Tag Archives: marketing

Are the 4Ps part of consumer behavior?

I never would have asked this question, had it not been one of the combinations of keywords that brought people to this blog within the past week. But once asked, the question is too unexpected not to receive an answer.

And that answer is NO.

The 4Ps are, depending on who you ask, a mnemonic device referring to 4 key concerns of marketing (product, price, place, promotion), a model for organizing marketing activity or a tool for influencing sales volume and frequency.

But they are not part of consumer behavior. That is “The process by which individuals, groups or organizations search for, select, purchase, use, and dispose of goods and services”, according to one definition.

Simply put, the 4Ps are stimuli (and they are by no means the only ones). Consumer behavior is the set of responses to these, and other stimuli.

I feel like I’ve done a bit of responding myself 🙂 Hopefully it’ll be of use to whoever wrote the original search string.


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3 Mistakes Managers Should Never Make

DISCLAIMER : I’m speaking from a rather recent and disappointing personal experience, so please overlook (or enjoy?) the occasional raving and sarcasm.

1. Become enamored of their product

We all know that love is blind or, to be accurate, selectively so. It creates a filter through which qualities pass and are even enhanced, while defects are obscured. What’s going to happen if a similar filter is applied to the product? Design flaws, service interruptions, disconnect between the product and its customers can all be ignored by the manager who loves her product too much. Like disapproving family members, colleagues who point out inadequacies will incur animosity. Protective instincts kick in, so instead of taking criticism and working to fix the issues, the enamored manager begins to deflect, expending wits and energy to defend the product. It’s costly for the company, hard on the hapless colleagues, and detrimental for the enamored manager, as it ultimately leads to failure for the product and the manager.

2. Assume that quality is absolute.

In truth, very few things are. Except the ten commandments. Maybe.

But even if it were, even if the product is perfectly written, made with state of the art materials, designed to the highest standard, that inherent, indubitable quality is simply NOT RELEVANT.

In today’s market, the operating paradigm is VALUE, not quality. A perfectly good product that brings nothing that customers value will not be bought, despite the best effort of the crackest sales and marketing team.

Managers who overlook this, who constantly say “I’ve got the best product here, so I don’t understand why you nincompoops can’t flog it ” are in fact demonstrating a deep-seated incompetence. Sure, competent marketers with large budgets might eventually create a market for this quality product. After all, people once bought snake-skin oil, and that wasn’t even good. The effort and money required are, however, considerable. A responsible manager, custodian of the company’s resources, will tweak the product instead to fit with customer needs and expectations. Nowadays marketing is no longer about taking a finite product and arranging the 4Ps to maximize selling. It’s about feeding back customer insight, market info, competitive intelligence, into designing and evolving the product to bring that value to the customer. In a profitable way, of course. Managers who ignore this paradigm do so at the company’s peril.

3. Think that just because they know how to build a product they also know how to market it

Many managers believe that knowing the product is tantamount to being able to sell it. They have, of course, moved beyond the mere exposition of product features, and understand the concept of benefits, but actually articulating a benefit, understanding how a product or service, be it a ball, a magazine or a tire storage facility, fits into a customer’s life, and how to find that benefit to which most customers will respond, is a matter of an art and a science called marketing. Knowing how to put together a publication, store tires, or make sure that a ball is inflated gives you command over the product, but not over how people relate to it. As per point 2, rapport exists independently of the product itself and it takes skill and experience to connect people and products. Some people know how to build both product, and connections. Most don’t. And that’s ok, as long as they don’t try to lord it over those who do.

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Filed under Management thought, Marketing

Tweet, Tweet…

Back in April, a Twitter monitoring service informed me that I’d been on Twitter for 5 years. I checked, it’s true, and I think it makes me one of the early adopters of the platform. And yet, in 5+ years, I’ve never wondered whether I am doing Twitter right. My excuse is that most of my twittering was on my account, sharing thoughts and posts and resources that struck me as interesting. But I did use it for corporate purposes as well, under other handles, and while careful to post convincing, clear, well written, engaging tweets, I didn’t really consider when it is best to post.

Social media marketing firm Buddy Media did.

And they released a report on the matter. True, as most reports on social media tend to do, it looks mostly at the US market, but some insights are transferable to the Romanian market, or so my instinct tells me.

Brace yourselves for the first: While Twitter is about engagement, it is NOT about conversation. Less than 22% of users reply to brand messages, but they will frequently retweet, and therefore amplify the brand message.

Engagement levels vary by the days of the week, with different industries driving more engagement on different days. My current industry, publishing, would do well to tweet on Saturdays, the report says, and so would fashion and shopping, whose key interval is the weekend.

Tweets are better received when users are busy. This makes (common) sense, as quick bites of info are more suitable for office hours than leisurely posts, while people desire more substance when they have more time to consume it (and therefore would find tweets rather scarce in information or entertainment value).

Links = more retweets. ‘Nuff said.

#hashtags are underused (by only 24% of brands), which is a pity cause they deliver twice as much engagement.

A picture is worth… many more retweets.

