This case introduces students to the heritage brand Maille. Dating back to 1747, this brand has managed to elevate the image of mustard from commodity to premium product, capitalizing on brand authenticity and adopting the codes and strategies of luxury brands. Present in supermarkets with a premium price positioning, Maille develops its image through creating an elaborate customer experience in its boutiques, as well as through a communication strategy based on storytelling. Yet, the core base of customers who identify as gourmets is aging. To sustain its development, Maille needs to gain appeal among younger generations of consumers, without betraying its identity.
The Maille brand manager was interviewed in relation to the case. Participant observation was conducted in the boutiques in Paris (both Place de la Madeleine and Caroussel du Louvre) and in London, followed by discussions with Maille sommeliers. Data were also gathered through secondary sources. The question “How to seduce younger consumers with mustard” was proposed by Unilever.
Relevant courses and levels
This case has been effectively used with MBA and MSc Marketing students in Brand Management classes to demonstrate how brands draw inspiration from the luxury sector to become aspirational, enhance their social prestige and position themselves at higher price points. Students must reflect on how to build on the brand’s current strengths in order to protect it from a decline in consumption and competitive threats. Based on this analysis of the current situation, students must decide on the value of Maille differentiation strategy to younger consumers and on which segments to target without harming the brand’s identity. The rejuvenation of heritage brands (or gaining appeal to younger generations of customers) is a major issue in many sectors, from luxury, to wine and spirits, to food.
The case fosters discussions on core marketing concepts such as heritage branding and brand authenticity as well as differentiation and premiumisation strategies, all concepts that should be developed when answering the assignment questions. Furthermore, students should choose between a segmentation based on demographics (age, generations), and a segmentation based on lifestyle and attitude toward food.
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