The Challenges To Marketing In The Next Millennium

By Prasanna Perera, MBA (Sri.J), P.G. Dip. F&B.A. (SL), Dip.M (U.K.), MCIM (U.K.), M.C.Inst.M., MSLIM, Chartered Marketer (CIM U.K.)

Marketing revolves around the anticipation, identification and satisfaction of customer and/or consumer needs. Therefore, if there is an emergence of a ‘new consumer’ in the next millennium, it is understood that marketing as a discipline will also have to transform to meet the expectations of this ‘new customer’.

ho is this ‘new customer’? She/he will be far more demanding and discerning than the customer of this century. The consumer of the next millennium will probably exhibit the following characteristics:W

  • Demand greater quality in products and services.
  • lace greater emphasis upon receiving value for money.P
  • Higher levels of price awareness and price sensitivity.
  • Will accept technology as a way of life (less technophobia)
  • A willingness to accept and demand more and exciting new products and services.
  • Lower levels of loyalty to brands and a greater willingness to switch between brands.
  • A greater awareness of the environment and a preference towards green products (environmentally friendly products).

Based on the characteristics displayed by the "emerging new consumer", Philip Kotler (1997) states that "marketing as a discipline has to place greater emphasis upon:

  • Quality, value and customer satisfaction.
  • Relationship building and customer retention (Relationship Marketing).
  • Global thinking and marketing planning.
  • Building strategic alliances and networks.
  • Direct and on-line marketing.
  • Service marketing.
  • Ethical marketing behaviour."

Service marketing is differentiated, based on services and the ‘soft’ elements of the marketing mix such as people, process and physical evidence. Examples are airlines, restaurants. How do we differentiate between one airline and another? The level of service is an essential aspect, and services such as in-flight service, ground service, flight booking and confirmation are delivered by people. Ethical marketing behaviour means honesty to consumers at all times, in communication of product and service-related messages.

As we enter the new millennium, there are a number of priorities for marketing managers to consider:

  • Differentiation will increasingly be based upon service and will be a major factor in ensuring competitive advantage.
  • With consumer expectations rising, quality will become one of the basic rules of competition. Quality will be taken for granted by consumers and will no longer be a contributory factor towards gaining a competitive edge.
  • As markets fragment, customization will become more necessary. This is termed as the "re-emergence of mass customization". Mass customization is different from "Mass Marketing". Mass marketing was based on generating mass volumes, which in turn provided economies of scale to manufacturers. Mass customization, on the other hand, is the ability for an organization to tailor-make their products, to meet the individual needs of customers, without losing the ability to mass produce. (Panasonic produces bicycles in 18 models and 2700 designs; Levi offers 750 versions of jeans as customers combine any of six colours, and three basic cuts etc.)
  • Information and greater market knowledge, will provide a powerful basis for competitive advantage. (This means the purposeful use of marketing research and marketing intelligence, which are both the cornerstones of a well-developed Marketing Information System ­ MKIS).
  • Speed of anticipation and response to market opportunities, will become ever more important. This is due to the intensity of competition and the complexity of the external marketing environment.
  • Partnerships with suppliers and distributors will become far more strategically significant. (This means building effective relationships, which will act as a basis of competitive advantage.)

These priorities are by no means exhaustive. However, they are probably the most important. Marketing managers need to take these priorities on board, and demonstrate an appreciation for the same, by referencing them in their marketing plans.

In conclusion, let me state that Marketing as a discipline will play a significant role in defining corporate excellence in the next millennium. However, this depends on whether due recognition is given to the changing needs of consumers, by organizations. As Philip Kotler states: "Marketing correctly interpreted and practised, will be the key to company adaptability and profitability." Al Ries and Jack Trout (the famous authors of the book, Positioning) advise marketers to be smarter, faster and focused. This in turn requires good analytical minds, clear and focused thinking and intuitive ability.

Prasanna Perera is Brand Manager, Hemas Marketing (PTE) Ltd., Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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