Has Marketing Changed?
In today's hyper competitive business environment, marketing is of critical importance. Very often great innovations succeed or fail in the marketplace not based on the technological breakthroughs or quality of the product offerings alone, but mainly because of a company's ability to bring them to the market and achieve market validity and drive adoptions. My involvement with technology-based firms has emphasized the revolutionary impact of emerging technologies on marketing and the marketing process. The internet, cognitronics (building an interface between the brain and the computer,) genotyping (classifying population segments based on genetics,) and biointeractive materials (high technology sensors for living systems) are just some of the developments that will create a profound impact on marketing. They demand our long-held assumptions be challenged and re-examined as the quiet revolution in marketing unfolds.
Personalization can take on a whole new meaning when you can segment a customer by his or her genetic type. Biointeractive materials dramatically alter everyday products - from a shirt that monitors vital health signs to a TV that measures your level of enjoyment. Up until now, marketing theory has focused on helping companies see the importance of shifting from product-centric marketing to marketing as an engine of growth. Ted Levitt's classic articles "Marketing Myopia" along with "Success Through Differentiation - of Anything," played an important part in bringing new thinking to both academics and practitioners. Four powerful forces - digitization, globalization, deregulation and miniaturization, shaped and continue to shape the very concept of marketing and what it's expected to do.
While many marketing practitioners still consider their discipline to be a series of tools, processes and techniques, academics have attempted to seek legitimacy in the world of scientific research. Marketing research exists, as does specialized postgraduate courses in the field. Management Science is a relatively new field of study, however the use of the term "science" is hotly debated since management is undoubtedly an art as well as a science.
Marketers are often perceived to lack technical expertise and analytical thinking skills. Another perception is that marketers use (or perhaps misuse) "branding" to solve many business problems. Plus the often over-romanticized perception of marketing also plays a role in today's problem with marketing. The common perception is that marketing needs to be imaginative, visionary, and that people other than marketers cannot understand it. Marketing is out in a pretend world where anything goes. To revitalize a brand, they say they define a new target market, "For the young and urbanů." To appear proactive, they intone, "Added values." With the help of their advertising agencies they often set unachievable marketing goals that are doomed to fail from the beginning.
The reality is - what single advertising-given and driven "reason" do people have for choosing between IBM and Dell? Sprint versus AT&T? Hertz versus Avis? Nokia versus Motorola? Why should some lightweight selling proposition in the form of a headline and visuals change customers' behavior? How different are the brand attributes between Coke and Pepsi? Dell and IBM? The realist view of marketing is that nearly identical goods cannot be made distinctive by clever copy and striking visuals.
However, if we think of marketing science as involving the observation and classification of facts and the establishment of verifiable laws used by marketers as a guide or formula with assurance of predictable results, then we have not gotten far toward establishing a science of marketing. Over the last twenty years, marketers have made significant progress in the use of scientific methods in tests that measure the results from mixes or parts of mixes. Thereby marketers have been learning how to subject the hypothesis of their marketing mix to empirical check. But the true essence of marketing strategy lies in the relationship of a firm to its external environment. The essence of a market lies in bringing together products and customers. Market strategy is thus the relationship of a firm's product, service and price behavior to its customer environment.
The study of market strategy is not confined to any disciplinary perspective but actually lies at the intersection of three disciplinary areas: corporate strategy, economics and consumer behavior. In strategic terms, it is focused on the firm's strategic intent, its growth requirements and appetite. In economic terms, it is focused on the demand side of strategy. In consumer behavioral terms, it is focused on the customer side of strategy. Because of this focus on the demand side and concern with customer environment, "marketing strategy" has a more specific meaning than "business strategy" or the broader concept of "corporate strategy". Similarly, it has a somewhat different meaning from "competitive strategy", which focuses mainly on the industry structure and competitive dynamics. Let's make sure that we do not get confused over this.
Idris Mootee is a business strategist and expert in strategic marketing. He is the president of Strategy Architects Inc., a strategic marketing consulstancy. Prior to that he was the Group Strategy Director and Global Practice Leader or San Francisco-based Organic Inc. and Chief Strategist of CBIZ eSolutions. He holds master degrees in management and business administration and is the author of Escape Velocity and High Intensity Marketing. Visit www.highintensitymarketing.com for more information.
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