Trap-Ease America: the Big Cheese of Mousetraps

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Trap-Ease America: The Big Cheese of Mousetraps

Synopsis

A group of investors has purchased from an inventor the U.S. rights to sell a patented, innovative mousetrap. The group has hired Martha House to manage the company that includes assuming responsibility for sales and marketing.

Trap-Ease America has targeted the trap to housewives, whom it believes will be attracted to the safety and cleanliness that its trap offers. The trap lures the mouse into a square tube in which it finds itself trapped alive. Thus, there is no danger in baiting and setting the trap, and there is no “mess” resulting from the trap’s operation.

Martha is marketing the trap directly to large retail store chains such as Safeway and Kmart. The traps are sold in packages of two and are priced at $2.49—about five to 10 times the price of the traditional, spring-loaded trap.

Martha has been promoting the mousetrap through trade shows and personal selling. As the case opens, she has just returned from a trade show at which the mousetrap received the award as Best New Product of the Year.

Despite the innovativeness of the mousetrap and its success at gaining public attention, sales are disappointingly slow. Martha finds herself wondering why the world is not beating a path to her door, as Ralph Waldo Emerson would have predicted.

Discussion Questions

1.Martha and the investors in Trap-Ease seem to face a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” What information do they need to evaluate this opportunity? What do you think the investor group would write as its “mission statement?”

The case paints a very typical picture of a group of businesspeople who believe they have an outstanding product that will be readily accepted by the market. There is little evidence in the case that the investors have done any real thinking about customer needs or have followed the marketing concept as it is introduced in the chapter. The investors believe they have a mousetrap, which will satisfy customer needs, and, therefore, customers will buy it. Students need to realize that even though a firm may have an excellent product it needs to understand customers’ needs and how they respond to those needs. There is no indication in the case that the investor group has any marketing information about its potential customers or has done any real marketing research. The investors would need to know the size of the mousetrap market in the United States. Who buys mousetraps? What kinds do they buy? What prices are charged for the various kinds of mousetraps? How are these mousetraps sold to consumers? What customer needs do existing mousetraps solve, and which needs do they fail to solve adequately? How do consumers deal with their mice and rat problems? Answers to these and other “marketing research” types of questions would give the investors a better feel for the challenges facing them in marketing the mousetrap.

Like many new, small businesses, however, the investors would write a mission statement that focused on making money for themselves. Their statement might be, “Make a lot of money by selling a patented mousetrap.” Discussing this with the class will allow the instructor to raise the oft-repeated slogan, “maximize shareholder wealth.” Proponents of the marketing concept might well argue that making money is not the goal of the firm. Rather, if one follows the marketing concept, the goal of the firm must be first to satisfy the firm’s customers and to do that better than the competition. Only then does a firm have the opportunity to “make money.”

2.Who is identified as Trap-Ease’s target market? Are there other possible market segments that the firm could target?

The case indicates that Trap-Ease is targeting housewives, and implies that housewives are reluctant to set and bait traditional spring-loaded mousetraps. They also are concerned about the safety of children and pets that may be around the home because once the spring-loaded...
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