Marketing Research Essay

It is not surprising that the ordinary person has little appreciation of the role that marketing plays in our society, for it is only since about the 1920’s that deserved attention has been given to marketing as a field of scientific study. It was not until the 1950’s that widespread business awareness of the strategic significance of marketing was widely reflected in the prominence given to a marketing concept or a marketing orientation in the organization of even many of our most progressive companies.

It is not easy to define marketing in a manner that is satisfactory to everyone. To illustrate from but a single area of consumption, the housewife does her marketing when she goes to a supermarket to buy food and household items. The supermarket is doing its marketing partly by bringing products to the store where they are available to meet the housewife’s needs. Food processing companies do their marketing by planning products to meet consumer needs and moving these products through channels of trade so that they are available in stores, after being publicized through various media of communication. The farmer does his marketing by moving his produce from farm to market, which may consist of wholesale middlemen or processing companies. Each one of these persons or organizations is engaged in marketing, but each is doing only a small part of the total job encompassed by the marketing process. Clearly, for purposes of objective study and clarity of understanding marketing as a significant social process, it is essential to take a viewpoint which is much broader than that of any participating party.

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Marketing is essentially a process like farming, manufacturing, mining, or construction. As such, it is basically functional in character and may, therefore, be defined as “the performance of all activities necessary for ascertaining the needs and wants of markets, planning product availability, effecting transfers in ownership of products, providing for their physical distribution, and facilitating the entire marketing process”(Malhotra 9: 2004). It thus embraces the entire group of functions performed and services rendered in the acquisition or distribution of products for further processing, for business or institutional use, or for ultimate consumption. The various methods by which these functions and services are performed, together with the institutions concerned and the policies adopted, are necessarily an integral part of the subject of marketing.

“The entire marketing mix–promotion and product, price, and place–must be coordinated for greatest communication impact”(Kotler & Armstrong 12: 1990). These elements, the four P’s, of the marketing mix are product, price, place, and promotion. Let’s discuss each of these and center on the communication aspects of each.

Product refers to goods and services a company offers to its potential customers. Product can be further subdivided into several elements. One of these is position, the place the product occupies in the consumer’s mind. Position is determined by marketing strategists and then communicated to the public by advertising slogans such as “We do chicken right”; “Just do it”; and the like. Other product attributes complement and reinforce positioning. Positioning is of paramount importance to differentiate your products from competitors’. Positioning will be discussed later. For Ford Company, the products are Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.

Price can be determined in a number of ways. When introducing new products, marketers must decide to either skim (high prices) or penetrate (low prices) the market. The dream is to achieve market penetration with high prices. To skim or penetrate, or later to initiate price changes or respond to others’ actions, requires a good deal of strategizing. The same is true when planning discounts and allowances, credit terms and payment periods, and all price-related activities. Some manufacturers mistakenly base their prices on economics rather than on perceived value. If a product’s (or product line’s) marketing mix variables are working in harmony, then price will be easy to determine. Psychological pricing is the only way to set prices. Simply price the product in congruence with your communicated value of the product. Consumers should receive a price message which fits into their mindset of your product compared with others. A problem arises when manufacturers think a product is premium and price it as such, but retailers and/or customers view it differently. Careful use of marketing research can nip this problem in the bud. The price for Ford cars is competitive as well as value based as, there are economical as well as expensive, mostly the Ford cars are really considered luxurious and not everyone can buy them, this may be one of the reasons of declining sale of Ford cars. The prices range from $15000 to $180000.

Place, or distribution, refers to channels that move goods and services from manufacturer to consumer. On the surface, this may not seem much of a communication activity (at least not from organization to consumers), but it is. Kotler and Armstrong (1990: 233) say it best:

“Companies must do more than simply build quality into their products; they must also communicate product quality. The product’s look and feel should communicate its quality level. Quality is also communicated through other elements of the marketing mix. A high price usually signals a premium-quality product. The product’s brand name, packaging, distribution and promotion also announce its quality. All of these elements must work together to communicate and support the brand’s image.”

