Marketing philosophy has experienced three major shifts during the history of commerce in the United States. First it was production oriented, then sales oriented, and currently it is consumer oriented. Till the late 1920s, companies had limited production capacity, and there was continuous demand for their products. The belief at that time was that, one can sell as much as one can produce. The entire company used to focus on production and Marketing was limited to taking order and supplying products on time. With the introduction of mass-production, production capacity caught up with and, in many areas, exceeded demand. Now, the businesses were sales oriented. Their philosophy became selling as much as one can, by using advertisements and other promotional activities
The end of World War II bought a world of choices to the consumers and a lot of competition to the existing players. There started a heavy competition for the consumer dollar. Businesses quickly came to realize that if they were going to get their share of those dollars, they were going to have to become more consumer oriented. This change in philosophy became known as the marketing concept.
The Marketing concept relies on marketing research to define market segments their size and their needs. It is the philosophy that the companies should analyze the needs of their customers and then make decision to satisfy those needs better than their competition. (www.NetMBA.com)
Thus, the marketing concept is essentially establishing a tangible relation between a company’s capabilities with customer needs. However, this is not the only factor that is taken into account. The marketing environment has other competitors who are planning the very same strategies to lure consumers. Herb Kelleher, CEO of Southwest Airlines says”
We don’t have a Marketing Department; we have a customer department” And in the words of a fords executive “If we are not customer driven, our cars won’t be either” (Kotler, Armstrong. 2006). Companies that have embraced the marketing concept have found that it has had a strong impact on sales. They have also found that, in many respects, it has changed the way they operate.
In addition the volatility of the marketing environment like and changes in the political, economic, social and technological environment, should also be taken into account, while developing a strategy. Any organization that applies the marketing concept essentially puts its present and potential customer’s needs as a guideline for its marketing and organizational operations.
For e.g. – Consumers need to eat when they are hungry. What they want to eat and in what kind of environment will vary enormously. For some, eating at McDonalds satisfies the need to meet hunger. For others a microwaved ready-meal meets the need. Some consumers are never satisfied unless their food comes served with a bottle of fine Chardonnay. (http://www.tutor2u.net/business/marketing/marketing_concept.asp)
However, after creating a desire in the consumers, the pricing should also be sufficiently affordable, make them actually purchase the product.
The Marketing concept first analyzes the needs of the consumer and then decides the appropriate product to fulfill those needs. Being customer driven, the marketing concept starts with a target market and customers. The company then focuses on the needs of these consumers and integrates all its marketing activities towards building an effective relation with these customers.
For e.g. – The shift in buying behavior from marketplace to “marketspace “made Microsoft enter into online automobile retailing with CarPoint.com. While CarPoint could not “sell” or deliver any cars, it could shift much of consumer search, comparison, and decision-making, including pricing, from the physical platform of the traditional car dealer to the virtual world of the Web (Boyd, Walker, Mullins, 2006).
As is clearly seen above, such customer-driven approaches succeed, when the consumers know what they want. There is a clear need which is fulfilled by a combination of product and promotional mix. In many cases however, the customers do not know what they want or need. For e.g. – 25 years back, the concept of e-books or for that matter cell phones for a regular usage was something an average customer could not foresee.
Such cases call for customer driver marketing, where the company understands the customers even better than the customers themselves. As Sony’s Akio Morita says “Out plan is to lead the public with new products, rather than as them what kind of products they want.” (Kotler, et al, 2006) SONY Corporation was the first to come up with the idea of a “walkman”, when they observed that consumers like music to be with them always. It is just as if they well “humming the music”. The idea, which was initially fiercely opposed, became a milestone in the company’s history.
According to Philip Kotler – Any Company’s marketing strategy requires more than just developing a good product, attractively pricing it and ensuring its ready availability to its consumers. The strategy must include communicating with its current and prospective customers, and what they communicate should not be left to chance. (Kotler et al 2006)
Companies use a wide range of marketing communications to promote the company, their products and their services. A company’s total marketing communication mix consists of a combination of tools like advertising, sales promotion, public relations, personnel selling and direct marketing tools (Kotler et al. 2006).
Each of these categories involves specific tools. Advertising includes brochures, flyers TV/radio broadcasts etc. Sales promotion includes free demos, discount coupons, Sale etc. Public relations includes sponsorships, press releases etc. Personnel selling includes trade shows, sales presentations etc. Direct marketing includes telemarketing, direct selling etc.
Before any company decides to go in for a specific blend of the above mentioned tools, it should first decide the message to be passed across, the recipients or audience for the message, way and means of presentation and its timing. In addition the follow-up actions after the message is passed across should also be decided, in order to avoid confusion when the orders or product information requests do start coming in.
Owing to the advancements in Information technology, the consumers are now becoming increasingly aware of various choices available to them. The markets hence are seen to becoming more fragmented. Targeting these different fragmented groups becomes a challenge for the company, especially when they wish to portray different images of the company to the consumers, without affecting the overall company’s brand image. This calls in for Integrated marketing communications,IMC , the integration of the company’s entire communications channel to deliver a clear and consistent message to the consumers, regarding the organization and various products. (Fill, 2004)
The first step of any marketing communication strategy is awareness. Awareness in turn starts from curiosity. A motion-control company launched its products in the Nuremberg market fair for the first time, by placing big boxes of candies in their stall. Needless to say, this attracted the curiosity of many people, who would later become its customers, to the stall just to ‘have a look at what is going on’.
There is another thing which goes hand-in-hand with awareness, the target market or audience. This factor sets the tone of the promotion in question, and the kind of message to be passed on. There are two extreme end of the tone – humor and emotional. Companies use emotional appeal concepts like patriotism, family closeness, animal welfare, sharing and giving etc. to promote their products.
For e.g. – Salvation army uses moral appeal as a pull toward its goal of seeking attention. At the other end of the spectrum are the humorous ads, which are gaining more and more acceptance amongst American audience. According to various studies, light natured ads catch the attention of consumers. In one of its popular ads Budwieser and Bud light featured a wannabe donkey that wears fur hoof extensions and brays in effort to becoming a part of the Budweiser Clydesdales team (Kotler et al 2006).
Message structure and format is very important, especially when print media is the desired mode of communication between the company and its consumers. Even the tele-ads are very much concerned about the overall logo and messages displayed on-screen to its consumers. The most popular example of this is the Statuary warning written on cigarette packs.
They are always there, always mentioned and always displayed and yet the balance of injurious-yet fashionable is clearly visible in all of these ads. Yesmail sends clients’ promotional e-mail messages to targeted consumers who said “yes” when asked whether they wished to receive promotional offers in certain categories of interest (Winer, 2006).
Choosing the media of communication is the next step. The is chosen based on getting the maximum amount of visibility and the media that creates lasting impression on the minds of consumers There are many channels that can be used in this case. For e.g. – the success of Harry Potter, collapsible scooters, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and The Blair Witch Project is all due to word-of-mouth publicity (Kotler, Keller, 2005).
The print media includes advertisements in magazine, newspapers, pamphlets etc. The most popular media still remain as the television and radio, though internet marketing is fast gaining over them.
After the entire process of communication is done, one of the steps that should always be done is collecting the feedback from the consumers. This is done so as to know the effectiveness of the communication on the minds of the consumer.
This total marketing communications program used while promoting a company or business is called the promotional mix. Success is all about integrating separate approaches such as PR, internal and direct marketing into one complete marketing strategy. All the promotional elements which are used to gain customers must be planned and then implemented in a coordinated way. (Smith, Taylor, 2004).
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