The Selling Concept. Many companies follow the selling concept, which holds that consumers will not buy enough of the firm’s products unless it undertakes a large-scale selling and promotion effort. The selling concept is typically practiced with unsought goods—those that buyers do not normally think of buying, such as life insurance or blood donations. These industries must be good at tracking down prospects and selling them on a product’s benefits.
Such aggressive selling, however, carries high risks. It focuses on creating sales transactions rather than on building long-term, profitable customer relationships. The aim often is to sell what the company makes rather than to make what the market wants. It assumes that customers who are coaxed into buying the product will like it. Or, if they don’t like it, they will possibly forget their disappointment and buy it again later. These are usually poor assumptions.
The Translation Marketing Concept. The marketing concept holds that achieving organizational goals depends on knowing the needs and wants of target markets and delivering the desired satisfactions better than competitors do. Under the marketing concept, customer focus and value are the paths to sales and profits. Instead of a product-centered make-and sell philosophy, the marketing concept is a customer-centered sense-and-respond philosophy. The job is not to find the right customers for your product but to find the right products for your customers.
Figure 1.3 contrasts the selling concept and the marketing concept. The selling concept takes an inside-out perspective. It starts with the factory, focuses on the company’s existing products, and calls for heavy selling and promotion to obtain profitable sales. It focuses primarily on customer conquest—getting short-term sales with little concern about who buys or why.
In contrast, the marketing concept takes an outside-in perspective. As Herb Kelleher, the colorful founder of Southwest Airlines, once put it, “We don’t have a marketing department; we have a customer department.” The translation marketing concept starts with a well-defined market, focuses on customer needs, and integrates all the marketing activities that affect customers. In turn, it yields profits by creating relationships with the right customers based on customer value and satisfaction.
Implementing the marketing concept often means more than simply responding to customers’ stated desires and obvious needs. Customer-driven companies research customers deeply to learn about their desires, gather new product ideas, and test product improvements. Such customer-driven marketing usually works well when a clear need exists and when customers know what they want.
In many cases, however, customers don’t know what they want or even what is possible. As Henry Ford once remarked, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”9 For example, even 20 years ago, how many consumers would have thought to ask for now-commonplace products such as tablet computers, smartphones, digital cameras, 24-hour online buying, digital video and music streaming, and GPS systems in their cars and phones? Such situations call for customer-driving marketing—understanding customer needs even better than customers themselves do and creating products and services that meet both existing and latent needs, now and in the future. As an executive at 3M put it, “Our goal is to lead customers where they want to go before they know where they want to go.”
The Societal Marketing Concept. The societal marketing concept questions whether the pure marketing concept overlooks possible conflicts between consumer shortrun wants and consumer long-run welfare. Is a firm that satisfies the immediate needs and wants of target markets always doing what’s best for its consumers in the long run? The societal marketing concept holds that marketing strategy should deliver value to customers in a way that maintains or improves both the consumer’s and society’s well-being. It calls for sustainable marketing, socially and environmentally responsible marketing translation that meets the present needs of consumers and businesses while also preserving or enhancing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Even more broadly, many leading business and marketing translation thinkers are now preaching the concept of shared value, which recognizes that societal needs, not just economic needs, define markets.10 The concept of shared value focuses on creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society. A growing number of companies known for their hardnosed approaches to business—such as GE, Dow, Google, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Unilever, and Walmart—are rethinking the interactions between society and corporate performance. They are concerned not just with short-term economic gains but with the well-being of their customers, the depletion of natural resources vital to their businesses, the viability of key suppliers, and the economic well-being of the communities in which they operate. One prominent marketer calls this Marketing
3.0 organizations are values-driven,” he says. “I’m not talking about being value-driven. I’m talking about ‘values’ plural, where values amount to caring about the state of the world.” Another marketer calls it purpose-driven marketing. “The future of profit is purpose,” he says.11
As Figure 1.4 shows, translation companies should balance three considerations in setting their marketing strategies: company profits, consumer wants, and society’s interests. Online grocer Door to Door Organics operates this way:12.