Marketing According To Kotler And Keller Marketing Essay
Marketing according to Kotler and Keller (2006) is everywhere. We as human beings tend to portray a sense of belief that we make decisions out of our own will. However, in reality we receive hundreds of inputs consciously and unconsciously from brands and businesses marketing themselves, that tends to form the very basis of everyday decisions. It is done formally or informally in a number of ways by people and organisations, and businesses need to implement good marketing strategies in order to have beneficial success. Hence as Armstrong and Kotler (2009) state that marketing has a twofold goal of trying to attract new customers by promising superior value and to keep and grow present customers by delivering satisfaction.
We are surrounded by companies marketing on every possible platform that they can possibly market on. But this is no accident that marketing takes place this way. Kotler and Keller (2006) state that it is done after careful planning and efficient execution. Excellence in marketing and its strategies are continually refined and reformed to meet the way consumers react to brands. But marketing to a wide range of people either locally or globally is tricky and has to be the Achilles Heel of many prosperous companies (Kotler and Keller, 2006). It needs to include what products need to meet customer demands, the product category, what price ranges they need to fall in, brand image of the business and brand loyalty of the customer. The brands and businesses that fail to carefully understand and monitor their customers and competition but try to keep a step ahead are at the greatest risk of failing to increase their value to the end customers.
1.1 Marketing! What is it?
What really is marketing? How does it benefit to implement a marketing strategy? Does marketing really work? This is explained simply by Kotler and Keller (2006) as the identification and meeting of human wants and social needs, profitably. And to this the American Marketing Association introduced a formal definition help understand marketing which states that ‘Marketing is an organisational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to the customers; and for managing customer relationships in ways that are beneficial to the organisation as well as the stakeholders (Kotler and Keller, 2006).
Armstrong and Kotler (2009), state that marketing is managing profitable customer relationships. Marketing has enabled ‘exchanges’ of goods, services, events, experiences, information and ideas easily through various modes of communication from businesses to customers. ‘Exchange’ according to Kotler and Keller (2006) is a core concept of marketing and to make any successful ‘exchanges’, marketers seek to elicit a behavioural response from the other party of consumer through analysis. But companies, businesses and brands have to understand that marketing needs to be radical and that the advantages of direct marketing are far greater. Using ‘surgical strike advertising’ which as explained by Kotler and Keller (2006) are short, targeted ad campaigns helps create a emergent sense of belonging and part of a community, while making the brand or the brand image as the unifier of that community. This enables bringing about increased competition by introducing fresh, different marketing ideas and establishing loyalty and commitment among customers.
1.2 Do Brands really exist?
Guzman cites Kapferer (1997) who states that before the 1980’s the approach towards brands was different. “Companies wished to buy a producer of chocolate or pasta: after 1980, they
wanted to buy KitKat or Buitoni. This distinction is very important; in the first case
firms wish to buy production capacity and in the second they want to buy a place in the
mind of the consumer” (p. 23). Guzman states that the shift in focus towards brands began when it was understood that there was something more than just mere identifiers. Also Kapferer (1997) stated that brands help perform an economic function in the minds of consumers, “the value of the brand comes from its ability to gain an exclusive, positive and prominent meaning in the minds of a large number of consumers” (p. 25). Thus Guzman assertens that business need to build a brand and focus on developing brand value (Guzman, A Brand Building Literature).
A brand as explained by Simoes and Dibb (2001), is the combination of features (what the product or service is), the benefits for the customer (what wants and needs the product meets) and the values (which the customer associates with the product or service). If marketing adds value to a product while differentiating it from the other products in the market which may have similar features and benefits, then we are able to create a “brand” that customers can relate to.Brands are thus intangible assets that are residing in the minds of customers. Though they are impetus to brand creation by marketing, Kotler and Keller (2006) state that brands end up as a perceptual entity that are deep rooted in reality but reflects the perceptions and perhaps even the idiosyncrasies of customers. As explained by Armstrong and Kotler (2009), many business owners and brands tend to make the mistake of paying more attention to the product rather than to the benefits and experiences produced by the products and coined this as ‘marketing myopia’. Therefore companies and organisations have long tried to differentiate themselves from their competitors in many ways to be able to be top of mind for customers. These differences maybe functional, rational or tangible, i.e. related to the performance of the brand; however they could also be symbolic, emotional or intangible, which helps potential customers and repeat customers relate to what the brand intends to represent (Kotler and Keller, 2006).
