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Marketing: Making the Difference
World is changing rapidly. Everything changes including business life, types of ventures, communication between people, channels. Some marketing professionals remember the days when digital strategy, e-communications, clients’ segmentation, big data and were not yet a common currency (Chambers, 2013.) Marketing is changing “because the underlying knowledge in the social sciences that supports it is changing (Gaskin, 2013.) Everything changes, even a place of marketing in business world and in consumers’ decision making. But the mission of marketing – to connect customers and products – remains. This paper is aimed at reviewing the role and place of marketing in a modern World and at the impact the marketing has on our everyday lives.
Marketing: Importance for Business Life
According to the well-known definition by the American Marketing Association, the marketing is “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” (as cited in Kotler & Armstrong, 2011.) But in reality, this simple definition hides a “secret sauce” making business ideas work and make money. How marketing an do it? The answer is obvious – through value. Value is a central point for all marketing efforts. Marketing helps to research what is valuable for customer, helping businesses to create not just a product itself, but a valuable offering for real people. It is the marketing that communicates the valuable proposals of businesses to the customers, and it is the marketing that organizes the exchange of value to mutual benefits of all the market participants.
Let’s try to imagine the fantasy world with no marketing. Products as “thing-in-itself” without any relation to real customer needs; customers researching the market and its “black boxes” of hidden offers; chaotic pricing and no real possibility to make a reasonable choice and to close a deal. Thanks to marketing, this imaginary situation is impossible. Marketing is a “blood flow”, enabling interaction between all the market participants and making a business a way to its customers.
For each company, irrespective of size, industry and type of business, marketing transforms the value the company creates for its customers, in business revenues. For non-profit organizations, marketing helps to attract people “to support the not-for-profit’s mission, such as raising donations or supporting a cause” (The Role of Marketing, 2015.) Marketing helps businesses to identify, to expose and to satisfy the customer needs, and even to create new needs. Let’s paraphrase the well-known aphorism of Marcel Proust – to enjoy a journey discovery, people can see new landscapes from the new points of view, but also, with the efforts of marketing, they can even create new landscapes. But the term “need” here is contradictory. One can argue that real human needs are very limited. But there’s another word that can be used for this purpose – marketing helps businesses to create a desire, and sometimes, the desire for something grows to a large extent. Several decades ago people cannot even imagine a smartphone, now many people cannot imagine their lives without mobile devices, and even go to sleep with their smartphones or tablets in their hand reach. What will be the next “most needed” thing tomorrow – a mobile wallet or, maybe, a home 3D printer? Maybe, it will be a portable device with ID, bank account and medical information encrypted? So, in wider meaning, marketing facilitates the innovation, the progress and even helps to shape the future of our civilization.
The first key pillar of marketing, as discussed before, is value. Kotler & Armstrong (2011) believe that today is the era of value. It means that companies are constantly focusing on creating a value for customers in everything they do – in designing the product offer, in reaching the customers, in informing them, in the organizing the process of purchase, in servicing and supporting their customers.
But the second, almost as much important as value, is creating the difference. Marketing enables the businesses to stand out from their competitors in a variety of ways – through adding value for the customers via product design, functionality, features or level of quality; through making the better price offer for those clients who don’t need an exceptional quality or advanced features; through introducing the next level customer experiences in every aspect of relations with customers. There’re various ways of differentiating, but nowadays many companies focus on the customers’ experience. They understand that today’s sophisticated customers cannot be satisfied with the product features only. Every day they should answer the same question “What can we do today to provide the clients with a greater advantage or benefit, to get them closer to the ultimate result they desire?” (Young Entrepreneurs Council, 2014.)
For example, many commercial banks offer credit cards or savings plans; and the terms vary just a little (for example, rate or grace period). So, in order to attract their customers and make their offer a preferable choice, they go to tricks such as using various channels of communicating with potential clients, giving free valuable financial advice tips in social media, running promo-campaign, involving memorable advertising, enabling online ordering and free delivery of cards, making a visit to a bank state-of-the-art designed point of sale a pleasant experience with coffee, small gifts, etc., launching online and mobile account management and many others. Even with online products such as internet banking or online store, businesses try to make the journey of client within the interface seamless and pleasant.
So, from the business point of view, today’s marketing emphasizes value, differentiating, customer experience and, expectedly, flexibility and innovation. Marketing appears to be one of the most flexible business functions, continuously adjusting to the changing environment. For example, some time ago the marketing communications were based on TV commercials, newspaper advertising, leaflets, etc. Nowadays, internet and social media take a pride of place among the key communication channels. “Marketing and innovation like a pair of gears that work together to move the entrepreneurial success engine forward” (Young Entrepreneurs Council, 2014.) Some experts even think that marketing innovation and marketing strategy are synonymic (Gaskin, 2013.) In fact, marketing is one of the areas the most seriously affected by the processes of digitalization. Marketing tools of today’s world harness the progressive technologies like, for example, big data analysis and segmentation of customers in order to make offerings more “tailored” to individual customer needs.
Marketing can be addressed to internal customers. Let’s take the example of Linda Armantrout, an artist, who helps the business owners and top managers to communicate the mission of the organization to employees by literally “picturing the mission” (Burnett, 2010.)It’s impossible to do a business without marketing. Knowing the customer, getting word out to let the potential customers learn about the product or service, managing the brand and boosting sales – whatever domain of business we take, marketing is involved everywhere.
