"The dynamics of & #BANNER1 & # marketing have changed tremendously since I wrote my first marketing book way back in 1967. In fact, when I read it now, I realise exactly how much has changed… so much so that I refuse to autograph that book for anyone these days!" quipped world renowned marketing guru Philip Kotler, when agencyfaqs! caught up with him on his recent visit to India. Kotler, who has authored more than 56 books on marketing, said that words such as 'positioning' and 'segmentation' have gained a whole new meaning today.
"The world has moved from a mass market to a segmented one, followed by the emergence of niche markets. But now, we're in the era of individual, one-to-one marketing," Kotler said.
He added that it is five times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to retain one. That is why marketers need to invest in their relationships with individual customers.
Marketing has now moved to a phase in which customers are co-creators of products/services. "It is important to make your marketing a dialogue, not a monologue," Kotler asserted. "Get feedback from customers on how you can help serve them better."
Commenting further on the changes in marketing, Kotler said that while marketing used to be product/service focused, it is now becoming increasingly crucial to deliver a good brand experience. For instance, when the airline brand, Virgin Atlantic, was launched, it became the first one to offer unique in-flight experiences. It was the first to serve ice cream and offer massage services (taking a cue from how stiff the body gets after sitting still for a long time). In fact, there is now talk of an in-flight casino.
"Delight and astonish the consumers for they will become the promoters of your brand one day," Kotler said. And it's a marketer's dream come true if a satisfied customer becomes his brand's advertiser. Kotler warned that these experiences, too, can be copied by other brands. But on the flip side, the first one to do it will leave a lasting impact, he said.
On the emergence of online marketing, Kotler said that, at present, it is being used to target a specific set of customers. According to Kotler, online marketing can be used for several other reasons, such as finding the competitors' strengths/weaknesses, getting feedback on your product through online focus groups (which saves on the cost of getting various people to one location), sending out samples/coupons to interested customers and in customising products as per consumer needs. Certain cosmetic brands and vitamin companies have already started doing that - they ask visitors on their website to fill out a questionnaire about their skin, health, etc., and deliver tailor-made products at their doorstep.
Blogs, according to Kotler, are a double-edged sword - they can prove lethal if a marketer 'plants' his own people to praise his product on a blog, and they can prove beneficial if one monitors these activities and finds out what consumers like about a competitor's product. However, a blog shouldn't be trusted unless the marketer is sure the blogger is not a competitor himself. Other phenomena such as pod-casting pose ample opportunities for marketers.
Even concepts like product placements have evolved over the years. "I saw this cute little dog in Berlin once, strolling down a street, with 'Coca-Cola' painted on one side! Now, that's what I call a mobile hoarding," Kotler joked.
On a more India-specific note, Kotler said that retail as a sector will grow by leaps and bounds. The emergence of hypermarkets and the entry of players such as Wal-Mart would cause a certain amount of damage to the mom and pop stores which have enjoyed patronage so far in India. "But the ones that have built a loyal base with local consumers will survive, the others will have to shut down," Kotler stated.
Other sectors in India that, according to Kotler, will witness a boom include garments, fabrics, shoes, purses and leather goods, software companies and food processing. In the case of the last one, Kotler said that it was high time India stopped 'exporting the nice grapes abroad, only to be crushed and made into wine that is imported later'.
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