OPINION: Marketing Society - Marketing has to be marriage of old and new

A business magazine headline recently caught my eye - ’Net commerce rewrites the marketing rule book’. A common assertion but does it stand scrutiny? The internet and e-commerce are dramatically affecting how business is conducted, but the ’new paradigm’ world which, seemingly, is marketing’s future environment may not necessarily change the basic rules of marketing, it may reinforce them.

A business magazine headline recently caught my eye - ’Net commerce

rewrites the marketing rule book’. A common assertion but does it stand

scrutiny? The internet and e-commerce are dramatically affecting how

business is conducted, but the ’new paradigm’ world which, seemingly, is

marketing’s future environment may not necessarily change the basic

rules of marketing, it may reinforce them.



We are all bemused by forecasts about the impact of new technology.

Their only common characteristic is that 99% will be wrong. Remember

IBM’s Thomas Watson, predicting world demand for computers at ’about

five’. Or, more recently, in the early 80s, McKinsey advising AT&T the

world market in 2000 for mobile phones would be approximately 900,000.

In 1999, that’s how many people sign up with a mobile network every

three days.



If predicting technological outcomes is so difficult, why assume the

basics of marketing will be rewritten, when a wiser, realistic stance

would be to think how those basics are best adapted to an internet

driven business world.



So what are the old fashioned basics of marketing that deserve

revisiting?



For simplicity, take just the core idea that marketing must be about

satisfying consumer needs, profitably. If such a dictum is a cornerstone

of the marketing concept, what does it mean by way of action for today’s

marketer in an e-commerce environment?



It means continuing strong on what can be called your ’marketing

infrastructure’.



What’s that? Essentially a brand’s marketing infrastructure is the mix

of fundamentals that determine whether the brand can sell and make money

at all. Fundamentals such as: is the product really right for your

target market?; is pricing exactly where it should be?; is the supply

chain effective in getting your offering to consumers when they want it?

Boringly old hat, of course, and easily overlooked in the heady

excitement of internet marketing.



Yet, get this infrastructure wrong, or even second best, and the

cleverest web site or the most sophisticated disintermediation strategy

will not save you. It’s the infrastructure ingredients, the old rules,

that remain at the heart of marketing success. Think of the resurrection

of Apple with its iMac; not as a result of technical innovation, but

because of brilliant design - as old a marketing fundamental as you can

get. Think of one of the most successful new brands in recent years -

P&G’s Sunny Delight; a significant entrant in the fiercely competitive

market. Everything from its business plan suggests the marketing

infrastructure was rock solid, though there may have been high-tech

add-ons. The basic marketing rules Sunny Delight followed don’t appear

so different from those P&G followed equally successfully with Ariel

detergent 30 years ago.



None of which is to suggest you ignore the new rules of e-commerce.

That’s Luddite folly. But remember, the old and the new have to fit

together.



For an online retailer, old fashioned FedEx or DHL will be every bit as

critical as shiny new Yahoo! or AOL. Sony founder Akio Morita, who died

recently, was a genius for marrying high technology with outstanding

marketing fundamentals. He’s an example all e-commerce should look

to.





Peter Mitchell is chairman of Mountain View, a director of Capital Radio

and a Fellow of The Marketing Society.



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