Marketing Strategies Research Paper

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1. Introduction

Marketing strategies pursued by firms are aimed at obtaining a sustainable competitive advantage over competitors. In a marketing perspective, firms obtain a competitive advantage when they are able to study, identify, create, and communicate reasons of preference for their customers, with respect to their competitors.

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In this research paper marketing strategies will be reviewed both in an external and internal perspective. Focus will be put on marketing strategies based on market driving capabilities and resources. A model of competitive strategies will then be presented in a circular perspective, considering the shifting nature of movement, imitation, and position wars. Some final points about marketing strategies in the third millennium will be presented, with the proposition of a new firm (proactive, lean, customer and process based, holonic to the limit of virtuality), competing different wars (wars of imagination) with different strategies (resource and capabilities based) and different weapons (trust, knowledge, creativity, integration, and networking abilities).

2. Marketing Strategies in an External and Internal Perspective

Marketing strategies can be viewed in two different ways.

(a) With an external emphasis, typical of the ‘Market Power School,’ which dominates the 1980s. This school draws on the Harvard tradition (Mason 1939, Bain 1956) in industrial economics studies. However, Porter (1980, 1985) is the most important author in this stream of thought.

(b) With an internal emphasis, typical of the Resource Based View of the Strategy, which dominates the 1990s. Wernerfelt (1984), Rumelt (1984, 1987), Barney (1986), Dierickx and Cool (1989), Itami (1987), Grant (1991), Peteraf (1993), and Prahalad and Hamel (1990, 1994) are the most important authors in this stream of thought.

The ‘Market Power School’ puts its emphasis on the analysis of the existing environment, following the structure-conduct-performance paradigm of industrial organization. The normative prescriptions of the Market Power School, particularly the three generic strategies suggested by Porter (1980, 1985)—differentiation, cost leadership, and niche strategies of focalization—depend on the external analysis of the environment, conducted mainly with the five-forces model. The five-forces model is an analytical tool developed by Porter (1980, 1985) which helps to individuate the attractiveness of an industry, by analyzing not only the competitors actually in the arena, but also the forces of the potential entrants, the producers of substitutes, and the influences of customers and suppliers.

Therefore, the ‘Market Power School’ considers strategy primarily as positioning a firm in a given industry context; the focus is on the external analysis of the existing industry and on its attractiveness. The strategic process should determine a ‘fit’ between the given distinctive strengths of a firm and the given opportunities offered by the external environment.

In synthesis, the Market Power School considers the general strategic process, at the corporate level, as the allocation of the right mix of resources to the various Strategic Business Units, adopting a financial portfolio view, and the competitive and marketing strategies, at the business level, adopting a productbased view of competition.

The Resource based View of the Strategy, rather than on the external environment, puts its emphasis on the unique endowment of resources, assets, competencies, and capabilities of each firm. By creating and continuously incrementing its resource endowment, a firm becomes different from another. So the unique endowment of each firm is at the roots of its competitive advantage, whose sustainability is higher, the higher are the barriers raised to imitability. Marketing strategies are not concerned with the exploitation of the existing resources, but with the continuous management commitment to increase the resource endowment. An example of a resource that should be increased and not only exploited is brand equity (Aaker 1984, 1991).

Resources may be tangible or intangible; it has been widely recognized that marketing strategies based on intangible resources generate hard to imitate competitive advantages.

Typical marketing resources are trust and knowledge (Vicari 1991); both are intangible and strongly linked with customer satisfaction, which is at the beginning and the end of each marketing strategy. At the beginning, customer satisfaction addresses each marketing strategy, because it is the very aim of every successful strategy. At the end, it is the most important result of each marketing strategy, because the longterm survival of a firm depends on the level of satisfaction, loyalty, and trust of its customers (Reicheld 1996). So analysis, measurement, and improvement of customer satisfaction is one of the most important activities in marketing strategies in a resource-based perspective.

3. Marketing Strategies in a Resource-based-view Perspective

In recent years, firms tend to be living in a new competitive milieu (Prahalad and Hamel 1994), in a new competitive landscape, which is characterized by deregulation, structural changes (mainly connected with the evolution of information technology), a growing number of mergers, acquisitions, and alliances, less protectionism, and changing customer expectations. We can distinguish three forces that are jointly, but radically reshaping the firm’s environment: the customer dynamic changes, the enormous potential offered by the I T paradigm, and the consequently inevitable increase of the competitive pressure. Considering these forces together, it is possible to assert that ‘during the last ten years competitive space has been dramatically altered’ (Prahalad and Hamel 1994).

