Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is Marketing Management a Scientific or Artistic Exercise?

In today’s modern society, marketing occurs in each individual’s daily activities either knowingly or unknowingly. It is embedded in the task we perform everyday; from the time we take our breakfast, to the billboards we see while driving to work along the highway, to the Web sites we click on. “Marketing is everywhere. Good marketing has become an increasing vital ingredient for business success” (Kotler et al. 2009, p. 3). Firstly, this article and its discussion content will introduce and define marketing management which is the core subject matter. The discussion will then show some examples and support for the science approach followed by some examples and support for the artistic approach. The author will then provide further evidence and arguments to support his stance that marketing management is a scientific or artistic exercise.

Marketing management may be viewed as a problem to regulate, time and characterize demand for an organization’s products. Kotler (1973) listed down eight tasks related to the various demand situation and all these tasks require managerial response to analyse, plan, implement, organise and control. Marketing management is a process of planning, organising, implementing and controlling marketing activities (Pride et al. 2008). It is about planning and executing programs designed to influence the behaviour of target audiences by creating and maintaining beneficial exchanges for the purposes of satisfying individual and organizational needs and wants (Andreasen & Kotler 2008). Kotler (1973) further stated that these processes utilizes the two basic steps of marketing strategy development, namely, defining the target markets and formulating a marketing mix out of the elements of product, price, promotion and place. A key ingredient of the marketing management process to an organization is its own insightful, creative marketing strategies and plans that guide their marketing activities. Marketing management is a compulsory pre-requisite to any successful organization. It is practised by profitable organization, non-profit organization, governments, and educational institution to boost their images (Kotler & Keller 2009).
A popular scientific approach to marketing management is Porter’s 1980 model which has had a major impact in business strategy. Porter’s model is well structured and is general and simple for firms from any industry to follow. To attain competitive advantage a firm is recommended to follow Porter’s model for a competitive strategic behaviour. The application of such a model to real life situations becomes feasible since identifying and selecting those firms that have achieved competitive advantage and the chosen relevant targets becomes a straightforward process. Porter proposes that business strategy should be viewed as a product of how the firm creates customer value compared with its competitors ( Olson, Slater & Hult, 2005, p. 52). In studying the performance of the airline industry (Kling & Smith 1995) in the U.S. the five airlines identified as pursuing one of the three generic Porter strategies perform better in terms of profitability compared to those that did not.
Another scientific approach used by strategic planners is the growth/market-share matrix, developed by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The BCG approach is based on the philosophy that a product’s market growth rate and its market share are important considerations in determining its marketing strategy (Elliot et al. 2008). The BCG matrix enables a company’s products to be classified into four basic types: stars, cash cows, dogs, and question marks. Stars are products with a dominant share of the market and good prospects for growth. Cash cows have a dominant share of the market but low prospects for growth. Dogs have a non-dominant share of the market and low prospects for growth. Question marks have a small share of a growing market and generally require a large amount of cash to build market share.
Peter F. Drucker is widely regarded as one of the most influential management thinkers. He is generally acknowledged to be the father of the modern marketing management concept (Webster 2008). Drucker has had enduring and significant influence not only in management but also in the realm of marketing. Drucker’s work has stood the test of time, and remains a pivotal starting point for marketing scholars (Uslay, Morgan & Sheth 2008). Drucker himself is convinced that managing is an “art”; the talent, experience, vision, courage, and character of the managers will always be major factors in their performance. Primary efficiency in parts of management science is therefore bound to do damage (Drucker 1959). He stressed the necessity of principles, values, and theory as guides for management action. His focus was always on management in general, not marketing per se, with an understanding of customers’ ever-changing needs, wants, and preferences as the driving force for business success (Webster 2008).
Though it is important to be ever responsive to the ever-changing needs of customers, it is equally important to also understand the buying behaviour of buyers either as an individual or as business buying. The criteria that the buyers look for in a product or the factors affecting their buying behaviour have to be studied. Even stress plays a crucial role in influencing the buyers either as a result of buying or the pre-requisite for the buying process (Moschis, 2007). Consumers purchased products and services to satisfy their current and future needs and in terms of what Pride et al. (2008) refers to the consumers as engaging in problem solving. There are basically three possible influences on the buying decision process, that is, situational influences, psychological influences and social influences. Situational influences include physical surroundings, social surroundings, time, purchase reason, and buyers’ mood and condition. Psychological influences include perception, motives, learning attitudes, personality and self-concept, and lifestyles. Social influences include roles, family, reference groups and opinion leaders, social classes, and culture and subcultures.
The above arguments provide evidences for marketing management with a scientific nature and for marketing management with an artistic nature. However, not with-standing the time tested model of Boston Consulting Group’s market growth/market share/matrix and the numerous application of Porters generic typology the author will take the stance that marketing management is an artistic exercise.
According to Elliot et al. (2008) the marketing environment which takes into account the competition, the economic environment, political, legal and regulatory, technological and socio-cultural forces is ever present in the customer surrounding and that the effects of these forces on buyers and sellers is difficult to predict.
