Consumer behavioural patterns
A. ) Doyle’s definition suggests that for firms to be successful in an ever-changing business environment, they must adopt a philosophy where the customer’s needs are central to marketing activities. The first section of this paper will examine the extent to which the team (Macrohard) adopted a marketing concept philosophy and the overall process of marketing management as suggested by Doyle (1994). One of the key features of the game is the firm’s ability to gain a long-term perspective of potential areas of planning and the implementation of strategy.
Any decisions that the company make in the early stages may affect the teams overall performance during every period of the game. Doyle (1994) indicates in the first part of his statement that the organisation must identify target markets. The team decided to target the high-tech managers, harried assistants and commercial artists for a number of reasons: Firstly, due to the fact that they represented a large segment of the overall market (65%) and secondly, the fact that this particular segment offered increased chances of profitability because the marketing mix could be designed to specifically meet the needs of the target audience.
During this particular stage of the game, the team had to focus upon identifying a target audience, thus adhering to what Kotler et al. (2001) describe as a marketing concept orientation. However, throughout the course of the game, it would become evident that the team would have to develop strategies that were not in line with Doyle’s (1994) philosophy. This was apparent in the team’s decision to attempt to gain a large share of the market rather than opting to create large profits. This is due to the fact that one of the main objectives of companies’ shareholders would be to create profit (Brassington and Pettit, 1998).
In essence, this is what Doyle’s (1994) assertion suggests, that the marketing manager must attempt to create exchanges that satisfy the needs of all stakeholders (including the shareholders of the company) (Schlegelmilch, 1998). In fact, Macrohard’s initial and primary objective was to create increased profitability by gaining a large share of the market. The next phase of the planning process involved researching the needs of Macrohard’s target audience and adapting the marketing mix according to these needs.
A number of common needs were identified between the three aforementioned target segments. In terms of creating the right product for the right target audience, the team decided to increase the number of special commands and ease of learning. In terms of distribution activity, the team selected an intensive distribution strategy in an attempt to expand the overall size of the market. This was implemented with a view to becoming more selective in terms of distribution intensity at a later stage in the game.
This also indicates that the team did not always adopt Doyle’s (1994) philosophy as Schlossberg (1998) suggests that a true marketing concept orientation involves satisfying the needs of all stakeholders. This would indicate that an intensive distribution campaign is perhaps more inclined to increase market share and profitability, rather than creating value for the consumer. This is not symptomatic of post-modernism and what Brown (1993) describes as ‘micro-marketing’, whereby an organisation has the ability to target and subsequently satisfy the needs of individual consumers.
Although it is unreasonable to suggest that such tactics could be adopted for the marketing game (as there are only six segments of the market), such assertions indicate that the route to creating value for the consumer involves a high degree of selectivity and targeting. It is this ability to target individuals that creates true value in the exchange process, suggesting that this is the key to following Doyle’s (1994) philosophy and satisfying the needs of stakeholders. Another factor that influenced the team’s decision not to always adopt Doyle’s (1994) philosophy was the overall potential of the market.
As the market expanded in size, the team were aware that certain segments of the market would also expand faster than others. Rather than manipulating the marketing mix to create the right product for the right target audience, the team decided that it would be more appropriate to focus upon segments of the market that would potentially expand the fastest. The fundamental nature of these tactics suggests that the firm was more concerned with profitability than meeting the needs of consumers and other stakeholders.
As the final results indicated, CASKEN had created the highest profits out of any team involved in the game. In contrast, Macrohard displayed low profitability and market share, suggesting that if the team had adopted Doyle’s (1994) philosophy, its chances of success would have increased. In essence, the team were committed to following Doyle’s (1994) philosophy to a small extent. This is to suggest that the team were able to identify and research the needs of the target audience.
However, the product, price, promotion and distribution strategies were developed in order to maximise and expand the potential size and company share of the market, rather than to create greater profitability for each product that was sold. This indicates that to an extent the team adopted what Kotler et al (2001) describe as a production concept philosophy. This occurs when the company attempt to create a product of reasonable quality, in large quantities and at a price that is low enough to attract the target audience (Jobber and Lancaster, 2000).
Brown (1993) suggests that the evolution of an ‘enlightened’ marketing concept has been a natural progression from the modernist and somewhat ignorant ideals of the production concept era. In terms of the marketing game, it may be applicable to suggest that the key to success is to focus upon the customer. This is reflected in Christopher et al (1998, cited in Egan) six-markets model where the customer is central to every aspect of activity within the business. B. ) Within a marketing context, chaos theory suggests that consumers are complex and will display behaviour that is difficult to predict (Brown, 1998).