The increase in competitive pressure is so strong, for many firms and many industries, that some authors (D’Aveni 1994, Valdani 1995) have coined the term ‘hypercompetition’ to describe this new competitive milieu.

As a matter of fact, in such a competitive and turbulent environment, normative prescriptions based on static industry analysis tend to become unuseful: managers base their decisions less and less on industry analysis, and more and more tend to look inwardly, at their sets of resources and capabilities. As Grant (1991) puts it, when the external environment is in a state of flux, the firm’s own resources and capabilities may be a much more stable basis on which to define its identity.

This trend is reinforced when we consider that industry borders are becoming more and more volatile, and in many cases they tend to disappear and to become confused and merged in a process of gradual convergence. Especially, but not only in high-tech environments, a lot of industries tend to converge towards something like a mega-industry, which seems to comprise the previous independent industries of computer, telecommunication, office equipment, entertainment, broadcasting, media publishing, consumer electronics, distribution, financial and insurance services, and so forth. The phenomenon of convergence, like a black hole, gradually is attracting and merging once-different competitive environments: the biggest part of the industrial and services world is falling down in the black hole of convergence, one industry after the other. Only few industries, perhaps the less value-added ones or those that will be marginal in the future, can escape this process of gradual convergence. Many authors have recognized this fact (e.g., Prahalad and Hamel 1994, Hamel 1996, Valdani 1995, and Yoffie 1997).

In this context, the external environment, and particularly industry, tends to lose its importance and potential of explanation in favor of the firm and of its marketing strategies, which are based on its unique stock of resources, competencies, and capabilities.

Whereas in the previous strategic paradigm, competitive and marketing strategies are considered at the product level, in the resource-based perspective marketing strategies recognize the logical and temporal dominance of resources upon products. Products are considered only as the momentaneous expression of the internal resources of the firm. Moreover, resources are not product-specific, but they can lead to the achievement of competitive advantage in a wide range of products and services. For example, Sony has developed the concept of ‘pocketability,’ in the sense that it has generated a broad set of resources and competencies in order to satisfy, through a lot of products, the customer’s need of entertainment linked to pocket dimensions and not bound to specific places. Motorola has developed the concept of ‘untethered communication,’ through the accumulation of competencies in the field of distribution of voice, images, and data, independently by the specific place where customers are. 3M has defined its company strategy focusing not only on products, but also more generally on its customers’ need to use ‘subtle supports’ and on resources and capabilities in order to serve this need in a broad sense. It is possible to go on, describing the concept of Apple’s ‘user friendliness’ and of Canon’s ‘C&C (Computer and Communication) strategy’ and many others, but it should be clear, on the basis of the examples above, that, in a resource based perspective:

(a) the recognition of customer’s needs has a conceptual priority in each marketing strategy;

(b) it requires a high level of marketing capabilities, in order to avoid errors of marketing myopia; and

(c) not only products, but also mainly a firm’s resources, competencies, and capabilities are at the basis of the success of a marketing strategy.

Marketing strategies among firms, therefore, are played at three levels that are:

(a) the product-based level of traditional marketing strategies;

(b) the competence and resource-based level of proactive firms’ marketing strategies; and

(c) the ‘super-industry-’ (which is still resource-based) level of marketing strategies in the era of industry convergence.

Moreover, if we consider the firm as a cognitive system (Weick 1979, Vicari 1991), the industry, and more generally the external environment, tend to become a subjective and not an objective construct. Marketing strategies, therefore, are aimed at enacting the environment, on the basis of the firm’s set of resources. In this perspective, competitive and marketing strategies are connected strictly with creativity and knowledge management.

In an attempt at synthesis, it is possible to state that in a resource-based perspective, firms need to adopt a proactive approach (Valdani 1992) to their marketing strategies:

(a) focusing on obtaining, at the same time, variety, quality, speed, and learning;

(b) stretching and leveraging their market driving capabilities, in order to reach a double aim, in a socalled ‘dual strategy’ (Abell 1994, Valdani 1995).

