Be Brand Marketing Oriented
BY JAGDEEP KAPOOR
Many a time corporates and students ask me “Mr. Kapoor, apart from your books, what else should I read”. I respond to them and say “READ THE CUSTOMER”. It is very important that your organisation should be Brand Marketing Oriented and customers focused, both internal and external.
A decade ago, an Associate Professor of Marketing at Texas Tech University, USA, was talking to the National Sales Manager of one of the Fortune 500 Chemical companies in America who was enquiring about the need for a consultant. Was it for new product development or a research project ? The national sales manager surprised the professor by saying he wanted to hire a consulting company to answer one question – who are my customers ? Well, amazing, is it not? A multibillion dollar company did not have a clear understanding of who their customer was or the perception of their product in the eyes of the customers. This had led to the loss of competitiveness at a time when they were expecting competition from Germany and Japan.
In India, too, this phenomenon exists. Many leading companies, whether in the industrial sector, service or consumer segment, need basic questions to be answered. A company came up with a product concept, defined it, created the market as it was non-
existent. So it produced the product and it went out of the factory floors. It had distributors. It was not sure whether they should be marketing through distributors or to the end consumer. And then, one day, a new CEO, Vice-President or GM joins the company and asks a simple question “who is our customer?” When six different answers are received , it becomes clear that the firm lacks market orientation.
This realisation has quickly dawned on major organisations in USA. They have started reorganizing themselves to be more ‘Market oriented’.
Large companies like Xerox and Procter and Gamble have done so to be more competitive and closer to the customer.
In the past the focus was on marketing. Marketing companies thought by spending a lot of money on advertising and promotion, they could increase sales. Then there came a stage of companies trying to understand the consumers. They became so obsessed with the consumer in trying to give him what he wanted, that they forgot about technology changing the competition scenario. Others could come in the market and do the same thing, better. Thus, in order to get the ‘big picture’ and not lose sight of any significant element, companies have gone in for reorganization.
They, have shifted away from product management. What is this new system and why is it being used?” Large companies, being world leaders in marketing, decided to be closer to the customer. They brought in the concept of a category manager, visiting the market to get the “Big Picture” a little better. Then they introduced a product supply manager whose function was to reduce cost and concentrate on efficiencies. Thus the organisation covers both, the effectiveness angle and the efficiency dimensions which is a step towards market orientation.
A sub-set of market orientation is customer orientation. The customer must be your focus, not your obsession, says experts. In the Indian context, too, the customer is very important. One cannot assume that customers would keep coming back to buy one’s product. Brand Loyalty is not the way it use to be, The customers are more educated and informed, demanding better products and services and their expectations are increasing day by day. The consumers have a lot of choice today and are constantly demanding more for less or more for the same amount.
In this changing scenario it is of prime importance for a market oriented firm to be customer oriented through the following actions :
- The company must focus on customer expectations and perceptions, and not on what the company thinks it is delivering.
- It is vital that there be regular communication with customers.
- Within the organisation, climate of total commitment to the customers needs to be created.
- It is the willingness and ability to see the problems through the customer’s viewpoint, and an eagerness to solve them, that makes a company a winner and leader in its field.
- And finally, it is important not to underestimate competition. For that, thorough knowledge is a must.
The other sub-set of market orientation is organizational culture. It is advisable to have a culture which shares information, rather than one which propagates ‘cloak and dagger’ actions. Earlier, companies used to be segmented for efficiency. Today, they want to break down the barriers. Thus a market oriented firms learns quicker and faster and spreads this knowledge within the organisation. The organisation’s memory is good and the organizational learning is good. There is no such thing as, ‘Not’ Invented Here Syndrome’, amongst its employees. They do not have the attitude that – since we did not think of the idea, it must not be good. They were willing to share.
A very good test to see if your company is market oriented or not is to administer a four question quiz to various managers in various departments. The questions are simple. Who is your customer? What is his perception of you and your company? What is your product concept? What exactly does the product do? If you do not get the same answers, you do not have a market-oriented firm. This is because the firm’s learning is not systematically diffused around the organisation.
In being a market oriented firm, we have gone through various competitive advantages. It used to be technology earlier, then it was the brand name and today it is information. Understanding knowledge may be the most important competitive advantage in the present scenario.
