Friday, November 12, 2010

Marketing Strategy : Where is Marketing in Your Strategy ?

It is interesting to see how many companies realize the importance of marketing in their corporate strategy framework. Most firms have realized the importance of marketing as an important function in their organizational framework, but marketing has not yet being considered as an important part of the corporate strategy.

Marketing concept evolved through various stages. The first stage was where the firms believed that consumers want inexpensive products that satisfied their needs and wants. The emphasis during this stage was on mass production and focus was on efficiency and low cost. ((kotler, p. (2008). Marketing management. delhi: prentice hall.)

The next stage of the evolution was when firms realized that consumers are not just looking for low cost solutions to their needs but are also attracted to product features and new product innovations. During this stage, firms competed with each other in developing new product features and solutions.

Soon firms realized that mere product innovations and features are not going to lure consumers into purchase. Consumers needed to be persuaded to buy products. During this stage, firms focused on increasing their ability to sell the products in the market. This stage saw lot of investment in building sales departments and channel management functions.

Despite the success of the concept based on the emphasis on selling, firms found a gap in the consumer needs and the product being sold. Increased competition created a need in the firms to look at consumers for fresh ideas. Firms realized that they should be more consumer focused rather than focused on selling products. Firms also realized that it has the ability to shape consumer behaviour and create new wants. Rather than focusing on selling and producing, companies began to listen to consumers and adopt strategies that shaped new consumer behaviour and trends. Products became only a tool to realize firm’s objective. Consumer became the focal point of all activities. It was the beginning of the marketing.

From a function focused on moving the product from the warehouses to consumer, marketing has come a long way. It now occupies a significant position in a firms’ organizational structure. But it is time to reinvent marketing.

Although leaders of businesses emphasis on the importance of marketing in their organizations, the concept of marketing is constrained by the functional status bestowed upon it. Marketing is still considered as a function rather than a strategy. And by giving a functional status, the scope of marketing is severely blocked from realizing its full potential. It is time for firms to realize that business in marketing.

Marketing is not a function but a strategy. This is a matter that has to be dealt with at the board level. While financial performance and analysis is given huge importance in the annual report of publically listed firms, it is interesting to see how little information and analysis is given on the marketing side. I would like to suggest that firm’s should show courage to put their marketing strategy to scrutiny at the highest level.

The advantages of taking marketing strategy at the board level will have lot of advantages. For example take the case of a brand extension. Should this decision be taken at the board level or should it be dealt at the functional level. Is brand extension a corporate strategy or a functional strategy? In most of the firms, these decisions are taken at the functional level and seldom discussed threadbare at the board level unless it require huge capital expenditure. And it is often found that brands lose because of meaningless extensions resulting in a direct impact on its financial performance.

Take the example of positioning. Is positioning of a brand discussed at the board level or decided at the functional level. Should the decision of positioning /repositioning discussed at the board? If business is marketing, then the decision on positioning should be discussed at the highest governing body because the success of the product largely hinges on the effectiveness of positioning. When positioning strategy is discussed at the highest level, it becomes business strategy and not just another element of the functional strategy.

When a firm takes such a serious view of marketing, then branding becomes focused. Positioning becomes consistent, Managers think twice before venturing into meaningless extensions. Brand strategy will not be outsourced to advertising agencies. Consumers will be handled with care. Complaints will be seriously dealt with and monitored at the highest level of management hierarchy.

In highly successful companies, marketing is handled by CEOs. Brands like Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson thrive because they are looked after by the CEOs. When CEOs become marketing evangelists, marketing will achieve its true potential.

Originally published here in