The socio-cultural forces play an important role in many societies today. In Australia and in Malaysia the population demographics are made up of people from various cultural back-ground due to their ancestry background. The buying pressure from one cultural group may vary to another cultural group and the types of products sort out by these various groups may vary accordingly. Children’s purchase influence (CPI) is an important factor in understanding family consumption behaviour (Laroche et al. 2007). The study investigated the effects of cultural adaptation, including the role of acculturation and ethnic-identification, on children’s role in family purchase decisions. It went on to hypothesize that children’s influence on family purchase decisions is positively related to the level of acculturation of fathers, mothers, and children themselves. Levy et al. (2008) in their study on family decision-making process when buying a house in the New Zealand property market, argued that the buying process and the decision process is subjected to internal (power relations) and external influences. The final decision to purchase is affected by emotions and social collectivities (households, extended family members and trust relationship with agents). Gender plays a key role too in the buying process where the adult male member of the family tended to have more influence than the adult female. Even though these distinct gender roles were ascribed to the decision makers within families, it was also identified that other factors such as financial power, culture and ethnicity as affecting family decision-making process.
According to the marketing concept, an organization should try to provide products that satisfy customers’ needs through a coordinated set of activities that also allows the organization to achieve its goals (Elliot et al. 2008). The organization must also continue to alter adapt and develop products to keep pace with customers changing desires and preferences. Early proponents of the marketing concept recognized that it was a management philosophy, not just a bundle of market information and analytical tools (Webster Jr. 2008).
Another artistic approach to marketing management is in the focus of market orientation of an organization. In this aspect of market orientation the organization including its resources are dedicated to collecting and disseminating market data and intelligence throughout the organization. Market orientation has three main elements namely collecting and generating market intelligence, disseminating market intelligence and responding and the degree of responsiveness to the market intelligence. The main point is that the generation of market intelligence does not stop at obtaining customer opinions, but also involves careful analysis and subsequently interpretation of the forces affecting customer needs and preferences (Kohli & Jaworski 1990). Though market intelligence pertains to customer needs and preferences it includes an analysis of how they may be affected by exogenous factors such as government regulation, technology, competitors, and other environmental forces.
These forces are clearly defined in PEST analysis. These variables lie well outside the control of the organization. PEST analysis is a broad-brush instrument that can be used in attempts to define and measure their effects. PEST is an acronym of the four categories of change factor: Political, Economic, Social, and Technological. It is therefore essentially an environmental checklist of those external elements which both influence and constrain the attraction of industry profitability (Norburn 2005).
And finally, Elliot et al. (2008) went on to argue that the evolution of the marketing concept showing a time lapse of 50 years interval started with the production orientation which was a result of the industrial revolution followed by the sales orientation 50 years later. The marketing concept then shifted to organization orientation whereby organization was required to be responsive to the gathered market intelligence pertaining to current and future customer needs and the dissemination of the intelligence across the departments. These means responding to the ever-changing customer needs and want. The final evolution is when an organizational marketing concept not only put customers as the focal point of all marketing decision and considering their current and future needs and wants but additionally by considering the long-term needs of society. The demographics of society and their future long term and preference and the economic and political situation are difficult to predict and thus the author stand by in this conclusion that Marketing Management is an artistic exercise.
1. Andreasen, AR, Kotler, P 2008, Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations Seventh Edition, Prentice Hall, USA.
2. Drucker, PF 1959, ‘Thinking Ahead’, Harvard Business Review, vol.37, issue 1, pp. 25-150
3. Elliot, G, Rundle-Thiele,S, Waller, D, Paladino, A, Pride, W, Farrell, O 2008, Marketing: Core Concepts & Applications, 2nd Asia-Pacific edition, Wiley, Australia.
4. Kling, JA, Smith, KA 1995, ‘Identifying Strategic Groups in the U.S. Airline Industry: An Application of the Porter Model’, Transportation Journal, vol.35, issue 2, pp. 26-34
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6. Kotler, P, Keller, KL, Ang, SH, Tan, CT 2009, Marketing Management: An Asian Perspective Fifth Edition, Prentice Hall, Singapore
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8. Laroche, M, Yang, Z, Kim, C, Marie-Odile, R 2007, ‘How culture matters in children’s purchase influence: a multi-level investigation’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 35, issue 1, pp. 113-126
9. Levy, D, Murphy, L, Lee CKC 2008, ‘Influences and Emotions: Exploring Family Decision-making Processes when Buying a House’, Housing Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 271-289
10. Moschis, GP 2007, ‘Stress and Consumer Behavior’, Journal of the Academy of Science, vol. 35, issue 3, pp. 430-444
11. Norburn, D 2005, ‘PEST Analysis.’, Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Strategic Management, pp. 1-251
12. Olson, E, Slater, S, Hult, GT 2005, ‘The Performance of Fit Among Business Startegy, Marketing Organization Structure, and Strategic Behavior’, Journal of Marketing, vol. 69, issue 3, pp. 49-65
13. Porter, M 1980, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors. Free Press.
14. Thomas, JS 2001, ‘A Methodology for Linking Customer Acquisition to Customer Retention’, Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), vol. 38, issue 2, pp. 262-268
15. Uslau, C, Morgan, RE, Sheth, JN 2009, ‘ Peter Drucker on Marketing: an exploration of five tenets’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 37, issue 1, pp. 47-60
16. Webster Jr., FE 2008, ‘Marketing IS Management: The Wisdom of Peter Drucker’, Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 37, issue 1, pp. 20-27
Is Marketing Management A Scientific or Artistic Exercise?, written by Christopher Lim


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  3. Oh my goodness! You're so right! Marketing management is an artistic exercise. This is the best blog I've ever read about Marketing management. Carry on the great work.

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