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Channel Integration: Vertical and Horizontal Marketing Systems

15 January, 2016 - 09:18

Another way to foster cooperation in a channel is to establish a vertical marketing system. In a vertical marketing system, channel members formally agree to closely cooperate with one another. (You have probably heard the saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”) A vertical marketing system can also be created by one channel member taking over the functions of another member.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) has traditionally been a manufacturer of household products, not a retailer of them. But the company’s long-term strategy is to compete in every personal-care channel, including salons, where the men’s business is underdeveloped. In 2009, P&G purchased The Art of Shaving, a seller of pricey men’s shaving products located in upscale shopping malls. P&G also runs retail boutiques around the globe that sell its prestigious SK-II skin-care line. 1

Franchises are another type of vertical marketing system. They are used not only to lessen channel conflicts but also to penetrate markets. Recall that a franchise gives a person or group the right to market a company’s goods or services within a certain territory or location. 2McDonald’s sells meat, bread, ice cream, and other products to its franchises, along with the right to own and operate the stores. And each of the owners of the stores signs a contract with McDonald’s agreeing to do business in a certain way.

By contrast, in a conventional marketing system the channel members have no affiliation with one another. All the members operate independently. If the sale or the purchase of a product seems like a good deal at the time, an organization pursues it. But there is no expectation among the channel members that they have to work with one another in the future.

A horizontal marketing system is one in which two companies at the same channel level—say, two manufacturers, two wholesalers, or two retailers—agree to cooperate with another to sell their products or to make the most of their marketing opportunities. The Internet phone service Skype and the mobile-phone maker Nokia created a horizontal marketing system by teaming up to put Skype’s service on Nokia’s phones. Skype hopes it will reach a new market (mobile phone users) this way. And Nokia hopes to sell its phones to people who like to use Skype on their personal computers (PCs). 3

Similarly, Via Technologies, a computer-chip maker that competes with Intel, has teamed up with a number of Chinese companies with no PC-manufacturing experience to produce $200 netbooks. Via Technologies predicts that the new, cheaper netbooks the Chinese companies sell will quickly capture 20 percent of the market. 4Of course, the more of them that are sold, the more computer chips Via Technologies sells.


Channel partners that wield channel power are referred to as channel leaders. A dispute among channel members is called a channel conflict. A vertical conflict is one that occurs between two different types of members in a channel. By contrast, a horizontal conflict is one that occurs between organizations of the same type. Channel leaders are often in the best position to resolve channel conflicts. Vertical and horizontal marketing systems can help foster channel cooperation, as can creating marketing programs to help a channel’s members all generate greater revenues and profits.


  1. What gives some organizations more channel power than others?
  2. Why do channel conflicts occur?
  3. Which organization(s) has the most power to resolve channel conflicts?
  4. How can setting up vertical and horizontal marketing systems prevent channel conflicts?