Professor Stephen Brown of Ulster University has challenged a number of fundamental assumptions underlying the marketing concept. He thinks that marketers make too much of researching and satisfying customers and, as a result, risk losing marketing imagination and significant consumer impact. Here are some of his criticisms:
1. If marketers pay too much attention to what consumers say they need or want, marketers will simply make products similar to those that already exist. Consumers normally start from what they know, not from what might be possible. For example, they might say that they want a smaller phone, but would not ask for one that includes a Palm Pilot or Voice Recognition. It is the marketer’s job to go beyond what customers say they want.
2. The marketing concept assumes that consumers have clear goals and pursue them rationally. But consumers are buffeted by all kinds of forces. Many respond to hyped products and stories. Therefore, marketers need skills beyond APIC – analysis, planning, implementation and control. Marketers need to be able to create dramas, new realities, artificial scarcities, celebrations, and the like.
The contemporary marketing concept implies that marketers must be submissive to customers and go all out to please them. This vision may be conceived as ‘pull’, i.e. the firm listens to customers and is driven by satisfying their needs/wants. In contrast, marketing may also be conceived as a ‘push’ discipline, i.e. influencing/persuading. However, any suggestion that marketers might ‘play’ with the customer, even manipulate the public, is taboo. In fact, some of the greatest marketers of the past such as PT Barnum teased the public, overdramatized offerings and yet the public loved it. Should the customer be dominant and the marketer always submissive?
In order to reflect and elaborate on the task this paper went through an investigation of the various stages of writing a marketing plan. It also made an attempt to provide new and fresh insights for the consideration of thinking marketing plans in today’s global environment. The paper made use of marketing theories and models taken from textbooks and online resources, but also practical example to further explain five main factors, in order: the consideration involved in deciding the marketing objectives, the marketing audit, principal decisions to be made when preparing a marketing plan, the main criteria for the successful implementation of the marketing plan, and the pros and cons of standardizing the marketing management process.
The main consideration for setting the objectives
From broad to the specific
Marketing planning is defined as a logical sequence and series of activities aiming to the settings of marketing objectives and the formulation of plans for achieving them. As suggested by the definition given above, marketing objectives come as a result of a series of logical considerations. McDonald (2007) recommends approaching this challenging task proceeding from the broad to the specific. First of all, marketing objectives have to be coherent with the organization’s main objectives (the corporate objectives), those usually expressed in terms of profitability, market share and growth (Wilson, 2005).
So the first step is considering the corporate financial objectives. Then the marketing planner has to consider the information gathered by a number of audits, among which there is the marketing audit i.e. the systematic collection of data and information about the external environment and about the company’s operations (McDonald, 1991). Marketers need to consider the Swot analysis as well as Pastel and other types of internal and external analysis as they provide all the information about what the company should and should not try to set as objectives (Wood, 2010)
After making the necessary assumptions about the key external factors, marketing objectives can now be identified, although the strategies to meet these objectives need to be considered too. Choosing a strategy means that a plan of action is to be developed (McDonald, 2007). In the end, the objectives must be attainable within budget limitation, so capabilities and resources of the firm will affect decision for setting the objectives too (Wilson, 2005).
The marketing strategies make use of the marketing mix, which involves the consideration of a set of additional sub-objectives; a hierarchy of objectives is inevitably created in the marketing plan, which can be traced back to the initial corporate objectives (McDonald, 2007). If the objective in the marketing plan are explicit and clearly connected to the higher level objectives and long-terms goals, the plan is more likely to produce the desired performance (Wood, 2010).
Nonetheless marketing objectives are commonly recognized as being of a quantitative nature, and to be about products and markets only. “A marketing objective is the quantification of an organization sells (its products) and to whom (its market)” (Mc Donald, 2007) within a specific time frame (Aaker, 2006). The Ansoff matrix is a useful tool for thinking about marketing objectives. It is important to consider that each permutation of the Matrix will lead to a different marketing response (McDonald, 2007).
A practical approach – considering the society
Very often mangers like to consider that the whole process of setting objectives have to remain rational, no matter past experiences, intuitions or feelings (McDonald, 1995). However according to the principle of societal marketing proposed by Kotler (2006), in order to achieve long term profitability, marketers must consider that in addition to high standards of objectivity, integrity and technical competence, they need, responding to the changing environment, to set their objectives considering the benefits of the society too (Thomas, 2006).