Perceptions from customers according to Chevalier and Mazzalovo (2004) are embodied in a name. However, the American Marketing Association defines a brand as “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors (Kotler and Keller, 2006). It is thus an important visible part of a more complex reality and provides the mediation of the core values of the organisation and how consumers perceive its brand image. But what needs to be understood more importantly is that consumers are looking at a particular brand because they believe it has a guarantee of a specific quality, usually superior and this tends to help form a long-term strategy assurance for any relationship between the brand and customer (Chevalier and Mazzalovo, 2004).
Brands thereby focus on keeping to their core-values and delivering the benefits consumers truly want. As seen from the HBR (2003), the “Brand Report Card” shows us that strong brands attributes such as staying relevant or pricing strategies are based on value that the consumer perceives, positioning the brand to make it desirable and deliverable, while constantly ensuring brand consistency and monitoring ‘brand equity’  . Any value that a brand carries along with it adds or minuses its overall brand awareness which Kotler and Keller (2006) state as the power of that brand which lies in the minds of existing or potential customers on what they have seen, read, heard and experience directly or indirectly about the brand. As stated by Coulson-Thomas (1983), the appeal of a brand may remain relatively constant even as product physical attributes may change, hence companies and organisations need to constantly resonate their core values and position themselves correctly in their target audiences minds, in order to increase brand awareness and higher brand recall.
1.3 Gaining an Identity for the Business through Branding
Urde M. (1999), Brand Orientation: A Mindset for Building Brands into Strategic Resources, Joumal of Marketing Management, 15. 117-133
There has been research from previous case studies carried out on companies such as Nestle, DuPont, Tetra Pak, Volvo, and Phamiacia Upiohn Nicorette, to see how an organisations approach is affected when its operations and marketing and strategies revolve around the companies brand or particular products of the company (Urde, 1999). The organisation acquires an identity and increased awareness when it expresses its overall goals, values and positions through its brand and brand statement. But Urde questions whether we need to rethink the market and marketing concept while challenging the ever known assumption of whether the “customer is always right”? He also goes on to ask whether development of the organisation or brand should be based on satisfying the customer’s need and wants, even if the price is not right? (Urde, 1999). But through the case studies researched by him on the companies stated above, it shows that integrity and brand competence are required to create, develop and protect the brands while sending out the right message through the right channels to be able to establish a trust brand identity while customers can relate to and not just an image. Also Ewing and Napoli (2005) state that while doing this organisations need to monitor consumers’ brand perceptions, identify whether their attitudes confer with their own brand vision and thereby instigate strategies to reinforce positive brand beliefs or change any negative perceptions because as Haynes et. al (1999) state, from a brand management perspective, brands are likely to be more successful when an audience’s perception of a brand mirrors the firm’s view of the brand concept and both are identical to the consumers’ original specifications since the products or services produced by a business need to meet the customers desires and not just their demands.
1.4 Brand Orientation:
Brand-orientation has been a term that has been coined by Frans Mellin and Urde and through Urde’s dissertation carried out in 1997 he states that it is an process where brands and companies revolve around the development, protection and creation of the brand through an ongoing interaction with targeted customers with an aim of achieving long lasting relationships which in turn ensures competitive advantage for the brand. Brands have always been seen as only resources and expressions of the company identity to establish themselves in the minds of customers. And they have thus been treated in a very superficial or general fashion. Urde cites Macrae who states that certain companies go the extra distance to not only satisfy customers wants and needs but to lend a strategic significance to brands, which enables them to acquire an emotional and symbolic value for the brand and organisation, thereby helping them ensure that they are living the brand through their marketing strategies (Urde, 1999).
Urde states that though being industry and customer centric for the last half century, there are always questions arising with regard to product related questions. Is the product good enough? Is it what the customer really wants? These questions tend to dominate when we deal with brands and this is mainly because the functional advantages of any product can be easily imitated by competitors at a lower cost hence removing the competitive advantage entirely (Urde, 1999). Thus as stated by Kotler and Levy (1969) that “The marketing concept holds that the problem of all business in an age of abundance is to develop customer loyalties and satisfaction, and the key to this problem is to focus on the customer's needs” (Urde, 1999). Thus when Drucker (1954) first articulated this idea being called the marketing concept, he made note that marketing was never a separate function of the management but on the contrary, the whole business needs to be seen from the customer’s point of view (Deshpande and Webster, 1989).
