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
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
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
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
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
Peter Mitchell is chairman of Mountain View, a director of Capital Radio
and a Fellow of The Marketing Society.