Power and mass are no longer adequate survival strategies. A
new set of market realities is emerging, driven by new competition
and new, more flexible technologies. Several innovative marketing
books deal effectively with the new realities.
The first three share common themes: (1) segmentation rather
than mass attacks; (2) a focus on new market creation rather than
slug-it-out market sharing, and (3) the advantages of differentiation
rather than commoditization.
Let's begin with Harvard Business School Professor Ted Levitt's
latest book, The Marketing Imagination (The Free Press,
1983). Here Levitt presents "the total product concept," which
distinguishes four elements in any product: The "generic product"
is the physical item or barebones service (a flight to San Jose
leaving at 10:40 a.m.); the "expected product" includes certain
minimum features; the "augmented product" includes additional
features to enhance attractiveness; and the "potential product"
radically alters the product and market by redefining what's
possible (the way Federal Express reconceived mail service).
Levitt warns, "If you're not thinking segmentation, you're not
thinking." In a brilliant analysis of "relationship management,"
he emphasizes our typical inattention to life after the sale.
Strategic management of the ongoing relationship between the
producer and buyer is the key to long-term growth and
profitability in any business.
Jag Sheth's Winning Back Your Market (John Wiley,
1985) has a bold premise: "To stimulate managerial creativity by
exploring ways in which dogs can be converted into stars." The
University of Southern California marketing professor and
consultant admonishes us not to give up on the mature products,
but to enhance their possibilities with a sparkling array of
rejuvenation strategies. Sheth has surprisingly found that
creating winners in declining markets leads to higher and more
sustainable profits than following the same strategy in more
glamorous and volatile growth markets.
If Sheth is the champion of salvaging old industries, Regis
McKenna is the champion of pioneering new ones. In his book,
The Regis Touch (Addison-Wesley, 1985), McKenna exhorts
technology- and science-based companies such as Intel and Apple.
McKenna denounces companies that expend precious energy slugging
it out for a tiny fraction of a market share point. Instead he
preaches market creation. To accomplish that, McKenna recommends
that all marketers spend at least half their time in the field.
He is adamant about the primacy of intuition and constant
experimentation in fast-paced settings, and warns of the perils
Marketing texts usually focus on forming strategy, to the virtual
exclusion of execution. The next two books reverse that emphasis.
Another Harvard professor, Tom Bonoma, makes execution sole
concern in The Marketing Edge: Making Strategies Work
(The Free Press, 1985). He claims that "Management often seems to
dream up 'Statue of Liberty' plays that it does not have the
focus nor the ability to make work." He explains that "'homework
and details' ... would solve 90 percent of the problems that I
Bonoma provides a long-needed conceptual structure for looking at
execution. Frito-Lay is his premier example of execution
supremacy, and he meticulously dissects the firm's approach.
Carl Albrecht and Ron Zemke's Service America! (Dow
Jones-Irwin, 1985) focuses exclusively on the service element of
marketing. Examples range from a thorough look at Scandinavian
Air Systems to Deluxe Check to CountryFair, an upper midwestern
By contrast to the books I've discussed, currently popular
Marketing Warfare (McGraw-Hill, 1986), by Al Ries and Jack
Trout, is a step backwards. I was put on guard by the opening
line of the dust jacket copy: "The true nature of marketing today
is not serving the customer." Inside the authors denounce the
value of good products and good people and recommend that we must
adopt a brutal warfare strategy and leave behind the nice-guy
days of post World War II, when the customer reigned supreme.
The book uses military strategy as its guide, but the authors
have badly misread history. To be sure the cleverness of Patton
is legendary. But he was able to move around flanks with
lightning speed only because of his obsession with superior
training. The details of execution and support have determined
the outcome of many more battles than have "mind games" that the
authors ceaselessly refer to.
The five gems strike a similar theme: differentiation of anything
and everything. Differentiation can be accomplished by finding
new uses for products and creating new markets; by superior
execution. The sixth book declares that success lies with sleight
of hand strategies, presumably crafted by hordes of MBAs sorting
through computer printouts for clues to competitor vulnerability.
I'll put my money on the first five. The sixth is an all-too-
obvious reminder of our rather inglorious recent past.
(c) 1986 Not Just Another Publishing Company
All rights reserved.