Ford manufactured cars are available at numerous locations, there are thousands of dealers in the market selling the cars, the location is not an issue when it comes to Ford or any other company with such big and popular brands.

Promotion, the fourth variable, ties together the subtle communication efforts of the other three variables in an overt way. So marketing management (i.e., analysis, planning, implementation, and control of the marketing mix to reach target market objectives) consists largely of coordinating people, resources, and budgets to communicate to relevant publics about an organization’s products and services. Promotion, as the fourth P and the coordinating function that integrates and unites the other three P’s, is the heart of marketing. There are many promotional efforts done by Ford such as advertisements, test-drives, Car showroom displays and free accessories on purchase of Car (Sales Promotion).

 

“Marketing research is the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis, dissemination, and use of information for the purpose of assisting management in decision making related o identification and solution of problems in marketing” (Malhotra 7: 2003). While surveys are the most frequently used method of investigation in marketing research, experiments are also used frequently. Experiments are used in investigations of all the controllable marketing mix variables (e.g., product, price, promotion, and distribution), consumer behavior, and even in regard to marketing research itself. These experiments often incorporate uncontrollable variables of marketing such as the economy and competition, and do so in different applications of marketing such as international marketing, business-to-business marketing, and services marketing. The word experiment is used most frequently in the English language as a noun referring to a study or an investigation of a problem or question. The word experiment is also used as a verb referring to the action of conducting a study or investigation of a problem or question. People who are studied or investigated in an experiment and from whom information is collected are called subjects, in contrast to people in a survey, who are called respondents

Experiments in marketing research are conducted in regard to every aspect of the marketing mix. Experiments are utilized to investigate product concept, product composition, product appearance, package sizes, colors, prices, distribution outlets, promotion alternatives, advertising appeals, advertising copy, overall effectiveness of different commercials, proper store shelf placement, and on and on. They also are utilized to investigate marketing functions such as professional selling techniques and sales management practices, and even to determine the best number of business-to-business (industrial) sales calls to make. In fact, whenever company management has a question about specific marketing management alternatives, such as one package size versus another, an experiment is likely applicable for investigating the answer. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect their use will increase in all areas, with the possible exception of test marketing. The reason is that company managements are inundated with cause-and-effect questions related to marketing mix variables, when, at the same time, no other research methodology provides as conclusive information about such causal relationships.

 

Marketing research routinely utilizes many types of data and information. The single most prevalent type is data and other pieces of information that were first collected for another purpose. When such data are used in a particular marketing research project, this use is then the second use and

the data are correspondingly referred to as secondary data. The most frequent application of secondary data in marketing research is to gain familiarity and to establish a context in which primary data are collected, analyzed, and reported, the problem is defined, and the research is designed. This application is a literature search, an examination of existing material, searching for information pertinent to the current marketing research project. Materials are typically scholarly journals, magazines, books, newspapers, and company records (accessed through computer data bases).

Secondary data can provide information about techniques and procedures for conducting marketing research. For example, these data can help determine language for communicating with the research sample members (i.e., vocabulary and grammar to use and not to use when attempting to communicate with research participants such as survey respondents or subjects in an experiment, which might be individuals, organizations, or other entities), questions and topics to avoid, problems likely to be encountered, and statistical techniques to employ.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary Data: The adage that there is no need to reinvent the wheel is pertinent to the role of secondary data within marketing research. Specifically, it is not necessary for marketing researchers to wait for (or pay for) a research project to collect primary data if the desired information already exists. Therefore, the two major advantages of secondary data over primary data are: Savings in time, and monetary savings.
Time Savings: Whoever performs marketing research activities, and whenever they are performed, time is required to plan and conduct them. Additional time for waiting is also required since some activities are sequential and dependent on the efforts and time commitments of other people and activities. With secondary data, the information already exists. Someone has performed the necessary activities earlier for either another purpose or another marketing research project. The time necessary to complete these activities was expended by someone else unrelated to the current marketing research project. Rather than going through the data collection steps, marketing researchers can simply access material such as computer databases, books, magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, and company records. The consequence is that once a user approves a marketing research project, the respective information (if it exists in the form of secondary data) will be available in less time than is possible (or practical) with primary data.
Money Savings: Whoever conducts them and whenever marketing research activities are performed, there are financial costs required to plan and conduct them. There is no free lunch, so to speak. Just as with the required activities and required amounts of time, someone must pay the financial costs. These costs can be shifted through using secondary data (although they cannot be eliminated). As a result, a large amount of the cost, and at times practically the entire cost, is shifted away from the marketing researchers involved with the current project, and therefore away from those who use this marketing research to assist their decision making. The consequence is that secondary data are generally much less expensive than primary information.
Who pays the original cost for secondary data if the costs charged to a current marketing research project are either greatly reduced or even waived completely? To begin, the costs associated with secondary data might be less than the costs associated with the same data collected at the time of a current marketing research project. In addition to the impact of time periods on cost for secondary data, the cost is also lower because payment can come from at least different three sources: government taxes, association dues, and shared charges.

