There are various definitions of marketing. Some of the alternative definitions include; “The management process that identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably”. According to Gilligan and Wilson, marketing can be defined as the achievement of corporate goals through meeting and exceeding customer needs better than the competition. Further, marketing is also defined as “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”
Each of the above definitions is right because they try to exemplify the spirit of marketing. Marketing is the understanding of customers’ requirements and looking for ways to meet those demands, to deliver their needs and wants, and that it is an all-encompassing exercise comprising various business activities.
A marketing oriented organisation’s main feature is that they aim to get closer to the clients and to stay ahead of competition. The best example of such an organisation is Virgin whose principle aim is to attract customers. Stakeholders, shared values, strategy, and organisation are the major characteristics that describe marketing oriented organisations. First, each decision of the company places the customers before everything else and high quality products and services is a common value shared by all the concerned persons. Second, the organisational structure and their policies are kept very simple. Third, marketing oriented organisations design long-term strategies, which are flexible and all inclusive. Finally, the organisations examine the requirements and expectations of all stakeholders when making important decisions. These are some of the characteristics exhibited by Virgin in marketing of their products and services.
Marketing process is an intricate process. Evolution of marketing over the years has led to several marketing orientations assumed by different organisations. The marketing orientation approach by any organisation is an individual decision and as such varies between organisations. These marketing orientations include production orientation, customer orientation, and market orientation. Production orientation focuses on operational efficiencies as well as internal savings. Customer orientation is driven by the customer’s needs as the first priority. “This customer focused philosophy is known as the 'marketing concept'. The marketing concept is a philosophy, not a system of marketing or an organizational structure. It is founded on the belief that profitable sales and satisfactory returns on investment can only be achieved by identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer needs and desires”.
An organisation that pursues the marketing concept balances both the internal and external needs of the organisation. Virgin has perfected this type of business orientation whereby operations are streamlined to high levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, internal cost reduction measures have been devised and put in place to enhance profitability. The balancing of internal and external needs has led to profitability and customer satisfaction.
Virgin’s implementation of marketing concept is vital for its success. This involves investment in customer care and service, premium quality, building marketing relationships, aiming at customer satisfaction and retention among others. They will need to continually invest in staff training, narrowing marketing focus, and commitment to quality marketing. This will enhance efficiency in product and service delivery, reduce operational costs, consolidate specific market, retain customers, and hence increase profitability.
Market segmentation, targeting, and positioning has been developed and defined for the past three decades. In principle however, segmentation can be defined as “the process of dividing a varied and differing group of buyers or potential buyers into smaller groups, within which broadly similar patterns of buyers ’ needs exist”( Gilligan and Wilson 5). Virgin has segmented its target buyers into differing groups using different micro and macro environmental factors. Virgin successfully established themselves in different countries to bring their products and services closer to the consumers. In addition, the products and services have been designed for different groupings in order to address specific customer needs. All the stakeholders have been gelled into a functional system that ensure satisfaction of customers, investors and communities in which Virgin operates.
Virgin travel and Virgin mobile products are some the companies products which can benefit from market segmentation. Air travel in different parts of the world varies significantly with regard to the purchasing power of people. The case is true with the media and mobile products Virgin is offering customers.
The company can reap maximum benefits if it engages the underserved markets with products that are of high quality and at time affordable. Air travel is expensive in many developing nations and offering cheaper options for travellers in these countries will certainly pay. This includes segmenting the travel products to suit different lifestyles and economy. Virgin mobile products too can be segmented to serve different gender, age groups, and people’s ability to spend. For example;
- For air travel; economic block, individual spending power, lifestyle
- For Virgin mobile: economic block, income, lifestyle, age, gender
Virgin has taken into account various situations when segmenting their target customers. The first is the customer’s financial abilities. As demonstrated by the marketing strategy for the air travel, different customer groupings have inspired of different flight products i.e., economy, super economy, and high class. In the case of Virgin mobile for Indian market segment, the company is targeting the youth with products, which are stylish and suitable for the youth. In South Africa though, they compete on price rather than any particular age group.
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Extended marketing mix has received widespread recognition and many modern organisations are using the concept to carry out their business activities. Initially, there was the 4P’s concept but in course of time, many organisations favoured the 7P’s extended marketing mix strategy. Virgin is a classic example of modern organisations applying the 7P’s extended marketing mix. The seven elements of the marketing mix include the product, price, place, promotion, people, process, and physical evidence.
Through quality and affordable products, Virgin is placed ahead of competition. They have invested highly qualified human resource that ensures that the process of unveiling products to customers is much simpler and efficient. In addition, they are explicit in explaining to the customers the benefits of their products to both existing and potential customers. Virgin also uses many promotional packages to attract new customers, retain existing ones and to wither competition. There are many promotions going on in nearly all of their products in different market segments. This strategy is suitable for attracting new customers while keeping the current ones.
Virgin has segmented its customer base geographically by opening up subsidiaries in different market. This has several advantages attached to it. Firstly, the customers in those regions identify themselves with the brand (they take ownership of the brand). it is easier to attract customers if you have a local subsidiary in India than when you are operating all the way from the UK. Secondly, the products are brought closer to the customers hence fostering efficiency in service delivery. Finally, subsidiaries benefit local communities either directly or indirectly. The economic implications of setting up subsidiaries in certain markets allows for easier promotion of the products in those markets. For their products to gain further popularity and to increase market share, Virgin should distribute their products and services through franchising and using intermediaries in different markets.
The lower prices suggested by Virgin reflects their policy to use an excellent pricing policy to beat the competition. In most countries that Virgin operates, they use this pricing strategy at the heart of marketing in order to win as many clients as possible. This is a good strategy as many customers favour high quality brands that come at an affordable price.
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In addition to the pricing strategy, they have a vibrant promotional strategy, which has helped Virgin to meet their marketing objectives for their products. The promotions target both individuals and communities. These additional elements of the extended marketing mix could be applied to Virgin;
People – staff and consumers interrelationships to boost the product value
Process – to assist in delivering products more efficiently
Physical Evidence – to allow the customer to make judgements on the organisation
Virgin targets their travel market through levels of income and lifestyle. They include low, middle, and high-income customers. Consequently, they have economy, premium economy, and high-class product categories for their differing customers. For each segment, they apply price and promotion elements of the extended marketing mix to attract customers.
Marketing presents different challenges to different products and markets. Consumer markets differ greatly with organisational markets. Organisation products serve to add value through service to industries, governments, non-profit making organisations, and reseller services. The target market is clear and thus marketing to these organisations is much easier than the diffused consumer markets. Consumer products need to reach the customers quickly especially when they are perishable and consumable. The consumer products are also heterogeneous in nature as they are designed for numerous smaller groupings in many different locations. Therefore marketing consumer products require more input from the extended marketing mix than organisational products.
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Domestic environment for Virgin differs greatly with the international environment. While globalisation presents Virgin with an opportunity to expand their global market share, there are challenges, which the organisation must meet both domestically and internationally (Salaimeh10). One of the challenges is standardisation issues, which keep on changing in order to guarantee customer safety among other issues. Their swiftness to adapt to any new emerging standards will determine their placement in the global market. Globalisation has improved business environment worldwide, an attribute Virgin are exploiting to expand there market share.
In addition, there is stiff competition emerging both domestically and regionally with many organisations willing to adapt their multilevel marketing strategies. These are challenges that Virgin are facing. To deal with the challenges, the organisation must continue being proactive, setting standards rather than following standards.