The world is progressing in every aspect of life. There is intense development and urbanization taking place. Day after day, as population increases, demand for goods and services also increases; this creates a need for more companies and more employment. Almost every day we hear names of new companies who have recently joined the market competition. As more and more companies are emerging, there is naturally a greater supply of similar goods in the market; some of these goods are better than the other which increases the standard of competition (Duck, 1993). Competition is not only restricted to your local market; with increasing globalization, the entire international forum is becoming you’re playing field. Competition is becoming so intense by the minute that no company can afford to slack off for even a day; every company needs to be operating at its maximum level to make its place in the market. However, production is not the only important task, marketing the product in the right places, right time and to the right people is essential. Marketing strategy is the course of action to follow to market the product in the market; it determines how to use the company’s resources and to divert them in a direction that results in maximum consumer satisfaction, leading to an increase in sales. It is strategic planning that decides upon the target market, market segmentation, positioning, and even the marketing mix and other key decisions.
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Marketing is a phenomenon that is very well planned, strategized, and formulated. The success depends on the implementation of the ideas. This step-by-step development of the marketing plan includes a marketing mix step. The marketing mix is the blend of a few factors that merge together to form the perfect tool with which one can aim its target market. This mix includes place, product, price and promotion. Product means the marketing offer, whether goods or services, that one is selling. Price is the cost of one’s good or service at which it is being sold to the consumers. Place accounts for the location of the sale; the geographical setting and the site. Lastly, promotion is the medium of advertisement that the producer uses to promote his product to the market; they can be a point of sales marketing, direct marketing, above the line or below the line marketing, etc. When all four of these are given equal attention to and made to fit perfectly by the kind of market that the producer is targeting and formulating the marketing plan according to the culture one is working in, the product is sure to sell like hotcakes.
The place is also known as ‘distribution’ or ‘distribution channel’; this is the channel having either a single or multiple organizations and intermediaries responsible for making a good or service available to the retailers or final consumers. This determines how quickly the customer gets the product or through what medium he gets it. There are several channels: sales agents, retailers, wholesalers, advertisement, direct selling, or finding various kinds of marketing intermediaries. The selection of which intermediary depends on the type of good or service one is selling or whether one is a retailer themselves.
The promotion mix, which is also known as the marketing communications mix, defines the different mediums of promotions that exist and how they are blended to promote a specific product. This is the mix of advertising, sales promotion, public relations, personal selling, and all the direct marketing tools that a company focuses on to make the product visible and valuable for the customers and to form good customer relations with them. These factors that mix to form the promotion mix, are actually the promotion tools. When all these four tools are used together in appropriate ratios or a mix of these is used to promote a product, it is called a promotional mix. The mix is chosen and the tools are picked according to the product that the company is selling and whatever is the most appropriate according to the situation is then chosen (Solomon, 1999).
All four marketing mix factors need to be in alignment with the culture in which the business is operating, otherwise, it might just never sell and be a big flop. Culture is the set of values, beliefs, traditions, and customs a certain group of individuals follows and base their thought and decisions, and behaviour on. Taking an example from the brand Barbie, we will see that they realized this fact very well; they changed and altered the Barbie forms according to the places they were selling that particular doll in. Barbie, as a brand, started in the United States of America and then moved on to several other regions. This happened because the product was taken very well in the United States and thus, the producers wanted to take it forward and make it a global product. Although, the world is becoming a global village and international scope for all products should exist, but there are still many cultural and regional differences that producers and marketers need to keep in mind before launching the product. There are a few changes that one needs to make to adjust the product according to the needs of the market in a particular region; otherwise, it can result in major losses.
The precise situation for Barbie is that it is facing competition from other local doll producers. Barbie can get away with such competition in certain regions but then there are some places, such as the Middle East and Iran, where cultural and religious differences are making things difficult for Barbie. Also, a little Indian girl is expected to grow up into a culturally and traditionally fit woman who is married and a good housewife – her outlook is expected to be such of wearing a sari and a red spot on her forehead. But Barbie showed a woman wearing western clothes; this is something which is not acceptable by the society and also something a little Indian girl would be able to relate to completely. Although, still a strong brand, Barbie is losing its market share.
When marketing the product, it is important to form an emotional connection with the customers; that is the selling trick. Barbie has tried to brand its product in a way that reaches the emotional level and forms an emotional attachment with the customers. Their value proposition was that the little girls should aspire to become like Barbie when they grow up. However, if the children cannot relate to Barbie, they will never aspire to be like her and will not form an emotional bond with it. This is the reason why Barbie was altered a little in places like Japan (Gayatri, Madhav, 2005).
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There are many cultural variables in different societies, regions, countries, religions, races etc. The major five variables are individualism vs collectivism, femininity vs masculinity, long term orientation vs short term orientation, power distance (how much power inequality is tolerated in certain cultures compared to others and lastly uncertainty avoidance (how calm one person from a certain culture can remain in an emergency or unknown situation compared to another culture). It is believed that all cultural differences can be weighed in these five categories.
Cultural changes can be made to alter the characteristics according to market requirements, but that affects brand equality. Basically, the brand does not remain that strong then. If the product is universally the same, it results in a stronger base and a higher recognition. It helps in forming an identity that everybody recognizes. Therefore, the cultural adjustments should be there but should not distort the product so much that it loses its identity and its affiliation with the brand name.
- Duck, J., (1993), Managing Change: The Art of Balancing, Harvard Business Review
- Gayatri. D, T. Phani Madhav (2005); Mattel Inc’s Barbie: Brand Merchandising Strategies
- Solomon, R.C. (1999), A better way to think about business, Oxford University Press