The marketing concept often called the market concept which is considered a corner stone by Kohli and Jaworski (1990) and Drucker (1954) who were among the first people to argue that the marketing concept needs to be adopted as a fundamental basis for any brand or company to ensure a competitive advantage. Armstrong and Kotler (2009) also state that customer focus and value are the paths to higher sales and profits for any business. Thus it goes to say that by placing the customer in focus by the firm and revolving the company’s strategies to satisfy customer wants and needs is key in any marketing concept. Many authors such as; McKittrick 1957; Felton 1959: Kotler 1977; Day. Shocker, and Srivastava 1979; Webster 1992; Day 1994; Hunt and Morgan 1995, have previously in their literature contrasted this concept of marketing with market orientation and hence customer orientation. And Urde describes market orientation as “the organization wide generation of market intelligence pertaining to current and future customer needs, dissemination of the intelligence across departments, and organization wide responsiveness to it” (Urde, 1999). Businesses need to be able to maintain a healthy competitive advantage by differentiating their product or service through constant sensing of their market through regular interactions with customers and potential customers helping them cater to the end customers needs and wants, and thus as Melin (1997) points out enables them to form a barrier to entry.
Thus brands are forced to become the unconditional response of the firm because following the strategy to tend to the wants and needs of customers can be ensured only through the right brand communication channels and thereby right segmentation and positioning. And this is possible as seen by Urde citing Day (1994) who argues that "market sensing" (the ability to continually sense, interpret foresee, and react to changes in the market) and "customer linking" (the ability to develop relationships with customers) are two particularly important aspects of the development of a market-oriented organization (Urde, 1999).
Satisfaction of customers needs and wants The brand as an unconditional response to customer needs and wants
But Urde (1999) also goes on to state that if brand awareness and brand loyalty of customers is intended to increase the competitive advantage, then market orientation tends to come into conflict with any long-term brand development. If marketing the business as a brand is the true question then we need to see whether the customers and their changeable preferences provide sufficiently stable grounds for the brand as a resource. If brands tend to change just because of opinions and comments of consumers based on whatever position they think is popular at the time, then the business and its brand image loses credibility. This on the contrary shows that the business has not got a strong sense of identity and forms and opportunism for signs of weak integrity to the business and the organisations core values and goals (Urde, 1999).
Establishing a ‘brand’ as explained by Urde (1999) should be a starting point for businesses as an expression of a mindset. If all businesses relate to their products or services as brands and work on strategies to create, develop and protect these brands as strategic resources, it will help them achieve a competitive advantage which in turn increases brand identity for customers to relate to. Research done earlier has shown that identity of a brand for a customer is enhanced through value creation and meaning creation which enables customers to experience products or services as attributes that are valuable and unique, and this makes it difficult for competitors to imitate. Urde (1999) states that companies need to consciously and actively strive to give their brand a competitive advantage through an expression of intent by constantly managing the process through which they give the brand value and meaning. This helps the brand become a symbol of an ongoing interaction between the company and its customers. Hence Urde points out that by doing this, it has positive consequences on the company which helps it position, prioritizes, organizes, develops, and protects its brand resource base while increasing the company’s knowledge of market intelligence for its product or service (Urde, 1999).
1.5 Businesses establishing themselves as Brands – A conceptual framework
Former head at Nestle, Camillo Pagano, was questioned by Urde on whether it was possible to create brand passion within an organisation. To this Camillo answers, “As you get new consumers all the time, by changing consumer groups, habits, and trends, you have to keep the brands continuously refreshed. That's a job that takes a tremendous amount of attention and passion!” (Urde, 1999). A passion for a brand whether it is a business, organisation or even a product or service, it needs to come from within, and this can be seen not only from the way the employees of the brand work in the organisation but also by the way customers perceive the brand through their loyalty.
Businesses thus need to be brand oriented in order to generate any sort of customer loyalty towards their brand, increase brand awareness and thus be able to communicate the right message to their potential end users. This ability to be able to transform a product or service by an organisation into a brand needs to constitute as a fundamental process for organisations. As stated by Urde (1999), a product fulfils a function, while a brand symbolizes values and a meaning in a social context. A brand with emotional and symbolic values is experienced and interpreted while carrying a personality and identity of its own provides a basis for a unique relationship. It symbolizes values and a meaning in a social context and brings about experience through its reality.