On this matter Sirgy and Lee (1996) found that organizations focusing only on financial and growth-oriented marketing objectives are likely to engage in unethical and socially irresponsible behavior. For example, a pharmaceutical company may have the following marketing objective: Increase the market share of brand X medical product from 20 per cent to 35 per cent by the end of next year. Marketing ethicists have long criticized some marketers for taking unethical decisions when selecting the markets (Thomas, 2006).
Smith and Quelch (1993) have referred to these issues as ethical issues of inclusion and exclusion (cited by Sirgy and Lee, 1996, p.23). An example of an inclusion market selection decision considered unethical is target marketing of a drug to consumers who are likely to abuse the drug. Noticing that a marketing objective provides guidelines to the efforts of individuals and functions (Thomas, 2006), a special consideration is needed for this matter.
According to Sirgy and Lee (1996), is through an integrated process of deriving the objectives by bottom-up and top-down, that marketing objectives can become particularly sensitive to the issues of ethics and sustainability. The Body Shop is a great example of a company with a strong dedication to set socially responsible types of objectives and it made this process to become the main philosophy of its business (www.icmrindia.org)
The case of Body Shop
A conceptual framework presented by the Body Shop (see Exhibit 1) illustrates how a can a firm specific marketing objectives are guided by its main philosophy i.e. to dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change, generating long-term profits and long-term customer relationship (Grant, 2007).
It is arguable that the process is mainly based on an integrated top-down and bottom-up method. It is top down because it takes in consideration the philosophy of the firm and the main organization objectives and bottom-up because the marketing mix objectives are used to design the general ones.
In the1990 there has been an increasing emphasis on the need for transparency and especially on the environmental impact by the businesses; for instance in 1992 the United Nation Conference of Environment and Development (UNCED) produced the Agenda 21, a policy that made explicit the importance of environmental management (www.un.org). The Body Shop found what was considered as a threat for many, a profitable opportunity for strengthening their philosophy and developed a competitive space with strong barriers for new entrance (Sillanpää, 1998).
The marketing audit
Definitions and its purposes
Finding competitive advantage by matching the strengths to the opportunities or convert the threats into strengths and opportunities is the task of a Swot analysis, a tool used to gather information for the marketing audit (Baker, 2000). The marketing audit has been defined by Phillip Kotler (1977) as a ‘comprehensive, systematic, independent and periodic examination activities and resources for determining problem areas and opportunities and to recommend a plan of action’ (cited by Wilson, 2005, p30).
The marketing audit is of vital importance for the marketing plan process providing a supportive analysis to both corporative and marketing decision-making processes, especially in the identification of the objectives. The main purpose of marketing audit is in the words of Dibbs et al (2001) to make sure that the decision-making process occurs as an “informed” one.
Consequently an effective marketing audit will provide the organization with a position of strength in respect of its knowledge of the market place, a position of competitive advantage (Kotler and Keller, 2000). Firms approaching a marketing-oriented philosophy, will find that consumer needs are constantly changing and believe that it must become focused on the markets and customers it serves through market and customer audit and to put customer first in every aspect of the organization (Ulwick, 2005).
What consumer want?
At this stage marketing managers are responsible for identify opportunity for growth through research and analysis, segmenting markets, conducting competitive analysis, generating ideas, measuring customer satisfaction, but mainly what they are trying to do is to understand the fateful matter of “what the customers want”, a statement that appears in many of the marketing definitions, but that many firms strive to achieve (McDonald, 2007).
However according to the scenario presented in this assignment, the marketing concept has received many critiques regarding the fact that it focuses too much on ‘research’ and ‘to satisfy customers’, yet with a risks of losing marketing imagination and significant consumer impact. Brown (2009) argues that consumers research limit innovation because ‘consumers normally start from what they know and not from what might be possible.’ In addition to what stated by Brown a further quote is given taken by the Marxist Internet archive (www.marxsite.com)
‘Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve, if looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation’ - Carl Marx, 192
Innovation and marketing
An important factor to take in consideration is, therefore, that customers do not always know what they want. The only thing that they do know is that they want better ways to solve their problems (Ulwick, 2005). Technology innovation plays an important role in this case, because creates new opportunities for commercial exploitation and creates new tasks (McDonald, 2007).
Nevertheless is the role of the marketing team to capture and interpret the signals from the external environment and generate ideas for its commercial use (McDonald, 2007). Furthermore in order for the new product the to be successful in the market place, marketers need to constantly assess those ideas against the current consumer’s needs, wants and desires (Ulwick, 2005).
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