Marketing: Importance for People
Everyday life of human beings is based on choices. Every day we make a number of choices regarding various things such as what we eat, what we wear on, what we read and what think of. Many people think they make their choices about products and services rationally, but in fact, everyone is affected with companies’ marketing efforts. From this point of view, people’s consumer behavior is influenced and, to some extent, shaped by marketing. Marketing helps people to make informed choice, to get familiar with new products; it also influences valuations and brand recognition.
Usefulness of marketing for ordinary people is rather controversial. On the one hand, marketing keeps customers informed about recent products and services, their significant features to facilitate the reasonable choice. Marketing helps to promote organic products, fitness and wellness services, variety of products and services for child development, etc. to support the nation’s health and well-being. But on the other hand, aggressive marketing campaigns target people on various products “ranging from fast foods, cigarettes, and alcohol to predatory mortgages, high-interest credit cards, payday loans, rent-to-own, and various other fringe-banking schemes” (Mendel, 2005, as cited in Bertrand, Mullainathan & Shafir, 2006.)
Marketing efforts sometimes can distort people’s perception and entice them to the irrational choice. For example, numerous experiments made by famous behaviorist Dan Ariely (2008) show the magic power of “free” offers. Offering something extra for free makes people choose products or services that are completely unnecessary and are far from their real needs and preferences. Often the experts distinguish informational marketing (helping people to make informed purchasing decisions) and transformational marketing, involving user-centered irrational techniques (Boykin.)
People are affected by marketing more than they perceive. And the influence goes not only from annoying TV commercial or online banners. Each time you see a celebrity drinking the specific sort of wine or driving a certain brand of cars, each time you read about a lifestyle of a people similar to you in social networks, each time you take a washing powder placed on a shelf by a supermarket merchandiser, each time you take a chocolate bar of a famous brand only because you recognized it - you are exposed to the influence of marketing. Marketing creates an image of a specific lifestyle for a specific segment of audience, and people perceive it like “fashion”. So, marketing and its important parts – branding and advertising – influences conscious and subconscious people’s choices using a variety of tools including chosen forms of media to reach the specific audience, images, colors, archetypes, sounds, aromas, messages that prompt action.
The businesses try to differentiate themselves using a diverse range of possible strategies. Remarkably, that people do the same in their lives, seeking success in career or in their personal or social life. Many people know the terms “personal branding” and “self-marketing”. Personal branding means continuous efforts of establishing a definite impression in the mind of other people. Self-marketing embraces various strategies to create the brand image of an individual or a group of people and to communicate it to target audiences. For individuals, marketing “techniques” can be used in analyzing the existing connection and relations with other people and choosing an environment that promotes inspiration and achievement of the personal objectives.
Thus, marketing strategies can be successfully applied by not only businesses but also by individuals in various areas of their life. For example, people need self-marketing to be selected among competitors and be hired to their dream job. People need the branding strategies and tools in the community life, and even in their personal lives to attract a soul mate. Importance of individual branding increased significantly in a new digital era, where people faced a necessity to manage their online identities in social media. Every domain of modern human life involves marketing. Considering every objective as an entity, we must admit, that achieving this goal requires marketing efforts. For example, a person wants to be a successful journalist. She builds her reputation and her product getting an education in a university and working for a local online media. She defines her target – she wants a global reach as a top news journalist covering international business events. Of course, she knows her potential employers (large news agencies) and studies their requirements to the candidates, adjusting her product (her skills and experience). After graduation she starts communication and advertising campaign via a mix of channels, negotiating with potential employers and emphasizing her competitive advantages. It’s an obvious example of self-marketing.
Marketing: Importance for Society
At a high level, marketing provides the society with sufficient benefits including the following: it enables businesses to learn the customers and to develop the products and services satisfying their needs; it facilitates formation of a competitive environment to push down product prices; it helps to build ramified distribution schemes offering the access to products and services to many customers in various locations; it fosters demand for the goods and services, helps businesses to grow and, thus, promotes creation of new jobs. And, finally, marketing offers “techniques that have the ability to convey messages that change societal behavior in a positive way like, for example, anti-smoking advertising” (The Role of Marketing, 2015.)
As a conclusion, it’s necessary to emphasize that today’s life is impossible without marketing. Marketing is not only a part of business functions and processes, it can be considered as an art, as a philosophy, as a universal methodology for a variety of social processes and a lifestyle. Everyone is affected by professional marketing, everyone involves marketing techniques pursuing their goals, and many people choose to dedicate their lives to marketing as a profession. Marketing responds quickly to the changes in the society and in technology, as “the consumers become more mobile, more connected, and more social” (BRIC Magazine, 2014.) Marketing is no more a luxury we can or cannot afford – it’s an attractive investment of time and money into future success in each and every domain of our lives.
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Young Entrepreneurs Council, 2014. Innovation vs. Marketing: Balancing The Two Key Elements Of Business Success. Forbes.com. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2014/01/22/innovation-vs-marketing-balancing-the-two-key-elements-of-business-success/
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Boykin, G. How Does Advertising Influence People? Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advertising-influence-people-57377.html
BRIC Magazine, 2014. Nirmalya Kumar: the Man Changing the Role of Marketing. Retrieved from http://bricmagazine.co.uk/nirmalya-kumar-man-changing-role-marketing/
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