Firms adopt a dual strategy when they want to manage the present and to prepare the future at the same time. Managing the present means developing capabilities of market and competitive intelligence and re-engineering the processes of the firm in a customerfocused perspective. Preparing the future means developing the managerial and entrepreneurial capabilities of destroying the existing orthodoxies, to imagine, enact, and create a new competitive environment, regenerating strategies and reinventing industries and their borders (Prahalad and Hamel 1994).

4. Marketing Strategies in a Circular Model

It is possible to describe the marketing strategies pursued by firms in the hypercompetition and convergence era by adopting a circular model described in Fig. 1.

Marketing Strategies Research Paper

The model shows the three possible states of the competitive environment in hypercompetitive conditions. They are: position wars, movement wars, and imitation wars.

4.1 Marketing Strategies in Position Wars

During a position war, the environment is quite stable, the product life cycle is generally in its maturity phase, and customers and competitors are well defined. General marketing strategies in position wars are those of market sharing, aimed at increasing a firm’s market share by reducing the competitors’ one: pricing strategies are very important in these conditions. Specific marketing strategies for aggressive competitors include the option among (a) a direct and frontal attack to the competitor; (b) lateral and smart moves; (c) guerrilla. Specific marketing strategies for defensive competitors include the options among (a) static defence and inertia; (b) reaction countermoves; (c) strategic retreat.

In the long run, position wars may be dangerous. Firms, in fact, begin to compete on quality and price, increasing quality and decreasing price, in a dangerous and hypercompetitive evolution to the so-called ‘ultimate value frontier’ (D’Aveni 1994, Valdani 1995). The ‘ultimate value frontier’ is a situation in which quality is at the highest level, price is at the lowest, and firm’s profit at the ‘neoclassical’ normal level (where normal, in managerial and entrepreneurial terms, means unsatisfactory). The process of evolution to the ‘ultimate value frontier’ is described in Fig. 2.

Marketing Strategies Research Paper

4.2 Marketing Strategies in Movement Wars

In order to avoid the evolution to the ‘ultimate value frontier,’ firms pursue strategies of market creation and enter in movement wars. In a proactive perspective, they increment, leverage, and stretch their market driving capabilities and resources and, by doing so, create new markets or reconfigure radically the existing ones. So, innovation strategies are the best marketing strategies in movement war: they are particularly critical in contexts of high hypercompetition and industry convergence. Innovation and market creation strategies usually require also networking strategies: in fact, a marketing creation strategy is successful only in a co-evolutionary perspective. Last, but not least, strategies of market creation and innovation require, in order to be successful, the ability of a firm to overcome barriers to innovation, both external (i.e., customer inertia) and internal (i.e., specialization).

4.3 Marketing Strategies in Imitation Wars

As it is well known, innovation usually is followed by imitation. Follower firms, pursuing imitation strategies, transform a movement war into an imitation war. Imitation strategies are successful only when firms’ endowment of capabilities and resources include rapid learning abilities.

As it should be clear, in the circular model adopted, imitation wars gradually evolve to position wars and these to movement wars, and so on, in a circular perspective.

5. Conclusions: Marketing Strategies in the New Millennium

In the third millennium firms must be able to evolve from an era of hypercompetition to one of imagination. Marketing strategies in an era of imagination are successful only if firms:

(a) adopt a resource based perspective;

(b) focus on customers, pursuing customer sati-sfaction and loyalty, and when it is possible, ‘customer delight,’ that is, exceeding customer expectations;

(c) continuously regenerate their stock of market driving capabilities, in order to avoid the trap of the ‘ultimate value frontier’ and shift continuously from position to movement and imitation wars;

(d) co-evolve with other firms and institutions, networking with them, with the ultimate aim of reconfiguring existing industries, driving their convergence, and creating new industries in the digital world of the third millennium.

In order to win the wars of the third millennium, firms must develop marketing strategies using weapons completely different from the past. These new weapons are intangible resources and capabilities like trust, knowledge, creativity, integration, and networking abilities. Obviously, new weapons can only be managed by new warriors, that is, new firms, which must be proactive, lean, customer and process based, holonic to the limit of virtuality.


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