The understanding of a company being brand-oriented can be summarised through a number of concepts and relationships. However, Urde (1999) integrated a company’s reasoning about its strategy and direction with brand equity, brand awareness and brand identity, to obtain a conceptual framework called the ‘Brand Hexagon’.
Any company that needs to portray its business or its brand out into the market need to answer basic fundamental questions such as: Why does the business or brand exist? What does the brand stand for? Who is the brand? How is the goal of the brand to be achieved? As stated by Urde (1999), if these questions are answered then it helps relate to the reasons for the existence of the business or brand as well as enabling identification of the core values, identity, personality, and strategy of the brand. Also if the vision of the brand is to be projected out to the end customer on a long term basis then the business needs to be able to communicate the right information of what they want to achieve for the brand and how they will go about realising this vision.
1.6 Communicating the Brand - Functional and Emotional Values
As stated by Urde (1999), brand awareness for any business is concerned both with its position in the market as well as the specific products or services that is made available for the consumer. From the Brand Hexagon model, the right side reflects the reference function (product or service category and product), while the emotional function that reflects the brand name or the business name is on the left side. Urde goes on to explain that distinguishing between intellectually explaining as well as emotionally communicating are the principle ways brands need to communicate to their target audience. We as individuals use our brain (i.e. reference function) and our “heart” (i.e. emotional function) to interpret a brand thus enabling us to experience the brand in its entirety. The task of communication is necessary to explain the product or service that a brand or business represent, however it is not to explain brands in terms of objective relationships. We need to emotionally and symbolically experience a brand and hence the identity of the brand cannot be explained. And Urde firmly states that insight into the limitations of the intellect in understanding, and into the limitations of the emotions in explaining, is fundamental when a company communicates about its brands (Urde, 1999).
The mission and vision are at lower part of the model and relates to the brand or businesses intentions, while the upper part shows the interpretation of the brand by the target audience. Through symbolic interaction a continual reinterpretation is created by the dynamics of brand development. Thus this has lead to the process of meaning creation which puts the core values and positioning at the centre of the model, thereby forming the complete brand hexagon showing how all the elements are linked and interlinked for the development of a brand.
1.7 Awareness. Associations and Loyalty - Reflections of Brand Strength
As we look at Urde’s Brand Hexagon, we can see that the relationships between a brand, product or service and the target audience can only be established when there is awareness, right associations and brand loyalty.
As cited by Macdonald and Sharp, Baker et.al (1986) state that if a brand is not recalled due to lack of awareness then it would obviously not be chose during the decision making stage. Awareness of a product or service, produced by a business, thus needs to be conveyed to the target audience and this helps to increase the brand building process. Farquhar (1989) states awareness is a important dimension of brand equity and Aaker (Emerald Backfiles 2007) strengthens this point to say that brand awareness is pivotal since it underlies the strength of successful brands. As Aaker (1991) states, the brand should be conceptualised as a node in memory which thereby allows other information about the brand to be anchored to it and this can only be done by creating awareness of the brand (Macdonald and Sharp, 1996).
The brand is able to differentiate their product or service, create favourability, attitudes and bring about congruity in the brand through unique associations (Keller, 1993). Aaker and Joachimsthaler (2000, p.17) describe associations as anything that makes the consumer connect with the brand, including “user imagery, product attributes, organizational associations, brand personality, and symbols”. But as stated by Cochran (2002), associations will only result if all of the components of the brand make sense and are perceived by the target as an entity with which they would want to interact. Hence these associations will only be possible if there is a good communication channel between the brands and the end customer, since good associations would lead to better relationships and this would result in higher brand recall.
Loyalty as stated by Shocker (1994), marketers for brands need to understand and be able to leverage consumer-bonds which has become especially necessary in every marketplace since it is characterised by increasing unpredictability, diminishing product differentiation, and heightened competitive pressures and as cited by Fournier and Lao (1997), brand building activities have been placed back into the heart of business plans to develop consumer brand loyalties, partnerships and friendships. In addition, Aaker (Emerald Backfiles 2007) also states that by focussing on brand loyalty, this often is an effective way to manage brand equity since repeat buying patters of consumers as well as customer satisfaction are the indicators of a healthy brand and thus programs to enhance this will build brand strength.