Ask, and ye shall receive. Retweets, that is. And I am thinking that if retweets would also be rewarded somehow (while being wary of an outright bribe), the ask would be more successful.

Now let me go tweet this.

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Everyone’s an Expert :-(

A while back someone told me: I could do what you do in a heartbeat, but you couldn’t do what I do in a million years. She was an engineer. I, a marketer.

Granted, I can no more design energy systems than fly unaided (although, unlike flying, engineering can actually be learned), but I was still miffed at the implicit assumption that marketing’s a sort of fluff that anyone can do if they put their mind to it. In Romania, everyone’s an expert on football and politics, or so the saying goes. It now seems that marketing expertise is just as widespread.

But in reality, marketing’s neither easy nor accessible.

Marketing competence starts with nature: an affinity for people, a facility for language, an ability to synthesize, a propensity for innovation.

Then comes nurture : directing creativity to a purpose, transforming interaction into insight, generalizing, particularizing, synthesizing, balancing rigor in thinking with surprising leaps of imagination and many other habits of the mind that must develop early on.

Then comes education. Good marketers are generally recipients of a broader education than good engineers. They must know more than their own profession. Besides learning the tenets of customer behavior, statistical analysis, media buying, design, copywriting, public speaking etc., they need to master project management, budgeting, managerial accounting, HR, training of adults, etiquette, consumer technology and so much more.

They then need to learn whatever industry they’re in, understand its values, lingo, basic processes and limitations.

And then they must constantly learn. Keep in touch with marketing trends and tools, the industry and connected fields, and the world at large, for where metals will behave predictably under given circumstances, people won’t. And people are what marketing’s all about.

Sure, everyone can be a marketer in a heartbeat.

I’d like to see them try. With their own money, of course. Since it’s soooo easy.

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Filed under Consumer behavior, Management thought, Marketing, Strategies and campaigns

The Marketing Lessons of Reality TV

I am, I admit, addicted to scripted reality TV shows of a certain nature, particularly cooking or design competitions, such as Hell’s Kitchen, Project Runway or The Next Food Network Star.

Apart from the style or cooking ideas, and the dubious (and guiltily pleasurable) entertainment deriving from interpersonal drama, the shows offer some succinct lessons in marketing (and none more so than the Next Food Network Star, who has the programming and the marketing directors of the channel on the judging panel, to better assess who can have public appeal, and how the core product could be extended).

Lesson 1: Bounded creativity

In order to be successful in reality TV (and in marketing), the key skill to have  is creativity on demand and within set parameters, or what I call “bounded creativity”. The constraints vary, from scarcity of resources, to seemingly irreconcilable components, from stringent time limits to a very specific brief from a “client”, to physical impediments, and the successful candidate will be able to display the right type of ingeniousness to meet the goal, achieving originality without sacrificing compliance.

Lesson 2: Excellence without excuses 

Most reality shows thrive on creating artificial pressure, whether with time, or teams that are deliberately mismatched, or curve balls occurring mid-challenge. The TV shows teach that despite the pressure, short cuts, shoddy work and excuses are not acceptable, and will cause you to be eliminated from the race. Though not all marketers have the same challenge at the same time, chances are the playing field is still level: we all run across time crunches, people we can’t stand, abrupt changes while a project is unfolding and so on. So, there are no excuses for under-delivering, when others can and do deliver under similar conditions. The expectation of our “judges” (bosses, shareholders etc.) is always excellence, regardless of the conditions that we operate under.

Lesson 3: Success is growth

If there were one motto for all the shows, it would be this one: meeting the standards initially will not assure a win. It’s not always the technically best contestant that will win, it’s the one who “came furthest” or made the most of his/her knowledge and ability, absorbing the feedback and learning offered. Similarly, professionals that stagnate will find that their once good performance will quickly downgrade to adequate, and then sub-par. The only guarantee of continued success is growth.

There is also an overarching theme:  VOICE or POV. Every successful contestant has a personality that shines through in their work. Whatever they produce, whether an outfit or a sandwich, bears the unmistakable mark of their chosen point of view, and they are reprimanded if that POV is not authentic and consistent. It’s a bit difficult for marketers to have a point of view separate from the product or organization they market for, but nevertheless it is important, I believe, to develop a trademark approach to challenges, a consistent way of doing business. a style of management that connects from job to job and project to project so that they are recognizably yours.

But perhaps, these are just lessons from reality, rather than reality TV, and I’m simply trying to justify my (not-so-secret) addiction.

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Are the 4 Ps of marketing still relevant on the web? – Part 2: Price

A few weeks back, I was arguing for the continued use of the 4P matrix as a valid tool for conceptualizing marketing, including in the online environment. My position was that as a system, they continue to be relevant, as long as we can understand how the definition of each component must be expanded to reflect the new realities.

In the case of products, I stated that the changed environment means a change in the process of facilitating the meeting between wants and needs and those who can service them.

Now comes PRICE. My thinking here is that price as a concept is just as relevant in the connected world as it was previously. As marketers, given the modern structures of communication, we just need to reassess our thinking of price on 3 scales.

