Be Smart, Become an Innovator


By:

Abhishek Roy Chowdhury
Research Associate
ICFAI University
Kolkata
E-mail:
abhishek_roy_c@rediffmail.com
 


The old, traditional concept of marketing included all those activities that were concerned with either production or distribution & sales. The focus was on the mundane part of Marketing Produce as much as possible and somehow sell it. Satisfaction! Who cares?

But now, the time has changed, so has changed the concept of marketing.

"Management must think of itself not as producing products, but as providing customer-creating value satisfaction. It must push this idea into every nook & corner of the business."
          -T.Levitt

To explain the concept of marketing, Kotler indicated three aspects-a) Customer Orientation b) Integrated Marketing and c) Customer Satisfaction.

Kotler said-"The marketing concept is a customer orientation backed by integrated marketing aimed at generating customer satisfaction as the key to satisfying organizational goals."

However, is that all about marketing? Here the discussion will be restricted to customer orientation only since it introduces the idea of creation of customers. "Creation of customers" again includes firstly, identifying the needs and wants of the customers and secondly, combining and integrating all the activities of the business organization to fulfill the wants of the customers.

In fact, the want of satisfaction remains only when the existing products in the market are unable to provide the desired satisfaction. A smart manager will identify those gaps & try to fill it up through his advanced production process or well-planned distribution channel or proper sales promotion. For example-the first Washing Machine in the world was made for the sole purpose of washing clothes, but did not have the system of getting switched off automatically, thus taking care of your absentmindedness. It was unable to control its water inflow according to its requirements. But now it does. It is certainly the blessing of modern technology.

Identify the invisible gap

Smarter people can read the mind of the customer well. But, what if, the mind is blank? What if, no such product exists in the market? Did anybody imagine of a transparent & solid material named "Glass" that can prevent sound, water, air, but lets the light come? The credit goes to that person, who first felt the need of such a material & invented it, may be unknowingly. Now there are various kinds of glasses available & without it nobody can think of building a house. What about that era when there was no washing machine & mobile phone? The person, who gives birth to a new concept that never existed earlier, becomes the father of a new demand. The person, who gave birth to the want for a new product, is the smartest among all who only managed to add some extra features to the existing product or service, to gain the competitive advantage.

Basic technology is the predecessor of incremental technology. This is creation of demand over identification of demand. The person, who has never tasted a soft drink, will look for water only, to quench thirst, one of the basic needs. Once he is exposed to the product called soft drink & becomes satisfied, he starts feeling an increasing & continuous desire or want for the particular product.

Therefore, one should not remain as a modifier, but should become an inventor. A marketing expert must try to find out an invisible gap between existing service or product and the unfulfilled want in the sub-conscious mind of the customers. The want is born the moment a consumer consumes the newborn product and accepts it as a mean for fulfilling his need. When the product was not there, nobody felt the want for it. The day the product is born, it creates a want for itself. The want actually was there, unborn, unnoticed, unidentified. Very few people can imagine beyond what is available before his naked eyes. The one who can is the smart innovator. The smartest brain identifies the invisible gap, while others only add to the amelioration of the existing product to make it very unique.

The intention of the above discussion is not only to identify the importance of the inventors. The discussion intends to fill the gap in the modern concept of Marketing. Customer orientation is the first & possibly the most important aspect in the modern concept of marketing. It talks about defining customer needs from the customer point of view. If only one brand of a particular product is doing monopoly business, it is sufficient to satisfy the customers. As no other better brands exist, there is no scope of comparing the existing brand with the other. However, when other brands enter, the rat race begins to capture the market share. This is the time to have a look on the product life cycle. It may so happen that the existing brand represents a product, which is somewhere, somehow not fulfilling the want it was supposed to fulfill or it might be unable to provide some extra service, which is required in this era, but the necessity was not felt earlier. While doing market research on the satisfaction level of a particular building material, I found that many substitutes of that product have come up in the market & retailers do not have any more hope on that old & "obsolete" product. But the brand I was working for, was consistently trying to improve their product to compete with the other existing brands, unaware of the fact that the material has reached its maturity stage & they must think about shifting from that product to its substitutes. They are fortunate enough that the same product still has some specific uses & that is why it is still required though in a small quantity. Therefore, a little demand will remain alive in the long run. In this situation, they have only two options a) They should shift to any other existing substitute b) They should "invent" some other substitute through R&D, which is not everybody's cup of tea. But, someone invented Mosaic, someone invented Marble Flooring, someone invented White Cement. Why not the above-mentioned company can invent something new? Certainly, it is difficult, but not impossible.

Let us assume that the company comes up with a new product for Flooring & Coloring. They will try to distribute it in a manner that it will create a new demand that did not exist earlier. It is not Mosaic, not Marble, not White Cement. Something NEW. This is more about "Identification of GAP" between the "Invisible Desired Service & Existing Services by Existing Products" than "Identification of Needs". It is presently "Invisible Desired Service" because all the existing products for Flooring are providing more or less same quality, but when the new product comes it starts providing something new which, when exists, liked by everybody but earlier was not "visualized" by anybody except by the Inventor, for the first time. It is all about visualizing an invisible product and service, which does not exist and very few people can imagine of something that does not exist physically.

Therefore, it is clear that there is a gap in the Modern and Integrated theory of Marketing. In Customer Orientation, before "Identification of Needs", a step must be identified, i.e. "Customer Creation". If that is not really possible, then only one should focus on betterment of an existing product and service or can think about adding another product to their "Product-Mix".
 


Abhishek Roy Chowdhury
Research Associate
ICFAI University
Kolkata
E-mail:
abhishek_roy_c@rediffmail.com
 

Source: E-mail July 20, 2005

 

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