1.8 The Core Values - Centre of Gravity
At the centre of the Brand Hexagon are placed the core values which enable to position a branded product and a branded company because Urde (1999) states that it is via positioning that the company expresses and interprets the core values. Positioning of the brand however but take place in relation to its competitors and always assert on attributes and benefits that complement the brand. This is usually achieved as Urde (1999) explains through using of metaphors that explicitly communicate the core values. As cited by Urde (1999), Phannacia Upjohn used the linguistic picture of "Nicorette - a helping hand" to communicate its products for quitting smoking. Hence in principle, positioning ensures three dimensions of quality, personality and communication of the brand.
Quality as stated by Urde (1999) relates mainly to the product or service offered and as cited by Phillips et. al (1983), Porter (1980) cites that using quality as a differentiator helps insulate a business from competitive rivalry by reducing customer sensitivity to price, increasing customer loyalty and thus protect the business and brand.
The personality of a brand are simply the human traits that consumers associate with the brand. As stated by Aaker (1997), research has been done to focus on how consumers express his or her own self, an ideal self or specific dimensions of one’s self through the use of a brand. These personality traits thus are able to provide the brand with an emotional side and enables to position it in relation to other brands for the customer (Urde, 1999). Thereby Biel (1993) goes on to say that personality can be used as a central driver for consumer preference and usage.
Communication is the basic human activity that helps link people and businesses together to create relationships. As stated by Duncan and Moriarty (1998), communication is at the centre of meaning-making activities which corresponds not only to marketing but also in political, social and economic areas to serve as a way to develop, organise and disseminate knowledge. Mohr and Nevin (1990) state it should be like the glue that holds the brands communication together in order to transmit information, receive feedback from the customer, and thereby help participative decision making. Thus through communication, businesses are able to chose the media channels through which they want to target their audience, use particular tones and styles in their marketing, and be able to reflect customers aspirations (cf. Kapferer’s (1997) “reflections”) (Cochran, 2002).
Through this combination of quality of product or service, its brand personality and the right channels of communication, it makes it possible to position the brand clearly (Urde, 1999).
There are certain values such as brand essence and brand soul that helps sum up a brand. As Aaker and Joachimsthaler (2000, p.45) states that brand essence helps become a part of brand identity as it is viewed as the glue holding the core identity of the brand together and as explained by Urde (2003), is to define and describe the innermost core of a brand. Randazzo (1993) also states that the brand’s soul is in its spiritual centre, the core values that defines the business and brand and permeates through all other aspects of the brand (Randazzo 1993, p.17).
But as stated by Urde (2003), if core values are to fulfil their function and role they need to be built into the product, expressed in behaviour and reflects the feel of communication; thereby giving the end customer an added value which the consumer associates as an advantage to be able to differentiate a brand from a commodity. Hence McCracken (1993) states that: “Brands have value, it turns out, because they add value” and Urde (2003) justifies by saying that the added value maybe either functional, emotional or symbolic but they need to be closely related to the core and organisational values. Through this act of interpreting and reinterpreting the core values of the brand to the customer, helps affect the image and identity of the brand (Christiansen and Askegaard, 2001). Thereby brands and business need to be very careful while communicating the right message to their customers because the most important task of core values according to Urde (2003) is to be the guiding light of the brand building process.
Thus from the Brand Hexagon we see that consumer awareness of the product needs to be established through brand associations which will help bring out conditions that help relationships exist between the target customers and the brand. But as Urde (1999) states, the main significance of the brand is reflected by the positioning of brand and reflecting the core values of the business and brand. However, he goes on to say that the loyalty of a customer towards a brand or the relationship shared is established only through brand identity and recall. Any business or brand needs to see itself as a brand-oriented company by being an associative network that communicates to the target audience (Urde, 1999). As stated by Fiske (1990, p.42) “Decoding is as active as coding”, therefore the brand and end consumers need to be the co-creators of this whole process. Hence communication should not take place as a one-way network but rather as an interaction with the target audience (Urde, 1999).
