Marketing is centred on the individual today

Updated: Jul 27 2006, 05:30am hrs
When the grand old man of marketingPhilip Kotler speaks, the world listens. That is the charm the 75-year-old American, who is the SC Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the renowned Kellogg School of Management, exudes. The septuagenarian was in India last week and during a brief stopover at a Mumbai hotel, Kotler addressed the media for about an hour speaking at length on a number of subjects. Excerpts:

Changes in marketing

The change in marketing and marketing techniques has been perceptible since the time the first edition of my book Marketing Management was published in1967. Then marketing was mass-based and dependent on heavy advertising. After that came the phase where marketers began identifying segments or niches that they could target. Now the focus is far more customised. It is centred at the individual. In other words, from making a transaction, which was the trend, when I wrote Marketing Management, today, the emphasis is on keeping the customer. This goes beyond relationship marketing. It is about treating the customer as an asset. We have assigned a value for this called the customer lifetime value.

However, we are moving towards a stage of co-creation. To making a dialogue with the customer; not a monologue. Let me give you an example. At the Four Seasons Hotela renowned chain of luxury hotels and resortsa detailed record of a customers visit is maintained. What he likes, doesnt like, the nature of his room, the kind of linen he prefers...everything. So the next time he visits the hotel, the staff is able to serve him without him having to ask for it. The idea is to try and eliminate the need for the guest to go to the desk. They are that particular.

Marketing when service levels are similar

When service levels in a category are similar, you need to start thinking about projecting an experience. Indulge in experiential marketing, in other words.

Of course, it is easy to copy an experience. But, the one, who is the first to design an experience in a particular category, is the leader.

The importance of online marketing

Online marketing is so important that anybody who has missed it is still trapped in the old marketing domain. There are two aspects to online marketing: One is e-commerce and two, a presence on the web to dispense information about the company, product etc. This could be in the form of a website, blog or any such tool to inform your target audience about who you are and what you do.

The internet has really changed the way we market products and services. And the best part is that there are infinite ways of using the internet. You could use the net to find information about your competitors, do market research, indulge in sampling offers, promotions et al. A website can also be a means by which you can get customised information.

Technology and marketing

It is technology alone that differentiates new marketing tools from old ones. Tools like blogs need to be monitored because it could be used to both extol the virtues of a company or brand, and to deride the same. Both require monitoring because it could be detrimental to a marketer. Among other new-age tools is a concept called podcasting, where you prepare an audio file that is downloadable on a system. This again can be used to explain the company and product profile. Even as technology opens new vistas for marketing, there is a need to go back to good old street marketing or guerrilla warfare.

For instance, when Nokia launched its camera phones, it hired women, who were asked to go to busy street corners and request passers-by to take their pictures. When people were approached by the women, they would, more often than not, ask for the camera and the women would respond that it wasnt required as they had camera phones. Another case of street marketing or mobile marketing-a sticker on the back of a dog, which said Coca-Cola. Great, isnt it

New product failure

The rate of new product failure is a cause for embarrassment for marketers. I have proposed eight stages in new product development. However, I have observed that new product failure is quite often linked with the ego of the president of the company. At times he is unwilling to give up on a project despite knowing that it may not do well. Sometimes, the company launching a product does not do enough market research or the competitor intensifies its war with the said company by indulging in price wars etc. Also, my observation is that it is easy to launch a brand extension. But, quite often, they don't last too long.

Today, many marketers release a beta version of the product. This is especially true with online products. This is a good way to know what consumers feel about the product. What is the kind of response it is getting and so on.

On Indian companies going global

Many companies are going global and my observation is that they either focus on marketing or finance. The need of the hour is to focus on both.

Also, I feel that India needs to identify certain sectors that can go global. For instance, Japan has made it big in two-wheelers, four-wheelers and electronics. India needs to identify such core sectors. Information technology is doing the job of propelling India on to the world stage. But more needs to be done. If you ask me, Indian garments, apparels or fabrics can be a global ambsassador. So can shoes, leather goods and food processing.

Over-exposure

Managing the lifecycle of a brand is critical. Too much advertising can lead to fatigue and brand turnover. The trick is to do new and interesting things with the brand.