In terms of the marketing game, it could be relevant to suggest that certain segments of the market will display trends, patterns and behavioural elements that may be considered as predictable. Firat (1991) indicates that uncertainty, complexity and chaos theory are all characteristics that can be associated with a postmodernist perspective. Therefore, if consumers are likely to display any kind of predictability within the marketing game it can be viewed as displaying modernist characteristics. However, this is not to suggest that within the marketing game every decision contains an element of certainty.
In essence, it is difficult to assess the impact of the behaviour of competitors. In terms of the marketing mix, the product, price, promotion and distribution can all be manipulated in a way that ensures a degree of certainty and predictability. This relates to Macrohard’s overall philosophy that the key to long-term profitability would rest upon the firm’s ability to secure a large share of the total market. This section of the paper will examine the extent to which this philosophy was flawed, due to the fact that certain elements of the marketing game (namely the competition) are inherently unpredictable.
At an early stage in the game, the team decided that a large share of the market could be obtained by developing a low price, intensive distribution, heavy advertising and a product that was customized to meet the needs of each of the chosen target audiences. During these early stages, all of the competing teams have a limited knowledge of the market and similar features in the marketing mix. Other complexities included a limited understanding of the dynamics and different variables involved in the game (Mason and Perreault, 1995).
Therefore, the team decided that this uncertainty would affect the decision making process of other teams early on the game. As a result, Macrohard attempted to exploit the uncertainty of competing firms by acting in a decisive manner. This was to be achieved by manipulating the four elements of the marketing mix based upon the needs of the target customers; however, according to Firat (1991) such processes are entirely modernist in nature. Brown (1993) emphasises this point, suggesting that anything that can be understood, modelled, manipulated, generalised and predicted is in fact inherent in a modernist attitude.
This would indicate that the marketing game is entirely modernist, as the marketing mix can be understood and manipulated in order to achieve wider organisational objectives (Sherry, 1991). However, it was not as straightforward for Macrohard to predict the dynamics of competitor behaviour, suggesting that the marketing game is complex and unpredictable. This would suggest that although the marketing game is said by some to be modernist, it also possesses characteristics that can be associated with postmodernist thought.
Venkatesh (1992) indicates that using the 4 ps and other marketing conceptualisations are ruthlessly modernist in orientation. Conversely, if the marketing game were entirely modernist in orientation and all of modernism’s assertions are to be true, all firms would be able to predict changing trends in consumer behaviour and subsequently adapt the marketing mix to create mutual value and profitability. In the modern business environment (as in the marketing game), this is not the case as the dynamics of the market are fuelled by the unpredictability and complex behaviour displayed by competitors.
To a large degree, such unpredictability and environmental complexities influenced the decision making process of the team. In order to understand the complex nature of competitor behaviour, the team decided to model trends in the marketplace using spreadsheets in order to measure the effect of changing inputs. The team realised that competitors had displayed cautious behaviour during the early stages of the game and this had worked to Macrohard’s advantage, gaining a large market share and high sales volume early on.
At this stage in the game, the team were able to measure the effect of changing different inputs and correlate this relationship in terms of an increase or decrease in sales. By making minor alterations, the team were able to study the effect of these actions on unit sales and market share and minimise the risk of uncertainty. In essence, the team could be certain that any minor alterations in strategy would not have an overwhelming effect on the firm’s overall performance.
In terms of creating the right product, the team were certain that in assessing the needs of the target audience, unit sales would be satisfactory. In addition, the team were confident that by using a low price, intensive distribution and a heavy advertising strategy, that a large share of the market could be obtained. In this sense, uncertainty and complexity was of little influence on the team’s decision making process and the company achieved its initial objectives. However, as the game progressed, the behaviour of competitors increased the level of uncertainty involved in the team’s decision-making process.
Macrohard attempted to deviate from its initial objectives in response to complex competitor behaviour and the performance and success of the firm gradually decreased. In conclusion, the evidence suggests that consumers display unpredictable and complex behavioural patterns. In the marketing game, the product requirements of the target audience are specified (to an extent), thus reducing uncertainty in developing the product. In addition, the other variables within the marketing mix can be developed in a manner that potentially reduces uncertainty and complexity in the decision making process.
All of these characteristics are typically associated with a modernist school of thought. However, the effects of competitor behaviour are less easy to predict and reacting to competitor strategy creates an element of uncertainty within the decision making process. This suggests that although the marketing game is inherently modernist, there are elements of the game that are complex, unpredictable and intrinsically post-modernist. The dynamic nature of these complexities and uncertainties therefore had a significant effect on the decision making process of the team.