1. The price versus purchasing power continuum

The question of whether customers will purchase a good or not is often decided by whether they can afford it or not. We are used to thinking of the  available “out of pocket”, the impact of credit schemes, but the change brought about by the recession and economic crisis is in the time frame in which customers think about affordability. If consumer credit used to mean that something that we could not purchase now can become affordable by staggering payments (and paying a premium for that “affordability in installments”) customers now tend to think a lot more short-term about affordability. “Do I have the money now?” is increasingly used as a gauge of individual purchasing power.

When we think of purchasing power, we often refer to that of our niche target, which could be higher than the average. In the new, frugal, economy, I argue that the average purchasing power should become the reference, as our customers can very easily backslide or simply embrace the lifestyle of earning less as a precaution.

Finally, we need to think about the informational context that defines affordability. Customers can easily monitor the movement of prices across varied categories of goods and may time their purchase to take advantage of the fluctuations (see couponers and the evolution of Groupon and its clones).  This is where our online world differs from the previous generation’s: in its ability to gauge better, quicker, easier when a product moves in or out of the range of our purchasing power.

2. The cost / value ratio

We all know this one, and we’re also told that it is a significant concern to generation Y, who expect more value for less cost. The shift here is, again, in the ability to assess that value. First and foremost is the increased communication, whereby more and more information about the value of a product to various people is available. Traditionally evaluated goods (such as movies, books or restaurants) are now just a few among millions of reviews of everything. More importantly, it’s not only the features and functionality, the usability and durability that are being assessed, but also the more intangible aspects of value such as the experience, or the status that possession provides (for example the “Likes” or other reflections of how others interact with your purchase). Therefore, your price must now be set by referencing a larger, wider concept and understanding of value.

3. Price comparison

We’ve always comparison-shopped, looking for the cheapest version of something we needed or desired. But today, that ability is infinitely scaled up. It is now inbuilt into many stores, especially online. It is now possible with the least amount of effort. If comparison shopping for DIY or furniture or groceries often entailed several trips is widely different directions, it does not anymore. Nor is the separation between our own prices (sale, outlet, etc., regional) possible, and even if trudging all the way to the other end of the country for a cheaper pair of shoes, or asking a friend to buy and ship them is not economically advantageous, the customer is still able to know and question your pricing decisions in regard to him.

This perhaps is the biggest change that the WWW has brought to price, but it does not eliminate the relevance of this second P among the 4. Sure, if you think of price only as your price point, that elusive combination of cost-covering, profit making, affordability, yet desirability at which customers and company are both satisfied, then yes, you are using the “matrix” wrong. But if you understand the new content behind the figure that you must advance, you will find that PRICE is still a whole lot of relevant.

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Don’t wear this, wear that?

Did you know that Abercrombie&Fitch has offered money to a celebrity to STOP wearing A&F clothes?

In an official release, no less, the clothing brand asked Mike ” The Situation” Sorrentino, possibly the most obnoxious of the Jersey Shore cast, to switch to another brand, and offered a pay off if he did. Apparently, the branding department felt that he was not representative of the brand, and may in fact damage its reputation.

The story came to my attention in yesterday’s LA Times and it felt like the can of proverbial worms.

First, consider the reality behind the request, that of celebrity endorsements.

The idea that a 100 year old brand, with significant equity, can feel damaged if a reality TV show star of inappropriate behavior wears their clothing is a frightening reminder of the power that celebrity wields on the collective mind.

I assume that by making this offer public, the brand not only wanted The Situation to stop wearing the T-shirts, but also to squash any thought that Sorrentino may be a paid spokesman for the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing, because the underlying assumption in all celebrity endorsements is that they eat, wear or say something positive about a place or product only for monetary gain.

I am all for picking and choosing your brand ambassadors, but I think that when you tell someone NOT to wear your product, you’re moving into seedy territory that is more damaging than helpful to the brand. Because customers feel offended that the company presumes to decide who is and isn’t good enough to use or wear their products.

Sure, exclusion works as a marketing tactic, if you’re a luxury good, if by making something not accessible, you transform it into something iconic and aspirational. But you work that exclusion smartly, using price, location, in-store experience to subtly communicate to potential customers that they are not desired. You reference other customers and make them operate the exclusion. Clubs and associations have been doing this for ever. And you always leave the gate open for people to access your brand or product if certain conditions are met.

Telling a customer, even one as crude and frankly annoying as Mike ” The Situation” that they are not your brand, and should switch to another makes other customers question whether they are your brand. Can you be in business without Mike? Sure. But can you be in business without all the guidos and guidettes? Or without all fist-pumping, club going American youth? And they might avoid your brand is they feel that what you rejected in that customer is something that represents them too.

It might all be a publicity stunt. If it is, and it looks like that was it’s purpose, it has a dangerous double edge. Not all customers are savvy in the art of PR.

And to be honest, it didn’t really matter that Mike and Snooki and the lot wore A&F clothes. They have horrendous taste anyway.


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