Communication is thus a very vital aspect of the whole concept of marketing and brands. Whether to communication is not the question anymore but asking what needs to be said, how it needs to be said, through what channels, where is your target audience located, how easy is it to access your target audience and how often can this be done financially and logically are the more pertinent questions. Over the years, there has been an increase in products available locally and globally, the competitors have increased and the overall prices of products have reduced considerably. These factors have affected the ways brands communicate to the customer in order to gain higher market share as well as undivided attention (Kotler and Keller, 2006). This has however been overcome to a large extent due to the efforts of holistic marketers  who are creatively employing multiple different types of communication.
1.9.1 Traditional vs New media:
According to Lutze, companies spend millions every year on marketing their companies as brands in order to gain more market share and reach more prospects. But how often are these same companies realising the brand that is already created by their loyal, current customers? (Lutze, Reinvent Relationships With your Customers Online). As stated by Duncan and Moriarty (1998), this increasing importance of communication in marketing is easily demonstrated by the ability to use new marketing approaches as compared to traditional media (television, radio, and print media). Also marketing through traditional media could not be directly tracked unless large organisations paid huge amounts of money to market research companies to learn what their end customer feels about their product but with the introduction of the internet and social networking media platforms, all this has been changed drastically (Lutze H., Reinvent Relationships With Your Customers Online). The new approach emphasises two-way communication between brands and businesses and their target audience which has enabled listening to customers and interactivity with the end users. This kind of engaged marketing involving both sides of the chain can build or destroy important brand relationships and brand loyalty.
1.9.2 The Internet:
With the evolution of the internet, this has sparked a whole new digital revolution in the way communication exists and the way we use communication among each other. It has impacted lives of people as well as business to a large extent and according to Harris and Rae (2010), everything around us seems to be either working via the internet or indirectly linked to it in some way. The internet has expanded our reach and minimised time-lag into the market. This has helped reduce costs for marketers and allow them to target a particular segment. However online marketing campaigns have passed the stage of only enticing consumer’s to click-through to a company’s website but to also be able to establish “sustained engagement”. It has brought about marketing with a new set of capabilities for both consumers, brands and businesses. Consumers have been thrown into a world wide web of online marketing and this has given them the potential of enabling changes in marketing strategies of brands, a power which was unavailable to them a few years ago.
We are at a stage in time where we are barely managing to keep up with the changes in technology that are happening around us every single day. The last two decades that we are in is considered an ‘Information Age’. Just the mention of technologies, the pace its growing at and the innovations brings about equalled enthusiasm as well as hesitation (Ways to Exploit Emerging Technology, 2009). Kotler and Keller (2006) explain this would lead to more accurate production of products to consumers needs and wants, targeted and focussed communication to the relevant audience and more relevant pricing. But consumers have a slightly upper hand. Gone are the days of push marketing. This technology change has increased their buying power. Since almost all businesses are linked to the internet now, consumers are just a click away from comparing competitors prices and product attributes.
There is so much of variety and choice for the customer that brands need to constantly engage in two way marketing strategies to enable customer centric marketing strategies. Customers have also realised this empowerment and thereby expect increasingly higher quality and service with customization. Kotler and Keller (2006) state that the consumers want convenience while expecting it quickly. This has lead to them showing lower brand loyalty and greater price sensitivity due to the increase of information of products and services, and competitor pricing via the internet.
1.9.3 Social Networking Media Platforms:
From being platform to be able to download static data from around the world at a click of a mouse the Internet has moved into a peer-to-peer communication tool which enable users to exchange data, collaborate and share information among themselves (Harris and Rae, 2010).
With this boom in online social networking and the new online media platforms able to support it, it is rightly stated by Roberts (2010) that social networking media has moved from being a mere vehicle for the news to actually becoming the news itself. This trend has continued into the realm through which individuals and business exist. People are now not only uploading information increasingly but sharing content among themselves and others. This has lead to a proliferation of enhanced social networks. It is seen how because of this sharing of information that has allowed it to leave to many people making their buying or spending decisions for a product or service because of comments posted directly on a community page of social networking platforms such as Facebook. Thus fundamental relationships and they way they are established and engaged have been re-written particularly because of the information (either positive or negative) from the users (brands, companies and individuals) is displayed on a online public social networking forum.
