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Marketing issues in the new millennium examined by the case study method
Marketing issues in the new millennium examined by the case study method
About the Guest EditorClaudio Vignali is the course leader of the Retail Management Development Programmes at MMU. His specialisms are strategy and international marketing. He has published widely in these fields and two texts are being published by McGraw-Hill in the next avademic year. He guest lectures at other universities, including Salford, Parma, Rome and Szczcin in Poland.
The new millennium seems to have entered with a euphoric claim that everything old is no longer valid. Marketing management issues have not been excluded and the idea that demergers, the Internet and people issues are becoming more intense is something that management will have to examine more closely.
I believe that in marketing the case method can be useful in at least three different ways. First, case studies can help generate a group or set of examples of a range of different marketing situations. As they are examples of practice in real organisations they can be communicated more easily to marketing practitioners and academics.
Second, as a consequence of the expanding range of examples, these case studies can offer clues that serve to inform that knowledge and theory that already exist in marketing. This will point to areas where the current literature ideas are deficient, helping students become more conscious of how these ideas were formed and how they might be changed.
Third, and perhaps also more important, for marketing the cases method can be a valuable vehicle for active learning particularly where group work is involved. As opposed to simply examining situations from different perspectives, individual case studies provide students with the opportunity to argue with each other in a group. In this way the maximum benefit is gained from the important social context of learning.
With the above in mind few businesses can have been unaffected by the accelerating pace of change - political, economic and social. While many of these changes have been local, taking place in particular countries at certain times - often the response to domestic pressures - others have been far more dramatic and seminal, changing the context of whole regions of the world and shifting the competitive landscape for business before them. All this has had major implications for marketers as the source of competitive advantage continues to change and the forces driving competition in industries are evolving in new and unpredictable ways.
The cases selected seem to fall within specific themes and are listed as follows.
The difference in interpretations of what global marketing might be is exemplified in the debate about global brands. Writers have suggested there are a number of different facets to a brand which include the concept or promise, the product or service offered, and the brand's artefacts which relate to things such as the name or the design and the symbols, logos and trademarks used. From this perspective, global branding is simply a geographical extension of all of these aspects into another region of the world.
Advances in technology
Advances in technological and rapidly improving communications worldwide are also factors which produce far reaching implications for marketing. While it is the technology-intensive companies in particular that are prone to change, other organisations also have not been immune to the effects. The opportunities information technology creates, particularly when used in combination with new production technology, have had the effect of transforming the way most companies conduct business. But this does not just apply to manufacturing, it affects service businesses in equal measure. New technology, coupled with the dramatically reducing costs of transport, telecommunications, computers and advances in electronic communications of all kinds has not only reduced the costs of doing business but often improved reliability, quality and efficiency at a stroke.
Relationships in marketing
It has been the advent of information technology that has also enabled different businesses to link themselves together more closely. An early example of this would be American Airlines' use of an electronic reservations system to link up the airline with travel agents. Later these reservations systems were extended to include link-up with hotels, credit card and car hire companies.
Of course the notion of co-operative relationships will be a new one for marketing managers. Marketing researchers such as Hakansson working in the Scandinavian tradition have all helped to refine the concept of network and relationship marketing. Others too have contributed to the debate; co-operation according to Hakansson needs to be taken much further. For them, it ought to be extended to include suppliers and customers who might act as both co-designers and co-producers of the very production system itself. Translating co-operation and the marketing concept as they do, suppliers and customers should also share all the costs as well as the benefits in the value system. Producers and consumers come to know each other and develop relationships and in an ideal world stay in contact, work closely, sharing know-how and information.
Following such lines of thought, indeed, in their concept of a network and this trend of definition of what a network can be, the distinction between suppliers and customers becomes blurred. But networks can also be viewed as a partner system where a constellation of agents with different capabilities work together towards some common objective for the benefit of all.
The macro environment
As the damaging effects to our environment of increased industrialisation and consumption becomes apparent, an increasing amount of regulation is being imposed on companies. The mounting public pressure and scientific evidence about such things as global climate changes and other concerns allow new markets to open as others close. Companies are undoubtedly having to consider the environmental concerns seriously.
While it has to be said that much of the environmental activity in the business community is in response to legislation, regional, national or super-regional, some companies do appear to be making pre-emptive moves and turning environmental concerns into new business opportunities. Acting in advance of regulatory requirements can confer advantages. For example, moving early can be used, not only to avoid future regulation, but also to raise competitive barriers. The increasing attention given to safety standards and security in the automobile industry, for example, are resulting in manufacturers seeing safety as a new and important driver for technological innovation, and another source of advantage.
It is a pleasure to include a selection of case studies from all the authors and especially Professor Leo Dana, who has special responsibilities as senior advisor to the World Association of Small Business.
Finally I would like to thank the Business School of Canterbury University, New Zealand for refereeing this special edition and making the necessary constructive comments.
Claudio VignaliGuest Editor