The Dutch firm TomTom was founded in 1991 as a small software development company in the B2B market. At the turn of the century, TomTom started to focus on digital mapping and GPS navigation, which resulted in the world’s first Portable Navigation Device (PND) for the mass market. In just three years, TomTom grew to become a billion euro a year company. The introduction of the iPhone and of Google’s free mapping and navigation services in the 2000s, however, disrupted the market. TomTom had to diversify into telematics and ‘location technology’, where it sold and licensed its software to the automotive industry and to tech companies. In the second half of 2018, TomTom was in the process of winding down its PND business. After nearly 30 years of evolution, TomTom had returned to its roots and was seeing itself once again as a B2B company. Thanks to the success of the PND, TomTom had created a strong consumer brand that was still imprinted in people’s mind as being about fun and ease of use. But now TomTom had to find new ways to communicate with its business customers and showcase its advanced technologies. How could TomTom best do that?
After discussing the case, students should be able to:
- Acquire a deep understanding of how brands need to be managed over time;
- Understand both differences and similarities between B2B and B2C marketing;
- Understand how and under which circumstances B2C-oriented brand associations can contribute to success in B2B settings;
- Understand how to change a strongly-embedded brand identity, with both internal and external stakeholders, from the B2C to the B2B domain;
- Understand the challenges posed by ‘Big Bang Disruptors’, which come with shark-fin models of new product adoption;
- Weigh the strategic options available to companies competing with tech giants like Google.
This case is suitable for MBA, EMBA and other Master or executive-level students in marketing, branding and innovation. Because the case articulates a strategic vision of branding, it is also suitable for people with an interest in consulting and general management.
Marketing; branding; innovation; disruption; technology; automotive; navigation; B2B; Google; self-driving cars; autonomous driving.
1. Most marketing and branding cases are about selling to consumers (B2C), while the majority of economic activity lies in the Business-to-Business (B2B) sector. Because the consumer market is more tangible, relatable, and often more ‘fun’ to students, exciting cases on B2B marketing and branding are particularly difficult to find. This case fills that gap. Moreover, the case addresses both B2C and B2B marketing issues and tackles the challenges of moving from one to the other. Thus, students can develop a deep understanding of the differences between B2C and B2B marketing/branding and an enhanced appreciation of the power of brand identity.
2. Today, almost all technology firms – regardless of the industry they are in – face the same challenge: How to compete with tech giants such as Google. A traditional industry can change its nature and structure within a short period of time because of an external disrupter. For example, what will happen to the automotive industry and to TomTom? This case allows students to explore the disruption of industrial ecosystems caused by advancements in digital technology and by the far-reaching threat posed to traditional companies by the rise of the new tech giants
3. Brands are ‘symbols for sale’, and this case discusses how to create, market and develop them over time. Differently from many cases that look at branding strategy at a static point in a company’s development, this case follows a brand over the course of 30 years, giving students the opportunity to not just wrestle with a current branding dilemma but also to reflect on how brands can be managed over time.
4. The automotive industry, one of the most important industries by any measure, is facing a number of crucial challenges. One of the most important is the move towards autonomous driving, perhaps the most visible example of how Artificial Intelligence is likely to reshape business in the decades to come. The case affords the opportunity to discuss the future of mobility.
5. This case provides counter-intuitive takeaways and several ‘Aha’ moments. Based on our experience in teaching the case, by the end of the class students tend to arrive at completely different conclusions from those popular at the beginning of the discussion. The case allows for several moments of epiphany (discussed below), leading to an engaged, rewarding and memorable learning experience. The rich support materials accompanying the case (PPT, video interviews with top executives, video of the brand revitalization process) add to the vividness of the experience.
6. The vast majority of existing cases feature male protagonists though the target audience in our classrooms is between 30 and 70% female. This case helps redress the balance by featuring a female protagonist. Corinne Vigreux, co-founder of TomTom and director of its consumer division since 2008, is among the most influential female leaders in the technology sector and has initiated several programmes to help other women succeed in the sector. We hope that by highlighting a female tech champion this case will contribute to correcting the gender imbalance in the technology world.
This multi-source case includes the following materials:
- Introductory video;
- Executive summary;
- Teaching case (with restricted access);
- Teaching note (with restricted access);
- PowerPoint presentation for teachers (with restricted access);
- Video supplement to the teaching note (with restricted access); and
- Video interviews with TomTom senior management (with restricted access).
To access the restricted materials, please first purchase the case and teaching note at www.thecasecentre.org. The access instructions are included in the teaching note.
Click here to download the PDF version of the Executive Summary.