Most marketing managers follow general approaches in traditional marketing media but when engaging in social media marketing through networking sites they need to follow particular strategies in their communication plans since the internet brings about a whole new ball game for marketers. As cited in Tactics, Bernoff also explains that we need to not only understand the power of social media as a platform but also be able to effectively harness it to our benefit and this is possible by following clear objectives to target our potential customers. Hence Forrester Research categorises internet users according to their participation levels on the “Social Technographies Ladder” into creators, critics, collectors, joiners. spectators and in-actives. And thus Bernoff states that "Knowing which rung of that ladder your audience falls on can provide insight into the most effective strategies and technologies for engaging them" (Tactics, 2009).
The “fan base” as explained by Lutze builds the brand and this holds the company’s reputation in the palms of customer’s hand. This is done by them through blog posts, review sites, video’s, comments, social media platforms and they are able to give positive as well as negative feedback about products and services of brands. And if brands realise that they are receiving prominently positive feedback, how do they get everyone to collectively support their brand as a community of evangelists for their company? To this Lutze goes on to say that the only answer to this would be to listen to your fans, give them a place to network, talk, share advice and continue to preach about the brand and this thereby allows to the company to learn a lot about what the customer really wants and needs and be able to cater to this (Lutze H., Reinvent Relationships With Your Customers Online). Hence getting a basic understanding of what audience need and keeping them engaged is every marketer’s aim. This can be achieved by following key rules as explained by Tactics (2009) that delivering value to the customer, bringing the customer a sense of community and finally establishing trust. The social trends of people around us are based on technologies and the way with which they communicate with each other and we are right in the middle of it. Josh Bernoff, co-author of "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social technologies." states, "if you have been reluctant to explore social media you'd better tip your toe in now because soon you will be swimming in a social sea" (Tactics, 2009).
Facebook has been established not as a just a social networking platform but it is seen as a tool for communication and interaction between people of all ages and backgrounds. As cited in ‘Ways to exploit emerging technology’ (2009), Hempel (2009) states that Facebook has risen phenomenally and its huge popularity enhances the outline of its future growth plans and this is what marketers and brands need to explore so as to be able to exploit this medium of social interaction.
Through the unimaginable potential of the social network platform, audiences around the world are targeted by brands and companies at a minimal cost as compared to traditional marketing. As stated by Harris and Rae (2010) traditional face-to-face marketing had its limitations due to small network size and the lack of diversity however social networking platforms have created personal networks which are strengthened and broadened by enabling brands to open up communication channels with their clients giving them a competitive advantage as well as sustained engagement.
Even if you not involved actively on a social networking media platform, we are surrounded by people who are. As stated by Smith (Journal of Market Research, Vol. 51 Issue 4), in today’s world, a search for any product brings up results loaded with product content and opinion’s of customers. This has lead to our growing networks of consumer influence both ways due to social network platforms such as Facebook that helps influence people not online but offline as well in the real world. The use of online social network platforms such as Facebook have been used to a large extent because everyone including individuals, brands and companies are all on the internet. Competition has increased and new strategies are needed to be put in place to keep them in the game since the playing field is now levelled. With the positive of having minimal cost of marketing to the customer brands have also realised that their competition may also be on the same online platform and marketing to their same target audience, but what differentiates them would be their engagement that they sustain with the clients since as stated by Harris and Rae (2010) that customers expect them to communicate to them through these tools.
Social media platforms have been able to re-orient the way the economy of online marketing technology. As stated by Smith (Journal of Market Research, Vol. 51 Issue 4), earlier, since the control was in the hands of ‘professionals’ it was a one way push communication and to get feedback or comments from users was virtually impossible without the increase in budget to carry out surveys. But now since most of everyone is either online or on a social networking platform, it has just become very easy and affordable to companies to increase their interaction with consumers. Every consumer has now become a commentator, reviewer and publisher which organisations have taken notice of, since at the end of the day, it the consumers needs that they need to satisfy. It also enables brands and companies to stop push marketing but start listening to consumers and understand through social networking platforms such as Facebook, about how consumers perceive them, thus allowing brands to take appropriate action to benefit them in the long run.
Hence we see that communication plays a big part of any marketing strategy. And more over, when a 2- way bidirectional channel of communication is setup between the marketer and the consumer, this leads to increased brand awareness. Thus Smith states that the act of listening an essential part of every business model, feeding product development, customer relations and marketing communications. These consumers may not only make a purchase but recommend these brands and products online as well as offline. Through this engagement with consumers, it would lead to helping brands establish a long-term relationship with the consumers who will in turn become advocates for the brand (Smith T., Journal of Market Research, Vol. 51 Issue 4).
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