Saturday, 5 November 2011

P's and C's

Nothing is constant but change. A very valid point, applicable to our increasingly interdependent and intertwined lives, as much as the products and services that make our lives easier, if not better.

The redefining parameters of Marketing

When I was going through B-school, throughout the process of learning and succeeding in securing an MBA degree, my teachers referred to various famous marketing gurus like Philip Kotler, Michael Porter, David Aaker and so on. I would term these gurus as thought shifters, for they did more than open my eyes to the way in which marketing had to viewed, operated and applied. They structured and defined hitherto unknown variables for a young and budding marketer like me. They shifted my thoughts, laterally and progressively. As time and career progressed, many incidents and lessons occurred which added further to my understanding of their concepts.

One of the key thoughts, the famous 4 P's of Marketing - Product, Promotion, Price, Place - was a cornerstone on which many a marketing strategy and tactical campaigns were created to interest, inform, engage/convert and repeat buying processes with the consumers. And these did work. In markets like India, Sri Lanka and Oman, where I had the opportunity to contribute.

While, I am not walking away from the theory and practices of marketing as known and practised so far, certainly the 'market' has changed as have the 'consumers'. Today, is not what the situation was a decade back. And the rapidity of change has not just stunned many a marketer, it has even left many astounded and lost along the way. So what changed? Yes, we all know that technological progression happened. But it was not just an evolution, it was more of a quiet but hugely impacting revolution.

Now, no longer was and are, the accepted principles of marketing enough to result in happy producers and consumers. Not without change. Constantly and precisely. A newer approach has emerged which marketers have to acknowledge, in as much as accept. The known but not so necessarily understood 4 C's of Marketing.

Consumer, Conversation, Cost, Convenience

Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai
The Consumer has changed. As Sam Walton, very insightfully once said - all the customer has to do is go and spend her money elsewhere. Exactly! Today's consumer have choices, like never before. Agreed, not always and not everywhere, but mostly. The consumer is not only intelligent, but also well informed. And consumption is based on what the consumer requires, not just because a product or promotion inveigled the person into doing the act of spending money.

While advertising has been around for ages, it really was from the time, P T Barnum started the larger than life advertising trend that this act of marketing came into its own standing. Today's advertising through various channels, has changed far more than could have been anticipated even a couple of decades back. Drastically! From a one-way communication protocol, now it has changed to Conversations, which are far more interactive, iterative and integrated with Conversations that interconnected peers and groups are having.

From price to Cost is not a major leap to understand. Some of the smartest people on this planet are engaged by organisations, in reducing and regulating the cost of input, so that the final output product/service is available at a competitive price. However, in the end it is the consumer who decides what cost is acceptable to them. And with enough sites available, who not only aggregate the various comparable products and prices, but also let you compare by parameters that you choose. Ergo, it is the cost you are willing to bear, rather than the price you have to pay, is currently how purchasing behaviour seems to work. (Exception: government controlled product pricing)

And last but not the least Convenience. There was a stage when Place or Physical distribution was considered absolutely paramount for any marketing and sales success. For if, the product/service was not available where the consumer was, then there would be no happy producers and sellers. Today, place is no longer the only consideration for the consumer. It is more about convenience. I do not have to be in a particular place to procure the product. I can sit in the comfort of my home or office and order for a product to be delivered where I want it to be delivered. And I have multiple means to accomplish this. Toll free land line, mobile phone, smart phone, computer, tablet, etc. That both giant multinational retailers as well as home grown mom & pop stores still survive in India, is key evidence to how much convenience matters to the consumer.

In my opinion, it would be foolish to say it is the case of P's versus C's. It is the case of both P's and C's having to be in the right mix, preferably uniquely customisable, in order to be leveraged by both the producer and the consumer. For, it is an increasingly understood fact that, you are both the marketer and the media while being an intricate part of the market in the form of a consumer and/or a producer. To, Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Quotient, is now added Social Quotient. While there may be a few commas in this evolutionary and equally revolutionary process, there can never be a full stop. Not if you understand that our world and its people are in continuum. Always.

1 comment:

Your comments are welcome. I am all ears.