There was a time when people loved their Facit and Remington typewriters, Weston and Televista televisions, Murphy and Busch radios, Amkett and Moser Bayer floppy drives, Sunlight and Swastik detergents, Kelvinator and Leonard refrigerators, and HMT and Allwyn watches. But then these brands do not even figure in cognition of consuming public. Managers and strategists make crucial mistake when they begin to believe in the power of their brand or product. Levitt’s classic paper began with the lines ‘Every major industry was a growth industry, but some that are now riding a wave of growth enthusiasm are in the shadow of decline. Others that are thought of as seasoned growth industries have actually stopped growing. In every case the reason growth is threatened, slowed or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because there has been a failure of management.’
Now consider the latest TOI (Jan 9, 14) political opinion poll. On the issue of prime ministerial choice (who do you think would make the best PM?), 58% people preferred Modi, followed by Kejriwal (25%) and Rahul Gandhi (14%). In Ahmedabad 31% preferred Kejriwal to Modi. The survey also revealed that about a third of surveyed people felt that AAP would win 26-50 LS seats, while 26% expected AAP to win 51-100 seats and 11% expected it to win more than 100 seats. A five percent of respondents felt AAP would get majority seats.
What do these surveys convey? In marketing, especially in contested markets, customer satisfaction surveys and opinion studies are important tools to get how a brand or firm is perceived by its target customers. The feedback helps companies to craft responses according to evolving market conditions. Companies adjust their market focus, change marketing mix, rejuvenate brands, and improve quality in order to ensure that their customers remain satisfied, new customers are attracted and customers from rivals are attracted. Broadly there are two types of satisfaction surveys. Customers’ feedback needs to be sought with respect to their expectations (how a product/service measures against customer criteria). Secondly, marketing is a competitive game. Therefore, it is important to explore how a firm’s (eg Congress or Samsung) delivery fares in comparison to rivals (BJP or Apple). A brand can succeed when it beats the competition on relevant customer expectations.
Marketing is about innovation and adjustment because everything external to a firm is dynamic but a firm is likely to be a constant unless consciously made organic. In politics, all the political entities/outfits need to evolve with time. Who is to be blamed for the birth of AAP? The blame squarely goes to existing players. New products and brands emerge not because of competition but due to the failure of existing players to cater to changing and emerging needs. Both of the national parties failed to understand loud voices and silent whispers of citizens (customer expectation). Second, they stick to their old ideologies and policies (stuck up with structure) notwithstanding measuring how they perform against evolving customer criteria. The result is self-evident. AAP spokespersons publicly say that they are forced to enter into politics. It is current political parties which compelled them to become a political outfit.
What the options available to the old political parties in this situation? Viewing the political products from product life cycle perspective, the following options exist: product modification strategy- which involves changing an existing product by incorporating new functionality like modifying a detergent by adding fabric softener or improving its performance (making a car more fuel efficient or improving speed of a microprocessor) ; market modification- extending the customer based by appealing to a new customer group (youth is a new market for political parties), new geographies and rival’s customers. For instance Fair n Lovely sought to target men segment, Dabur Honey made a pitch for young women segment, Pepsodent is currently trying to snatch customers from Colgate (130% better toothpaste). Finally, a marketer can use marketing mix modification strategy- this involves changes in product, price, place or promotion strategies to capture or retain customer. BJP’s candidate may need to reposition himself as secular to broaden his appeal or new communication mix strategy could be used (less reliance on conventional advertising).
Competition is not what kills a company or brand. It is the failure of the strategists to recognize what market wants them to do. Managers kill their own brands. AAP is only an evidence of this failure.