Sunday, 4 December 2011

Marketing is Networking?

These days the situation of marketing world is changing very rapidly because of high competition in national and international markets, high demanding customers, new laws introduced by government and innovative advance technologies, which are making marketing very complicated and more turbulent (Sharma, 2004). The consumers are loaded rather bombarded with the choices like the benefit of this product to the benefit of that product. The quality of product is decreasing every day because of the increasing advertisement expenditure (Haq, 2007), and increasing challenges for companies to provide good services or products to consumers. To overcome these kinds of problems or challenges the business managers or higher executives build relationships with other companies or bodies. These relationships are called as Networks which form a new organizational structure, which includes customers, suppliers and competitors (Cravens & Piercy, 1994). The networking of small, medium and big companies in marketing is different according to their size. Some companies want to form good relation with consumer whereas some want to form good relation with their supplier and some want to be neutral to both (O’Donnell & Cummins, 1999).
The behavior of consumer is gradually converting into formation of groups or sub-cultures in marketing. Consumers want to devote themselves to the particular brand on which they trust and on which they shared their interest. Similarly the companies are also advancing their idea of marketing; with the help of internet/websites they are trying to form community of their brand to attract consumers (Cova & Pace, 2006). These communities are unstable to form; they are based on the shared emotions of each other, styles of life, consumption methods and the injustice senses (Cova, 1997). This discussion is based on the literature review or theories of these communities and/or tribes (Postmodernity Marketing), how are they useful to form a network in marketing for companies and what are the advantages and disadvantages of these communities in marketing for a product or a brand? This discussion shall also explain the constituent parts of ‘Contextual Marketing’ in detail.
Deep Inside:
“The term postmodernity renders accurately the defining traits of the socio-economic condition that emerged throughout the affluent countries of Europe and of European descent in the course of the second half of the twentieth century” (Cova, 1997).
Individualism is the first characterized form of postmodernity in marketing; the individual is free from the community or social-societies restrictions. In postmodern each individual has to show their differences and their own existence in the world, they are no more related to any society. The most relative example of this can be considered in case of the Bollywood film Star ‘Amir Khan’; he always introduces his own hair style in his every new movie. Individuals have their own views and experiences. The formation of fragmentation in consumption is the most visible condition of individualism, and which is made by the rapid growth of market example the number of choices present in market for each individual is increasing dramatically day by day. The individual can consume any product by sitting in his/her house without contacting their social area (distance buyer) and ithout their physical appearance (Cova, 1997). For marketing and service providers, individualism causes problems like to understand and express each one differently and weather any individual will accept them or not. But as Cova (1997) states that individuals are not for a longer period, they are the beginning (architectures) of a social network. These social networks later convert into tribe but they are totally different from the pre define social communities like village, religion, caste, etc. which are very easy to define. Considering the above example of Amir Khan, he introduces his new styles individually but that is followed by his fans and converts into the tribe or community of Amir Khan’s style later on. Tribe is the second characterized form of postmodernity in marketing; the tribe is inherently unstable, small in size in the beginning and not fixed whether it will grow or not in future, formed and attached by the shared emotions of each other, similar view of life style and consumption. The tribes exist only because of the commitment of their members; no one can command the tribe and form rules in it. Every individuals associate to several tribes, which even individuals are not aware of and play different roles in tribes; which means to identify individuals is not possible (Cova, 1997). For example, the Hollywood Celebrity ‘Madonna’; she is individual in her style but being a part of many tribes like soft music, hard music, rock music etc… We cannot find tribes in any defined form else than in symbolically and ritually manifested commitment of their members. The Tribe members are the normal people in their daily life; they can be of any age group, any profession, any religion and any define community. They meet occasionally to share their emotions and to show their interest towards their tribes (Cova & Cova, 2002). For example, a person who is a Doctor by profession can be in a tribe of mountain bikers and go for biking every Sunday, in this way he shares his emotions with his tribe. For the
formation of any tribe, it needs a spark of new “trend”. For example, the tribe of Harley Davidson Bike (HDB) which is also known as gangster’s bike was formed after a movie which is based on gangsters. Trends are the changes which create the future of the tribes. Trends can be divided into two parts:
  • Macro
  • Micro
