"Marketing is a business philosophy"

Updated: Apr 1 2008, 08:57am hrs
Philip Kotler. Arguably the worlds leading expert on marketing. The founder of modern marketing management. He followed Peter Druckers lead in shifting the emphasis from price and distribution to a focus on customers needs and showned how marketing is to be applied to non-commercial areas, including social causes. His firm consults with top corporationsGE, Merck, IBM, Mechelin, Motorola. Currently the SC Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Philip Kotler is not a name that needs any introduction. He demystifies his latest book, Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good, 3e, by answering queries from The Financial Express.

At a global level, what role does marketing play in the overall business strategy What are the most important skills and aptitude required for today's marketers

Marketing plays a central role in overall business strategy. Remember Peter Druckers wise observation, The purpose of a company is to create customers. And he added, A business has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results: all the rest are costs.

Every company has to decide what markets and customer segments to serve and how to understand their needs, wants, perceptions and preferences so that the company is favoured over its competitors. Clearly, this calls for superior skills in selecting the best markets and customers and fully understanding their conscious needs and unconscious thoughts and emotions. Skills in economic analysis and psychological analysis are very essential aptitudes for marketers, as well as communication skills.

So if marketing is an important business function, why do you think top B-schools in India are reporting a drop in the number of students looking at specialisation in marketing

Marketing is more than an important business function. It is a business philosophy. At Procter & Gamble, marketing is everything from the search for opportunities, for the creation of winning offerings, to their successful pricing, distribution and communication. Indian students may be turning to more specific single skills such as accounting, computer programming, and financial analysis if these are in higher demand and attract higher pay. It is easier to test whether a person has mastered these skills than if a person has mastered marketing skills. All business students will get a pretty good idea of marketing from one or two courses without needing to major in marketing as a specialisation area.

How do think the Internet affects marketing today and how do marketers who have still not cottoned on to the platform cope in the future What is that one piece of advice that you would give to a consultant who is putting together a marketing strategy for a new firm

The Internet has revolutionised marketing. It has given buyers the ability to research products of interest without needing to visit a lot of sellers. It has increased the influence of word-of-mouth coming from other consumers who are using the burgeoning social media (eg, My Space, Facebook, etc.) to influence others.

It has allowed companies to more precisely target their communications and offers to affinity groups and even specific individuals, thereby making more relevant offers. There isnt the space here to list all the ways that the Internet has altered the buying and selling landscape. Therefore my advice to a manager who is putting together a marketing strategy is to factor in all the ways that the new media, in addition to traditional media, can help reach and stimulate customer interest.

Today technology is available to all and is also becoming cheaper. Whenever there is a good idea, many people in the same industry try to imitate it, undermining profits margins in the process. Is there any remedy for that

We can expect many companies to copy any new idea. Suddenly there will be several manufacturers of microwave ovens, cell phones, and other new items. The products may be similar in features and even in prices. Yet it is the task of the company to develop points of relevant differences that go beyond points of parity. Points of difference need to be captured and reflected in the products broad positioning and in its specific value proposition. A smart company doesnt just make a microwave oven but tries to design some features and benefits that are attractive to some clear portion of the buyers. Products can compete on style, durability, reliability, price, speed, safety and other aspects that different customers care about. Customers usually dont toss a coin to make their choice. They make their choice based on rational criteria and less conscious thoughts and emotions.

Generally speaking, how much percentage of the total revenue should be spent on marketing

In others words, what is the connection between finance and marketing

There is no right percentage to spend on marketing as a percentage of total revenue. Perfume companies spend a high percentage (sometimes 50%) and camera companies may spend 3%. Even within camera companies, the percentage may vary greatly. The manufacturers of the more attractive cameras may spend a lower percentage (because word of mouth will be high) or may spend a higher percentage (to capitalise on the cameras superiority).

Most companies try to spend a percentage somewhere close to what they learn their competitors are spending, but this is not necessarily rational. The smart company will determine its objectives regarding how much relative awareness, interest, knowledge, and preference it needs to produce and set the budget that will accomplish its objectives.

India has managed to brand itself quite well, thanks to the software boom. Any advice for marketers who operate in other industries on how they can market themselves and attract global attention

There are probably a number of Indian industries that can capture leading global brand positions. Tata is seeking to establish leadership in the low cost end of automobiles (as well as in the high end if they buy Jaguar). Tata has also done excellent branding of its steel products. India must figure out where its lower labour costs and higher levels of computer education can be put to the best commercial uses. Furniture, food products, banking, and other industries have to be considered. The Indian government should visualise those industries that are most promising and proceed like the French with their system of guided capitalism.