Moscow, Idaho
USA. It has also been featured on the Food Network
on ´Unwrappedµ and ´Extreme Cuisineµ and in the New
York Times and Toronto Star among others.

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¢ Marilyn has the knowledge of chocolate making and has a strong
entrepreneurial attitude.

¢ As an artist, Marilyn has a very creative mind in developing product


packaging and logos and has won several awards for her packaging
and product.

¢ Marilyn has already secured the support of Seattle Chocolates to


manufacture her product in small batches and to display her product
at trade shows.

¢ Marilyn has used ´freeµ publicity effectively in making the public


aware of her product.

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¢ Marilyn has acquired the local support of the Food Cooperative
in carrying her product and displaying the product.

¢ Cowgirl Chocolates has a Web site that can be used to gather


customer information and to measure repeat purchase
behavior.

¢ Marilyn·s products and packaging have won several awards,


which in turn have generated some publicity for her products.



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¢ Marilyn is not sure if she is competing in the hot and spicy food market, the
chocolate candy market, or the novelty gift market .

¢ The customer is not well defined for Cowgirl Chocolates because the market
is not well defined.

¢ Marilyn has no knowledge about whether her customers are repeat buyers
or new buyers, especially at the local food cooperative and from her Web
site sales.

¢ The product is unique and the idea of ´hot and spicy chocolatesµ does not
fit the mental associations that individuals hold about chocolates.
Therefore, the perceptions of the product are confusing for the average
customer.






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¢ The ´unique productµ means customers must be willing to take a risk in trying the
product, either by taste-testing or buying a small package (trial purchase). There are
inherent costs associated with taste-testing.

¢ The high retail price ($14.95) of the product given the package size and the amount
of product (25 truffles) in the half-pound collectible tin is inconsistent and needs
some testing of the ´just noticeable differenceµ in product pricing and packaging,
and possibly taste.

¢ Because Marilyn does not have a clear description of the ´repeat buyer,µ she is
having difficulty in determining the ´place or distributionµ of her product. That is,
should it be grocery stores, gift shops, restaurants, department stores,
etc.? Placement of the product must be consistent with the promotion and pricing
strategies.

¢ Marilyn has not secured a distributor for her products and needs one soon if she is
to remain in business.



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¢ Marilyn has taken a ´shotgun approachµ to advertising her
product. She does not appear to have a well-developed
promotional plan for building the image and demand for her
product.

¢ Her current inventory levels are excessive given that


chocolate is a perishable product. She also has an excessive
inventory of packaging materials.

¢ Marilyn·s record keeping/accounting efforts have been


minimal. As a result, she really does not know which
products are more profitable than others and she does not
have a realistic view of her revenues and expenses.
   
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¢ Most people associate the taste and flavor of chocolate to be creamy, sweet,
perhaps bitter, etc., but few would associate ´hot and spicyµ with chocolates.
This product would provide a unique taste and a different chocolate
experience.

¢ Recent reports claim that chocolate does provide some health benefits, and
there have also been reports on the health benefits of spicy foods. Although
Cowgirl Chocolates cannot make this claim on its packaging, knowledgeable
consumers may consider this to be a benefit.

¢ The small community of Moscow has a certain pride in its name and
products produced locally. Therefore, many consumers may be buying the
product for its creative packaging and locally known citizen.

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¢ Coverage & exposure is not enough
¢ Doesn·t have a proper distributor so that there
are more effective in promoting, facilitating,
and transacting with potential retailers that can
eventually lead to increased demand for the
product.
¢ Retailers do not want to assume the risk of
product with low inventory turnover rates due to
low consumer demand.
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¢ In short, the basic strengths of the business are Marilyn·s creative, artistic talents,
her strong entrepreneurial spirit, and her willingness to take risks. However, her
individual strengths alone cannot overcome her company·s weaknesses in
financing and marketing. She needs a clear marketing plan that justifies her
expenditures using an objective and task approach. Her number one priority should
be to find a distributor who can properly place her perishable food product in
appropriate retail stores. She cannot continue to take financial risks as she has
done with the print advertisement and with the international distributor. If Marilyn
develops a marketing plan that is consistent across her product, price, promotion,
and distribution decisions, Cowgirl Chocolates does stand a chance of surviving.
Her risky investments must be converted into sound financial decisions.
ANY SUGGESTION TO HELP MARILYN ?