The macro trends are the changes which take place outside the company (external affairs) and the micro trends are the changes which take place inside the company (internal affairs) (Deacon, 2009). Nowadays the macro trends are more effective than the micro trends in marketing and we can indirectly relate that mostly the tribes are formed by macro trends. The tribes can form good or bad impression on the business of their product or brand. Considering the above example of HDB, there was a bad impact on the sales of the HDB since the flick showcased it being used by gangsters (people who do bad things like business of drugs) and so the local society rather the educated class was held back in buying HDB, and company faced huge loss. Sometimes tribes might be very useful for the businesses. The new trend in market brought up by “cool”. Cool is a person who introduces new trends in marketing (Deacon, 2009). Nowadays the cool people are no more related to any company or organization. And the most amazing thing is the cool people are not aware that they are ‘cool’. For instance, Hollywood Star Madonna and Bollywood Star Amir Khan can be categorized as cool as they always introduce new and different kind of styles (trends). Companies can give only general views about cool people that what they are and who they are. Companies can hire and form inventors but companies cannot form or manufacture cool people. The cool can be any person who is different and self-confident. (Nancarrow & Nancarrow, 2002)
Cool as an individual introduces a macro trend and later on this macro trend converts into a social community or tribe (depending on its social network growth) and gradually form a network. To understand the quality of connection in every individual (quality of network) the organizations or companies use social capitals for delivery of their products or services in marketing. There are five kinds of capitals (Bueno, E. et al. 2006):
Natural Capital: It is the natural resources and processes that are required by organizations to provide the better service or product. It can be enhanced by reuse of resources.
Human Capital: It is the mixture of health, knowledge, skills, intellectual outputs, motivation and capacity for relationships of individual (joy, passion, etc). It can be enhanced by providing better training and special features to employees.
Social Capital: It is an activity of value adding to human relationships and partnerships in an organization like family, society, communication etc. It is the most important capital of an organization.
Manufactured Capital: It is related to the material and infrastructure owned by organizations without considering the production part of it. It can be enhanced by developing the infrastructure and technology.
Financial Capital: It reflects the assets of company that are present in form of
A sustainable organization or company will always try to maintain and enhance
these capitals else than degrade them. (Bueno, E. et al. 2006)
But for our discussion the most important capital is social capital. In a company, internally, social capital takes the form of shared values, trust, communications and shared cultures of every individual which encourage people to work cohesively. Externally, social capital helps to understand the socio/political structures to form a stable society and to organize the trade and big functions of society. The social capital can be enhanced by providing the safe and supportive working and living conditions, by value the shared emotions of every individuals, by making good relations with supplier, customers and citizens, by supporting the development of communities. (Smith, 2006)
Social capital is useful to understand and enhance the quality and diversity of networks formed by individuals (Cools) or tribes in marketing. From the above discussion it is clear that today’s marketing arena is a kind of networking wherein everything is interrelated somewhere. Now we shall discuss the Contextual Marketing (CM).
The CM is all about the values of the individuals or groups of individuals and it can be categorized into five parts that is Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Economics and Strategy (Deacon, 2009). In marketing planning or strategic management, contextual approach means that external analysis components can no longer act as separate sub-analyses. As shown in figure-1, the change in any axis can produce the change in the other axis or redefine them (Logman, 2008). The context of customers has different dimensions like “what” product can do for customer, “why” it is useful, “when” and “where” it would use, “who” is involved and “how” it can work. As Afuh (2001) said specific customer ontext can be used as a competitive advantage. To state an instance, Alibaba search engine attacked on Google search engine, by providing specific feathers to business oriented consumers. The more contextual flexibility can cause problem in future for example, the misuse of information present on Google or any other search engine. The contextual marketing has nowadays become very flexible and customer oriented or customized, it has its own advantages and disadvantages. (Afuh, 2001)

Figure –
1: The Contextual Dimensions (Afuh, 2001)

To conclude, the main focus of this discussion is on developing the literature or theory of relation between marketing and networking, and proving that the current marketing is nothing but it is all about Networking. It is shown by new and innovative examples that how an individual form (or converts into) tribe (not always) and what are the initiatives of these tribes like cool people who introduce the new trends. And then later discussed that how capitals (especially social capital) are useful for a company or organization to understand quality of connection in individuals or quality of a network for delivering the good services and products.
Finally after by considering the whole theory we can conclude that current marketing is
networking and the today’s contextual marketing is very flexible which is dangerous for the future.

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