Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Hardly ever have I read a book in one sitting until Philip Kotler's new book was sent to me for review. I was immediately drawn to its content; it captured my full attention. The essential marketing rationales and philosophies are expressed in plain and simple language, in dialogue format. Kotler, one of the most respected sages in today's marketing world, presents 80 of marketing's fundamental concepts that are familiar to marketers in academic and practical fields.
Known as “the father of modern marketing”, Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson and Son Distinguished Professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, one of the premier marketing program in the world. In this book Kotler illuminates the significance of some key marketing concepts by sharing enlightened and informed meditations and the hard‐won wisdom of his marketing career. Whether one needs a refresher on branding or new strategies on word‐of mouth marketing, this book provides the tools needed to compete for customers in the rapidly changing marketplace. It is an essential tool for managers, CEOs, marketing executives, and anyone who wants to understand the fundamentals of marketing.
Several characteristics distinguish the book from many other books that deal with the same content in recent years. The first is that topics covered in the book – including advertising, branding, competitive advantage, creativity, customer relationship management, database marketing, differentiation, innovation, positioning, segmentation, strategy, value, word of mouth, and zest – are organized alphabetically from A to Z. Although such a format does not help the presentation of the topics it does allow readers to easily access advice.
The second characteristic worth a mention is that the author uses many of his own experiences to illustrate the principles and concepts and thus to make the information function as a dialogue between the readers and the author. For instance, when discussing the effectiveness of advertisement, he writes:
Here the author simply and frankly puts his own feelings in context, shortening the distance between author and reader.
I (and most people) have a love/hate relationship with advertising. Yes, I enjoy each new Absolute vodka print ad: Where will they hide the famous bottle? And I enjoy the humor in British ads, and the risqué quality of French ads. Even some advertising jingles and melodies stick in my mind. But I don't enjoy most ads. In fact, I actively ignore them. They interrupt my thought processes. Some do worse: They irritate me (p. 1).
Another example is that the author uses his own experiences to demonstrate the significance of outsourcing in business. One company hired him to help management decide what to outsource. After examining all of their activities, he delivered a report to the board. “Gentlemen, you should outsource everything. You are not good at anything.” The board was stunned. “Are you saying that we should go out of business?” “ No” is his answer. “ I am telling you how to make more money. Your costs will go way down. The only competence you need is to manage outsourcers” (p. 132). Then the author uses a few success stories to enhance his conclusion and helps the readers to better understand the issue being discussed.
The third unique characteristic is that the author quotes many famous metaphors or visions of CEOs or presidents in various industries to facilitate communication with the readers. When discussing the complex competitive situation he quotes the late Roberto Goizueta, former CEO of Coca‐Cola, on how to recognize Coke's competitors. When his people said that Coke's market share was at a maximum, he countered that Coca‐Cola accounted for less than 2 ounces of the 64 ounces of fluid that each of the world's 4.4 billion people drank every day. “The enemy is coffee, milk, tea, water”. Coca‐Cola is now a major seller of bottled water (p. 23). Usually at board meetings, the talk focuses primarily on current profit performance, but Kotler indicates that the company's true performance is far beyond the financial numbers. He quotes Jerre L. Stead, Chairman and CEO of NCR, who clearly understood this:
When considering the meaning of empowering the employees, Kotler quotes Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop: “ Our people [employees] are my first line of customers.” Taking employees as customers is in fact easy to understand but difficult to implement. What Kotler wants the readers to recognize is that by viewing her employees as customers Anita Roddick aims to understand and meet their needs. (p. 57) In other words, he means that to understand is one thing, to really do it is another; one must put one's understanding into practice.
I say if you're in a meeting, for 15 minutes, and we're not talking about customers or competitors, raise your hand and ask why (p. 144).
The fourth characteristic that makes the book outstanding is that the author uses various interesting stories or anecdotes to express his thoughts and arguments. For instance, in talking about the strategic function of the brand name, Kotler suggests that choosing a good brand name is very important for the success of the band. “A consumer panel was shown the pictures of two beautiful women and asked who was more beautiful. The vote split 50‐50. Then the experimenter named one woman Jennifer and the other Gertrude. The woman name Jennifer subsequently received 80 percent of the votes” (p. 10). Apparently, Kotler wants to use this anecdote to demonstrate that great brands are the only route to sustained, above‐average profitability. To him great brands present emotional benefits, not just rational benefits. “Great brands work more on emotions” (Kotler). He further advises that in the future market, “great brands will show social responsibility”(Kotler), which indicates a caring concern for people and the state of the world.
Sales are one of the most fundamental marketing functions, however many marketers fail at correctly understanding it from time to time. Marketers won't just be in the business of selling whatever product their company makes, they'll be designing company‐wide marketing initiatives that encompass branding, customer service, advertising campaigns, and even public relations. There is the well‐known story of the Stanley Works in which a consultant told the tool company, “You are not in the business of selling drills. You are in the business of selling holes” (p. 164). Don't sell features. Sell benefits, outcomes, and value. The ever‐changing market and consumer realities will mean the reinvention of marketing itself. Kotler tries to help the marketers to keep up with the times by highlighting the rapid changes happening in the field, bringing a fresh outlook to a familiar discipline, and explaining fundamental ideas quickly. Ultimately, success will come to those who lead the race into marketing's future. This book serves as a guide to help the readers break away from the pack.
I do not mean to imply that this book is perfect; like any other books this one, of course, has its shortcomings. For instance, the discussion is not evenly allocated to various concepts or topics. In other words, the author pays much more attention to certain issues than others, which could mislead the readers that the less‐discussed concepts are not important.
In short this is a very solitary and readable book, Kotler's unique analytical descriptions highlight the principles that every marketing person wants and should know. Moreover, relevant and straightforward, the book is comprehensive enough for managers who want a complete primer on marketing but also a cutting‐edge resource for pioneering marketers who would like to keep up with the latest challenges. The author selects and explores the most important concepts of the discipline for today and the future, providing a fresh and stimulating take on how marketing will change and how marketers must change with it. In my view, it is a mini‐encyclopedia of marketing. All those who are involved in marketing of any kind, whether a marketing manager, a salesperson, a student majoring in marketing, or a professor like myself who teaches marketing subjects, should read it.