Few things in life are perfect, and secondary data are no exception. While the cost of this information is low, in the worst-case scenario, its value may be as low as to have a zero or even negative value. The reason for this potentially low value is because there are disadvantages as well as advantages in using secondary data. The two major disadvantages pertain to relevance and accuracy. Lack of relevance and lack of accuracy in marketing research are associated with using secondary data rather than primary data. These disadvantages exist regardless of whether a marketing research project includes primary data. As a result, at times, not only may secondary data be of little or no assistance to a user of marketing research, they can actually be detrimental. Underlying both these disadvantages is a lack of control. People associated with a current marketing research project have no direct control over the original, now secondary, data. Thus, they are unable to exert control over either the type of data (relevance) or the way in which the data were collected (accuracy). Their only control is indirect, limited to deciding whether or not to use the data, or whether to use the data with qualifications.

Relevance: Secondary data, by definition, exist for a purpose other than the one. A consequent is that secondary data cannot be expected to be as relevant to a current marketing research project as primary data. A dimension of this lack of relevancy is that secondary data are often available in a more general form or a different format than desired for current marketing research project. The relevance of secondary data is a judgment made both by marketing researchers involved with the current research project and by those who use that research information to assist their decision making. The relevance of secondary data is not a yes-no judgment but instead spans a continuum ranging from highly relevant to the current marketing research project to not at all relevant. Even when the secondary data are judged to be highly relevant, they rarely provide the precise marketing research information desired by the user. Therefore, rather than sufficing as primary data, secondary data at the highly relevant end of the continuum are most useful in establishing the foundation and context for collecting and analyzing primary data. At the opposing end of the continuum, secondary data are not at all relevant and are likely to actually be a detriment if used in decision making. Secondary data between these two extremes are the most common in marketing research. These data are of varying value and must be used cautiously as their relevance permits.

Judgment about the relevance of secondary data is not necessarily a judgment about the information’s inherent quality. Since the data were collected for another purpose, the judgment is mostly about their application, fit, or suitability for the information needs of the current marketing research project. Typical considerations affecting the relevance of secondary data involve age of data, terms of data, and units of data.

Age of Data: Older data are generally not as pertinent to most marketing decisions as newer data. While many principles of marketing strategy remain relatively constant, there are rapid changes in the dynamic environments in which marketing functions. A market’s demographics change regularly, as do the preferences, beliefs, and attitudes of people within these markets. The age factor of secondary data is somewhat situational. Pieces of information, like most things in life, age at different rates. Marketing research information about a basic consumer behavior might still remain current after ten years, while similar information about a fad product might become outdated after a few weeks. Therefore, the relevance of the age of secondary depends on the type of marketing decision confronted by the user.

Secondary data, by definition, were collected at an earlier time than the time of the current marketing research project. These differences in time can lower the relevance of the information, but in some situations, this difference is unavoidable. When comprehensive population data are desired, the time to collect and process the information must be taken into account. If these time frames are not acceptable for the marketing decision at hand, other information must be sought. Government census information is valuable for marketing decision makers. However, given its volume and cost, even under the best of conditions it takes time for governments to provide this information. For example, in the mid-1990s the United States has about 260 million people and conducts a population census every ten years. It then takes the American government up to three years, and in some situations even more time, to release its official population census information.

