30Rs that go a step too far

The Marketing Book. Fourth Edition - Marketing Communications: Contexts, Contents and Strategies. Second Edition - Total Relationship Marketing - Marketing Communications. First Edition - Marketing Best Practices. First Edition
February 25, 2000

Marketing is an ever-evolving subject, as this eclectic collection of titles illustrates. New explorers of the discipline should encounter The Marketing Book , a collection of contributed chapters from eminent United Kingdom academics that first appeared in 1987. This book, which was originally conceived as an authoritative handbook setting out the scope and nature of marketing, has become a cornerstone reader among academics and students. As increasing restrictions on the photocopying of journal articles frustrate lecturers'' ability to supplement their courses with additional reading, the future for such titles seems assured. In this fourth edition, editor Michael Baker has undertaken an effective series of "hatches, matches and dispatches" to revise and refine the contents.

Existing chapters have been updated and are joined by a variety of new contributions. High points include Peter McGoldrick''s typically insightful synopsis of retailing and Susan Hart''s rigorous critique of new product development. Some of these newer entries also exhibit a more stimulating format and presentational style.

Inevitably, progress to the fourth edition has meant the removal of some old favourites. While sympathising with Baker''s predicament, I lament the loss of John Saunder''s chapter on competitive success. Whether politically correct or not, there is little more effective than a discussion of warfare strategy for recapturing the attention of executives or MBA students as they wallow in post-lunch stupor. Their eyes are apt to sparkle as they visualise metaphorically encircling their competitors in heavily branded company tanks.

The book is likely to retain its place in the hearts of Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) students and postgraduates. But its relaxed pedagogical inconsistency may become less endearing. As marketing titles have proliferated, reader expectations have risen. For The Marketing Book the future challenge will be to maintain its justifiable authoritative stance while meeting increasing demands on presentational style.

For anyone seeking a more consistent format and pedagogy, Michael R. Czinkota et al 's Marketing: Best Practices is a must. This ground-breaking text combines the best in production quality with renowned contributors providing inspirational chapters on their particular specialisms. Who could argue with Terence Shimp on marketing communications, Jagdish Sheth on consumer behaviour and John Lindgren on marketing and the internet?

Above all, while maintaining the energy and personal style of its 16 authors, the text genuinely has a single voice through consistent chapter design and writing level. Key features include topical examples, case studies, internet links and exercises, a wide range of questions plus learning objectives signalled throughout each chapter.

This is not an introductory text, but more suited to advanced undergraduate and MBA courses. It is unfortunate that lecturers who recommend it will encounter the usual student reticence towards American offerings. If you are not distracted by such considerations, keep this book close at hand and enjoy it as an excellent reference source. Publishers seeking innovative and exciting texts would do well to use Marketing: Best Practices as a model.

After digesting the basics, a natural progression is to seek more specialist marketing knowledge such as that on offer in the two marketing communications titles. Marketing Communications by Jim Blythe offers a concise overview. The first two chapters deal with the necessary communication basics, while the following nine are devoted to different communication media.

The print media chapter, with its detailed review of media choice, design and regulation, is typical. There is something for everyone here. Those who are excited by the "segment of one" yet are struggling to understand their hierarchical, network and relational databases, might appreciate the chapter devoted to the mysteries of direct and database marketing.

I particularly enjoyed the branding, packaging and merchandising chapter, where the emphasis on strategy was stronger and the in-text examples more numerous than elsewhere. Blythe concludes by reviewing future trends for marketing communications.

No prizes for guessing that the main emphasis is on technological advance. Here, we encounter internet marketing accompanied by all of its jargon (technophobes will be alarmed to learn that they are already missing out on five different types of surfing behaviour).

From a tactical perspective Blythe has strengths, yet I found the strategic context difficult to pinpoint. Readers will learn much about the application of communication tools but lose sight of the strategic picture. The big drawback of Blythe''s book is, however, its visual presentation. There are few illustrations and the lack of advertising images is problematic. The undergraduate and postgraduate audience at which this book is targeted might reasonably expect more.

Lecturers and students seeking an integrated, strategic perspective on marketing communications will welcome the second edition of Chris Fill''s Marketing Communications: Contexts, Contents and Strategies . With ten new chapters, the delivery of key theoretical principles is balanced with in-text examples, interesting case histories and advertising illustrations. Most importantly, this is not just another "how to do" handbook, but a serious attempt to view the subject from an academic perspective. The book''s ability to achieve this owes much to its innovative three-part structure.

The first of these examines the contexts or situations in which communications occur. The prominent and honest treatment of the ethical context is particularly refreshing. Recent furore over the Barnardo''s campaign, which featured a computer-altered image of a drug-taking baby, is a timely reminder that ethics matter.

The second part considers the usual array of promotional tools for businesses to use in the persuasion game, while the third is concerned with strategy and features a challenging new chapter on integrated marketing communications. Here, as if to reassure us of the book''s strategic value, relationship marketing meets marketing communications, with Fill expounding the attractions of fully coordinated marketing programmes.

CIM diploma students, for whom this is a key text, as well as undergraduates and postgraduates taking specialist marketing communications electives, should find the book useful. The primary drawback is that in striving for a cohesive and integrated text, Fill has developed a somewhat impenetrable offering that needs to be read in its entirety.

Devices such as explanatory "part openers" and "route maps" would have been useful additions for guiding readers around the major themes.

Growing domestic interest in marketing communications courses has pressurised publishers to nurture European texts on the subject. Customer reaction will be the final arbiter of their success. Thus the ultimate test for Blythe and Fill came when I asked one of my undergraduate marketing communications students for her opinion of the two. While attracted by Blythe''s unambiguous presentation and simple checklists, her unequivocal preference was for the more comprehensive treatment of Fill.

The final title of this marketing journey is Total Relationship Marketing by Evert Gummesson. This book, so tantalising to all who have heard the relationship marketing hype, is suddenly more daunting on closer scrutiny. The subtitle, From 4Ps to 30Rs, signals Gummesson''s support for a paradigm shift. For the uninitiated, the "4Ps" are: product, price, promotion and place (distribution). These are the tactical tools with which the world''s marketers toil for market position and which underpin the fabric of marketing literature. This book suggests it is time to move towards what Gummesson terms a total relationship marketing (TRM) approach.

Following an introduction of the concept, much of the book is devoted to reviewing the "30Rs" (relationships) at its heart. Inevitably, the book is "encyclopaedic", but Gummesson encourages readers to dip in. At this level, the work is thought provoking, especially to those interested in dissecting the qualitative notion of relationships. But there is also a problem. A relationship-based model of marketing management is a positive move. But 30 relationships?

I am somewhat alarmed at the prospect of having to recall 30 of anything and only slightly comforted by the notion that these can be neatly organised into a four-part typology. Several of my colleagues were similarly anxious about the capacity of their grey matter to handle the challenge. "Perhaps we could have crib lists," suggested one. The serious message is that to expect students, academics and practitioners to accept a new paradigm, they must be able to grasp its totality. The longevity of marketing''s "4Ps" partly stems from its innate simplicity. Whatever the intellectual and intuitive merits (and there are many) of viewing marketing from a relationship perspective, I fear that Gummesson''s paradigm is a step too far.

Sally Dibb is reader in marketing and strategic management, University of Warwick.

The Marketing Book. Fourth Edition

Editor - Michael J. Baker
ISBN - 0 7506 4114 2
Publisher - Butterworth Heinemann
Price - £22.50
Pages - 717

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