Audience Dialogue

Participative Marketing for Local Radio, Chapter 1
What is radio marketing? section 1

1.1 Views of marketing

What exactly is marketing? Confusion and disagreement abound. And to make it more confusing still, my view seems to be different from everybody else's. As a simplified introduction, here are four different views of marketing.

1. Marketing as Four Ps

If you look at a marketing textbook, you'll probably find marketing defined in terms of the "marketing mix" or the "4 Ps": Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. In other words: "what shall we make, where shall we sell it, at what price, and how?" (Did you notice the missing 5th P? People are not mentioned.) This is essentially a manufacturer's concept of marketing, and still the dominant view, specially in North America.

When I told a friend that I was writing this book, he assumed it would be about how to sell radio commercials. That was an expression of the 4 Ps view. Another reflection of that view is the uneasiness that many people in western societies feel about the social value of marketing. They believe that "marketing is the methods that large corporations use to force the public to buy products they don't want." Or they believe that marketing is a way of appealing to the lowest common denominator, subjugating all human values to the overwhelming force of consumerism. I think this exploitative style of marketing is unsustainable: it no longer works well, because consumers can see through it. Thus it is necessary to look beyond the 4 Ps.

2. Marketing as exchange

Economists have a different view of marketing: they tend to see it as a process of exchange. This model, involves a buyer and a seller, who engage in a transaction, or "service encounter," both hoping to that the exchange will give them something of greater benefit than they have already. The buyer gives the seller money, and the seller completes the exchange by giving the buyer the stuff that was exchanged.

This simple view is much older than the 4 Ps view. However, the exchange process is really commerce, not marketing. For example, advertising is obviously part of marketing, but advertising doesn't always result in sales. And in the case of radio listening, and many government services, there's no exchange, because no money changes hands.

3. Marketing as relationships

Since the mid-1980s, another view of marketing has developed. In this view, marketing is a network of relationships: between a business, its customers, and (sometimes) other parties. This view of marketing acknowledges that transactions don't happen in a vacuum, and that buyers and sellers usually have some previous (and continuing) relationship with each other.

The term "relationship marketing" is used in two different senses. In the USA, it's the same as "1 to 1 marketing:" the idea that businesses should consider their customers as individuals, rather than (as in the 4 Ps view) as segments or groups. The relationship studied is between a business and its customers.

The Scandinavians take a much broader view, considering relationships not only between a business and its customers, but between all others it deals with. In the most thorough book I've seen about relationship marketing, Evert Gummesson describes what he calls the "30 Rs" - 30 relationships that a business is likely to have. Taken together, they comprise its marketing.

This view of marketing is more comprehensive than the 4Ps and exchange views, but (to me) it still has some way to go. In particular, I find the concept of "relationships" too fuzzy to be useful - is there anything that's not a relationship? Also, the relationships considered in this type of marketing only cover those between the organization and other parties. So (for example) when customers complain to government about a manufacturer's unsafe product, that's not regarded as marketing - even though that complaint may have a large effect on the manufacturer.

4. Marketing as communication

After trying to see the limitations of the three above views of marketing, I've developed my own view. It's based on "marketing as relationships," but replaces the fuzzy concept of relationships by the more precise concept of communications, or messages. After all, a relationship is built up from a series of communications, and these messages can be clearly identified and counted.

This view of marketing includes all messages about an organization, no matter who makes them or who receives them. Though this may seem very broad to those who believe that marketing is something that only marketing departments do, I find it helpful to consider the entire context of an organization's marketing.

Marketing messages carry both facts and emotions, and they can arrive through many media: radio, TV, print, and the internet, and conversation.

Another aspect of this "marketing as communication" view (considered in more detail in chapter 6) is that a message produced by a sender may not have the same meaning to the receiver: messages can be misunderstood or forgotten.

I am not claiming that all communication is marketing - only that all communication about an activity is marketing for that activity.

This view of "marketing as communication" is compatible with the exchange model, as the following diagram shows:

marketing diagram

Begin reading the diagram from the centre. A buyer and a seller consider exchanging Stuff for something of value (shown by $). "Stuff" means goods and services; "$" usually means money, but can also involve spending time, or something else of value.

That exchange is the central part, the dashed lines - but it's not marketing: it's commerce. Marketing is represented by the curved lines: the messages that pass between the parties. The messages can arrive either directly (the outer curves) or through agents.

Agents can pass on messages to the buyer (e.g. advertising agencies and buyers' well-informed friends), or to the seller (e.g. market researchers). Over time, as more and more messages flow, the relationship between the buyers and the sellers is built up, and each party comes to understand the other better - perhaps to outwit the other in new ways, perhaps also to gain more benefit from the transactions.

To make this view of marketing clear, the above diagram represents only one pair of the possible relationships involved. More detail is given below on all the parties involved in a relationship with a radio station.

Participative marketing

By "participative marketing" I mean making full use of all available channels to improve the communication between an organization and all the groups and people it has relationships with. Participative marketing is not a definition of marketing, in the sense of the four views described above: it's a method of applying the "marketing as communication" view to practical situations.

Because community radio involves so many people and groups, the participative marketing approach is ideally suited to radio. That's why this book focuses on participative marketing. It's not something that the station "does" to its audience and other groups it deals with, but something that everybody does. It's not possible for a station to control all these marketing messages: perhaps it can influence them, but at least it should be aware they exist.

I'm deliberately using the word "participative" rather than the more common "participatory" - for two reasons. Firstly, to avoid confusion: some other writers on marketing have appropriated the word "participatory" to mean only "feedback from buyer to seller." Secondly, "participative" is less of a tongue-twister. (For a broadcaster, that's important!)

If marketing is about communication between an organization and everybody it deals with, it follows that marketing can be improved by removing barriers to communication, and enhancing the information flow. The above diagram shows messages flowing in both directions, but radio - like most other industries - has far more information going out to consumers than coming back from them. Unless there's a steady flow of feedback, you can't be sure that you're producing what listeners want. Therefore, encouraging interactivity is an essential part of participatory marketing.


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