Outline of the Marketing Research Process

1.
PROBLEM DEFINITION (OR DEFINE THE PROBLEM)

Research Objective(s) and Research Questions (Hypothesis)
2.
RESEARCH DESIGN (OR DESIGN THE RESEARCH)

Type of Data

Secondary and/or Primary

Qualitative and/or Quantitative

Syndicated, etc.

Sampling

Population

Type of Sampling Method/Type of Sample

Sampling Frame

Sample Size

Operational Procedures

Data Collection

Methodology (to access and record data)

Experiment, Survey, Observation

Tools, Forms, Questionnaires

Procedures, Personnel, Location, etc.

Data Analysis

Preparation, Investigation, Interpretation,

Report Presentation

Verbal and Written
At a simplistic level, qualitative methods tend to be associated with words as the unit of analysis, whereas quantitative methods tend to be linked with numbers. Whether researchers choose to apply qualitative or quantitative methods, each is often linked to a particular worldview related to the nature of knowledge. The qualitative, naturalistic approach is used when observing and interpreting reality with the aim of developing a theory that will explain what was experienced. The quantitative approach is used when one begins with a theory (or hypothesis) and tests for confirmation or disconfirmation of that hypothesis. It is important here to set the stage for abandoning the dichotomy. To do so, we examine a few of the key events in the chronicle of scientific evolution that established the debate in the first place. As long as one view of how we can explain the workings of the world reigns supreme, there is no debate. The debate rests on a dichotomy characterized by a lessening of the dominance of one paradigm over another, leveling the playing field so that the debate could occur. In fact, the debate may be but one more phase in the ebb and flow of an ever changing philosophy of knowledge.

Quantitative research, on the other hand, falls under the category of empirical studies, according to some, or statistical studies, according to others. These designs include the more traditional ways in which psychology and behavioral science have carried out investigations. where control of variables, randomization, and valid and reliable measures are required and where generalizability from the sample to the population is the aim. Data in quantitative studies are coded according to a priori operational and standardized definitions. It is necessary to adopt some standard by which one can measure whether the qualitative, the quantitative, or a continuum that includes both methodologies is the most effective mode in reaching truth. We assume the standard of science as a way of knowing.

 

When collecting data through human interaction, it is important to pay close attention to ethical issues because there are inherent problems and dilemmas related to the inductive and holistic nature of qualitative research. Because research is initially inductive, it is not always possible for you to fully inform participants in advance about the potential consequences of the research, or even the particular areas you intend to study because changes occur as your research unfolds. The holistic, humanistic nature of qualitative research means that you are involved in a relationship with research participants, in some cases this can become quite close and it is your personality, experiences and perceptions, together with your interaction with informants, that shapes what data are collected and how you interpret them. The Ford has experienced both the research methods but moving into details, mostly the research has taken the form of observations and one on one interviews.

Among ethical considerations are those concerning the intrusive nature of research and the welfare of participants. Unless you have acted honestly and in a trustworthy manner, your research will be unethical. The attainment of high standards of ethics in research should be an essential goal of any research project. This begins with a discussion with your research.

Some ethical dilemmas
·         You are carrying out a series of interviews with public relations consultants. You were given some information in a previous interview which, if released into the public arena, could seriously damage the reputation of your next interviewee. Should you tell her about it in the course of your interview? Should you include the information in your published research report?

·         Your research is in a sensitive area. You are unlikely to get access if you state your real purpose. Do you hide the goals of your research from informants and tell them you are studying something else?

·         You are likely to have difficulty gaining access for research if your potential informants realize they will be involved in a student project. Do you send an introductory letter on university letterhead, leaving out some of the details of your project, in the hope that they will think this is a university-funded project?

·         You are in the middle of an interview when your interviewee interrupts the conversation to take a telephone call. He presumes you have turned off your tape recorder and goes on to discuss some highly sensitive information which would be useful for your research. Do you use the information?

