In 2003 I wrote a white paper on shopping centre marketing. I thought it might be interesting to see how how my ‘vision’ stacked up against the reality of the last 6 years. I am breaking it up into a series of posts – and for my RSS readers who may not be interested in this topic – just bear with me as normal programming will resume shortly – and there will be other posts in between. (Although I actually think it is worthwhile contemplating this particular variant of marketing which does not get a lot of air time.)
2. THE EVOLUTION OF MARKETING
Marketing (as we know it) was only established in the 1960’s when Prof. Theodore Levitt coined the term ‘marketing orientation’ to distinguish trends in the 60’s from the preceding era. The principle difference was that companies were only then beginning to focus on the customer’s needs as a point of departure, as opposed to trying to sell whatever product the company felt able to manufacture. No surprise that market research was then established as an important element of company’s commercial activities.
In the 60’s the concept of a marketing mix was established: Product, Price, Place, Promotion – the so-called 4 P’s of marketing.
Marketing text books and have traditionally and predominantly focused on product marketing and more recently (in the last ten years only) on services marketing. Another sub-specialty is retail marketing which has been developed around the appropriate marketing models for retailers. Retail marketing added another element to the marketing mix (presentation or merchandising).
Shopping centre marketing has never been the subject of much academic research, possibly because of the (small) size of the sub-discipline and the general lack of exposure and understanding of the industry by most practitioners.
The changing point of focus in marketing can be graphically illustrated as per figure 1 below. The diagram represents the idea that, over time, marketing has become more scientific and has attempted to get an increased understanding of the psychology of the consumer, leading to the discipline of Consumer Behaviour being established as an academic specialisation.
This diagram is not meant to be historically accurate or even fully complete as it represents an idea rather than fact.
Shopping centre marketers followed the evolutionary curve, changing its focus over time. The main emphasis of marketing activities during each successive phase was as follows:
SALES – Good facilities, parking, convenience, retail mix
BRAND – Promotions, advertising
EXPERIENCE – Entertainment, events & shows
VALUES – The next phase…????
But shopping centre marketers have also made the classical mistake of following trends, not maintaining the best and correct elements of previous phases or strategies and abandoning all for the next big thing. Currently this is CRM – Customer Relationship Management.
For marketers to succeed in the new world of consumerism and information overload, some things have to change fundamentally. My assertion is that marketing must somehow find a way to become meaningful and the only way to do that is to integrate with the consumer’s value system. People’s value systems are the most primary determinants of behaviour and our offer will succeed or fail to the extent that it appeals to the consumer on this most fundamental level. The day of marketing gimmicks or saturation advertising simply won’t cut it.