Once the objectives are established, the marketer must decide how to achieve these objectives. This produces a set of general strategies that must be refined into actionable and achievable activities. The marketing mix—product, price, promotion, and distribution—represents the way in which an organization's broad marketing strategies are translated into marketing programs for action.
Product. Products (and services)—the primary marketing mix element that satisfied customer wants and needs—provide the main link between the organization and its customers. Marketing organizations must be ready to alter products as dictated by changes in competitive strategies or changes in other elements of the organization's environment. Many organizations have a vast array of products in their mix. Ideally, each of the products is profitable. But this is often not the case, so some tough decisions must be made concerning the length of time an unsuccessful product is kept on the market.
Distribution. The organization's distribution system moves the product to the final consumer. Because there are many alternatives when selecting a distribution channel, marketing management must have a clear understanding of the types of distributors, of the trends influencing those distributors, and of how those distributors are perceived by customers.
Communication (Promotion). The product's benefits must be communicated to the distributors and to the final customers. Therefore, the marketing organization must provide marketing information that is received favorably by distributors and final customers. Marketing organizations, through promotion, provide information by way of advertising, sales promotions, salespeople, public relations, and packaging.
Price. Finally, marketers must price their products in such a way that customers believe they receiving fair value. Price is the primary means by which customers judge the attractiveness of a product or service. Moreover, price is a reflection of all the activities of an organization. Finally, price is a competitive tool, in that it is used as a basis for comparison of product and perceived value across different organizations.
Decisions about the marketing mix variables are interrelated. Each of the marketing mix variables must be coordinated with the other elements of the marketing program. Consider, for a moment, a situation in which a firm has two product alternatives (deluxe and economy), two price alternatives (USD 6 and USD 3), two promotion alternatives (advertising and couponing), and two distribution alternatives (department stores and specialty stores). Taken together, the firm has a total of 16 possible marketing mix combinations. Naturally, some of these appear to be in conflict, such as the "deluxe" product/low price combination. Nevertheless, the organization must consider many of the possible alternative marketing programs. The problem is magnified by the existence of competitors. The organization must find the right combination of product, price, promotion, and distribution so that it can gain a differential advantage over its competitors. (All the marketing mix elements will be discussed in more detail in later chapters of this book.)
Nintendo Co., Ltd. (NTDOY) provides a good example of a multinational organization that has effectively implemented their marketing strategy. As a pioneer in the interactive entertainment industry, Nintendo has succeeded in branding their productions as social icons. The company produces innovative products, redefines traditional markets within the industry, and connects with its customers as a social experience. 1
Even a well-designed marketing program that has been through a thorough evaluation of alternatives will fail if its implementation is poor. Implementation involves such things as determining where to promote the product, getting the product to the ultimate consumer, putting a price on the product, and setting a commission rate for the salespeople. Once a decision is made, a marketing manager must decide how to best implement the terms of the plan.
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) provides a good example of an organization that has successfully implemented their marketing strategy. SAS had good on-time performance, a good safety record, and many services designed to make flying easier for its customers. However, these were not enough to improve SAS revenue. Other things had to be done to attract business-class customers. The approach taken by SAS was largely symbolic in nature. They put everyone who bought a full-price ticket in "Euroclass," entitling them to use a special boarding card, an executive waiting lounge, designer steel cutlery, and a small napkin clip that could be taken as a collector's item. These and other values were provided at no extra cost to the customer. The approach was very successful; business class passengers flocked to SAS, since they appreciated the perceived increase in value for the price of a ticket.