·         You have been granted access to shadow a public affairs director as she carries out her normal work routines. She goes to lunch and you are left alone in the office. There are confidential documents lying on her desk which would usefully inform your research. Should you read them? Should you photocopy them while she is out?

·         You are studying young people’s attitudes to brands. A tobacco company offers you $50,000 to sponsor your research. Do you take it?

 

Researchers often believe that it is sufficient to deal with ethical considerations only at the planning stage of their work. However, ethical problems occur right through the research process. Unless you have explained the steps you took to deal with these, then your work is inadequate. A good example is the research that is just conducted over Ford Company, the information that is written in this report on the basis of research. The checklist is liable to get all the ticks because there is nothing to hide in this research. A list that is prepared keeping the ethics in view is,

·         Ethical problems and dilemmas are inherent in any qualitative research that you undertake.

·         They should be articulated and addressed in the planning, process and outcome stages of research.

·         In the initial stages of research, ethical problems and dilemmas relate to how you recruit participants, deal with gatekeepers and negotiate access.

·         The basic principles which provide guidelines for conducting research ethically include: the right of free and informed choice, protection from harm to individuals and equipment, privacy, involving guarantees of anonymity and confidentiality, autonomy, involving informed consent and debriefing opportunities, honesty, concerning issues of omission, and interpretation, as well as problems in covert research and issues of ownership and public access.

 

Many marketing research techniques can help brand management succeed, from brand positioning and brand introductions to brand extensions. Positioning concept tests obtain consumer responses to written descriptions or mock-ups of packages of products under development. Attitude ratings, likes and dislikes, and intention to buy are related to a control product or other norm to learn if the new product might succeed. Simulated market tests involve personal interviews after consumers are made aware of different product concepts based on advertising and given “money” with which to buy those products they want in a simulated store. The goal is to measure purchase intent in a simulated market environment, and it can be used to test various components of a marketing plan. We are beginning to see some of these techniques migrate to the Internet.

Even when a product isn’t that different from the competitors’, branding can personify the differentiated positioning so crucial in helping it stand out. Research is essential to identify the benefits that will differentiate your brand for maximum profit. Techniques such conjoint analysis enable you to sort through the possibilities to construct the best possible benefit bundle. Perceptual mapping enables you to see where your brand fits into the customer’s mind, and other mapping techniques show where your product fits into the customer’s life. Research enables you to sift and evaluate, searching for the greatest appeal to the greatest flow of profit. Convenience, functionality, durability, prestige, efficiency, speed which is the glue that will bond your brand to the most profitable consumer segment? Of course if conducting a research for company like Ford, the respondents would naturally have a different perception due to company’s image based on features, therefore the positioning has a direct relation with marketing research. The recent positioning strategy of Ford Company is related to the Internet positioning. The company is providing the customers with an ease of experiencing the Ford cars online. In recommendation, it is fair to bring the cars in reality to the customers in a way that every body can see them live, the company has although positioned itself in many other ways as well such as providing the customer the finance facility to buy the car but there is nothing more important than making the customer feel the car personally, test drives are not available at every showroom but it is company’s responsibility to bring such test drives to every critical location where the company can generate sales.

 

Positioning a New Brand with Research: Let us share how one research tool might be used if management wanted to know how a new brand should be added to its line. Discrete choice analysis is a favorite technique among marketing researchers, providing models of which product a consumer is most likely to choose given attributes of a set of alternative products from which he or she can select. These attributes typically include such key marketing variables as features, packaging, pricing, and promotions, all elements of brand positioning. Consequently, marketing managers can use choice models to assess the impact of given sets of features, types of packaging, pricing, or promotional strategies on consumer choice behavior. The whole of the marketing mix is important in developing effective positioning, as attributes of the offering must be closely in line with the targeted customers’ expectations and needs, as must the associated price points and channels of distribution. However, promotional activity is one of the fundamental elements of creating an effective positioning, as it is through promotion that the positioning is communicated to the target audience. It is a point where Ford has to work on.

References
Malhotra N.K., “Marketing Research”, (n.p): Pearson, 2004.

 

Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (1990), “Marketing: An introduction”, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

 

The Ford Company, <<www.ford.com>>.

 

 

 

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