David Ogilvy once said, ”what makes a great surgeon? A great surgeon is not necessarily more skilled with this hands, than a mediocre surgeon. The great surgeon just knows a lot more”. And that difference of knowledge may be the differentiating factor of a great marketing company over an average marketing company. A market oriented firm just knows a lot more and has diffused it throughout the organisation. The result is that employees, armed with this knowledge, act naturally. And this is true marketing genius. When Delta Airlines says ‘We love to fly
and it shows’ – they are sending across the message that the customer is very important to them. They know it instinctively and act so. No one has to tell that this is important. They know customer service is something everyone is responsible for and not just one division or department.
The Marketing Science Institute, USA, puts it very well when it says “Market Orientation is the Organisationwide generation of market intelligence pertaining to current and future customer needs, dissemination of the intelligence across departments, and organisationwide responsiveness to it”.
The next sub-set of market orientation is integrated learnings which deals with information flowing from outside as well as from within. It happens in many companies that there is a colleague next door who has information that is needed by you, yet you go out of the organisation to get the same information at an additional cost of time and money. Instead, you could have just walked across, discussed and got the answers. If you would do that, you would be market oriented. There is synergy in this. It brings you to a level higher and two plus two is four but more. A market oriented firm shares information. That is, if there is a need for somebody with a special skill, they can find that person in the organisation. It is natural for a market oriented firm to have such a network. They can easily find resources and they are not hesitant to ask for help. They ask and do not necessarily see
that as a sign of weakness. They do not suffer from a complex about not having answers that somebody else has. This is a significant feature of market orientation which makes senior executives recognize it as a growth area. There is a constant drive by the company’s executives to want to learn. They say that we are willing to ask and we are willing to ask and we are willing to improve, that we are going to check and going to share information.
The last sub-set of market orientation is vision. The theme for a great company is that ‘The Market driven cultures is not driven by the standards of the past, but by the vision of the future’. It is an intuitive feeling. It is the mind set of the organisation to satisfy the vision. The perceptions of the key leaders in the US industry today will always include the word vision. All the way from Jack Welch, Ex-CEO at General Electric. “ I am not here to give answers. I am here to ask questions and provide a vision for my entire organisation”, says he. That is exactly what he has done and the results have been successful for this world class strategist. J Carlsson, CEO of the Scandinavian Airlines considered one of the most dynamic CEO’s, talks about ‘moments of truth’ when it comes to vision and customer service. The point he constantly makes is that we have to serve the customer better and sustain it over a period of time.
And that is why you have to intuitively teach your employees to develop themselves and grow. They are obsessed with the organisation’s vision which leads to the firm success, as they share the CEO’s vision. Lee lacocca did that many years ago. The CEO and the senior managers have the responsibility of sharing the vision with everybody and have a market oriented culture.
Market Orientation Features
Finally, what would be the advice to firm’s in the new millennium in India. Experts feel that the entire organisation should have a similar understanding of what the market is and then be adaptive to changes in the environment.
If a typical profile of a market oriented firm has already been sketched out, it is important to highlight some features which the firm must have :
As Fred Smith, CEO, Federal Express rightly puts it “Customer satisfaction begins with employee satisfaction.”
- It should be flexible and adapt changes in the market place.
- It should have more surface facing the environment. It is well put in the words of CEO of Federal Express, “If someone called Federal Express asking for the person in charge of quality, I would hope that they could speak with anyone.
- The firm should make an attempt to shun bureaucracy.
- In order that initiative is not killed, it should have a culture of forgiving mistakes.
- It is important to treat suppliers, distributors and customers as partners.
- It would be a leader’s dream to look for innovation in everything. A market oriented firm should strive for that.
- Finally, it is important that employees feel good, enjoy their work, and have freedom to act.
I would like to conclude by saying that you must know the 5 wives and 1 husband of Brand Marketing about your consumer.
The 5 wives (Ws) are WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHO, WHY and 1 husband (Hs) is HOW.
If you do not know your consumer you may not be marketing oriented. But if you do you could make your brand win in terms of sales growth, market share growth and profit growth.
The author is Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director of the successful Samsika Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved with Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
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