Are Marketers Going To Change The Rules Of The Game To Stay Ahead!!

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 982 , Published on 23 September 2012

The way direct response marketing has evolved over time is really appealing. With the consumer becoming more and more knowledgeable, the trends in marketing have also been evolving over the time to stay ahead of the consumer and to cater to their needs and choices.

In the older days, marketing assumed a very –minuscule role with the sales owning majority of selling. The ‘sales’ was more of push based model with company thrusting the consumers with products to make a sale. Gone are the days when door-to-door selling was the norm of the trade. With the customer base gradually increasing and with the advent of technology like TV, Radio and Internet coming over, the consumer became more aware of their needs and became choosier. The companies selling the products thus didn’t find the ROI in investing huge manpower in direct selling with the number of rejections increasing amongst customers

The marketers had to change something drastically in their methodology to counter this behaviour of the knowledge customers. As it has been norm till now, marketers have always found a way to gain acceptance in their consumers and have been successful. The change was in the ways to understand what the customer needed and align the product with respect to that. Thus came the concepts of 4’P’s and an increased attention to customer requirements.

A shift in the production process from large economies of scale to need based customized product started to shape the era which had by then dominated by only sales. The marketing department in companies started accruing importance as gaining this market intelligence was thrust on them while the traditional sales still continued to work on the same lines as before.

The marketers’ major sources of gaining information was again limited to studying and understanding the pattern of what customers ‘said’ and ‘behaved’. Thus surveys and market research became a major tool in perceptive decision making. The questions in the survey would give an idea about the preferences which the customer desired thus giving the marketers a heads up in designing and customizing the product.  Further with the era of mass advertising via TV and internet, it became easy for the marketers to entice the customers with their products.

Not only had they worked on the preferences, they were also able to work on the cognitive dissonance of the clientele by portraying the product in a better light for their customers. The marketers not only added the arsenal of knowing what customers preferred but they also strengthened their traditional sales with more product coverage via TV, Radio, Bill Boards and others. With the advent of competition also creeping in, it became necessary that the perception needed to be changed from that of a commodity product to a branded item in order to gain uniqueness.

Thus the concept of “Brand” started to take the precedence. With sales force still doing the traditional selling, but now with greater vigour with the aid of enhanced mass marketing, the marketing structure again started to evolve with ‘Brand Management’ shaping up to be a vital part of its strategy. The resurgence of Brand Managers started to change the rules of game with brand value gaining a separate premium and respect for itself in the market.

It also served the Marketers to fulfill their need to separate and create uniqueness to their product from competitors. Rather only selling on the basis of quality and quantity, the marketers started to work upon the “Unstated needs” of the customer. With this, the task of Sales Force also transformed since their job was now not restricted to selling alone, but also to cater to the ‘After Sales Service’ and the related concerns of the customers.

With all these successes and development in the marketing domain, one of the major hurdles which still remain a nemesis to the marketers is the source of market intelligence. All the conventional market research techniques use perception analysis. The truth in them is debatable. The surveys undertaken can be easily faked and the data collected might not reflect the actual preferences. Moods swings of the consumers result in different choices in the survey sheet.

The understanding of the consumer is at the core of all marketing decisions. The existing body of marketing theoreticians does not have a fundamental theory to understand the consumer. They like classical economists assume the existence of a rational man. Further an individual is conscious of only about 5 percent of our cognitive activity, so most of their decisions, actions, emotions, and behaviour depend on the 95 percent brain activity that goes beyond their conscious awareness. This hidden potent is never tapped in the conventional marketing scheme of things. Traditional marketing theories fail to understand the irrational side of consumers.

The next big step in marketing would be to understand what is happening inside the “Black Box” of the human brain. With the advent of Neuroscience and its implication growing ever so rapidly, neuromarketing is on the cards to rule the future of marketing strategies and decision making. As it stands, marketers are forced to rely heavily on assumption when explaining consumer behaviour. But if science can establish links between specific brain parts and the urge to buy, much of the guesswork and uncertainty might become a thing of the past.

It may then simply become a question of providing appropriate stimuli in order to trigger the desired response. Neuromarketing, however, has the potential to detect any subconscious predispositions inaccessible to conventional advertising methods. Using these “brain clues” could enable greater precision when targeting consumers, leading to higher rates of marketing success.

At current times when the consumer perspective is becoming the core for any marketing activity, gaining access to the brain has major implications. All the toiling research works where there was a probability of the consumer lying to the questions can be done with.  It also avoids the problem of relying heavily upon subjects’ self-reports when it is highly unlikely that even the most determined subject could accurately articulate his or her crucial subconscious motives. The strength of Neuromarketing is that it may hit on subconscious biases that traditional advertising methods, such as focus groups, fail to uncover. In other words, the potential for neuromarketing to increase the marketing success while reducing marketing failures seems quite hopeful although not without controversy.

Marketers have used the mantra of “customer satisfaction” for quite some time assuming the Marketing Concept had accurately captured a prime consumer motivator. Unfortunately, satisfaction is a short lived phenomenon. Surveys indicate that even satisfied customers leave the firm on a regular basis. Thus the need arises to “Delight” the consumer each time he comes in contact with the product rather than just satisfying him.

With the marketers consciously working to stay always one step ahead of the consumers, the question which arises over here is that of crossing the ethical barrier with this giant step forward. Neuromarketing does come with its own concerns and raises powerful ethical issues for children and adults. Very young children have what we refer to as blind spots – that is things they simply cannot see or understand. Some marketers with social blinders in place, focusing solely on the bottom line may seriously misuse the technology. With the marketers discovering more about these techniques and blind spots, it also adds to their responsibility to be extremely cautious about the usage of such information into positive and responsible marketing and to avoid the pitfall of manipulative and reckless marketing.

Having evolved all these years from a miniscule entity to giant strategist, “marketing” today stands in a very precarious position. Will the urge to outperform consumer behaviour push the marketers to cross the ethical barrier? Are the marketers willing to allow a level playing field for the consumers or are the marketers mature enough to consider only the virtue and ignore the vices of the emerging technologies? Only time beholds the key to these puzzling questions.

This article has been authored by Arvind Viswanathan from XIMB.



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