The major marketing concept of customer orientation still seems
to be a valid reference point. In the contemporary over-informed,
over-stressed and hedonistic consumer society the customer is the one
who decides to purchase a product, to be loyal to a brand or to switch
to a competitor. We may agree, therefore, that “the need for such a
[customer] focus has not changed” (Holland and Baker, 2001:44). The
exchange value concept, however, might have been rendered obsolete by
the “postmodern manoeuvre in marketing and consumer research” (Brown,
in Baker, 2003:25). Let us assume that value may be created “during
consumption, in sign-value” and not in “exchange-value, as modern
economists claimed” (Baudrillard, in Firat and Venkatesh, 1993:235). In
such a way the emphasis is on the customer’s personal experience and on
the view, that “the value of consumption comes from the consumer
experience” (Addis and Podesta, 2005:404).
According to the traditional theory, consumers are identified,
targeted and acquired through a set of strategic tools such as
segmentation, targeting and positioning. Different techniques and
approaches based on statistical, “psychological, sociological, and
economic principles and models” (Addis and Podesta, 2005:389) have been
employed in service of these concepts. While these techniques are still
in use, a number of processes and mainly the fragmentation of markets
will gradually render the traditional bases of segmentation
(demographics and psychographics) questionable and “even the more
recent typologies” like VALS will be “less and less useful” (Firat and
Shultz II, 1997:196).
Additional challenges faced by marketing research specialists
poses the fact that “within the field of qualitative research it is
widely recognised that there is no single uniform manner for
representing consumer experiences” in postmodern, consumer society
(Goulding, 2003:152). The typical roles of researcher and respondent
have also changed and the research process is characterised by
increased collaboration. Furthermore, the Internet demands that
researchers adjust to the new forms of communication by adopting new
methods such as “lurking”, “online community”, “netnography” and others
(Cova and Pace, 2006:1092).
As a result, in today’s fragmented markets reality where “segments
are breaking up into individual customers” (Firat and Shultz II,
1997:196), “the modern tools of sociological analysis” become outdated
(Cova 1996:19). While quantitative research is still widely in use, an
array of qualitative techniques are been preferred to “fill the gap” in
the knowledge about the postmodern consumer. Among the most frequently
mentioned are ethnography, fiction, discourse analysis, personal
introspection, and in-depth interviewing (Addis and Podesta, 2005:406).
Since purchases, branding and communications are all moving
online, scholars have begun defining the Internet Marketing
Segmentation (IMS). One such definition follows:
“IMS is the use of current information technology to classify
potential or actual online customers into groups in which the consumers
have similar requirements and characteristics” (Lin et al., 2004:602).
Definitions of that sort, alluring as they may look, are simply
old concepts in new clothes and some make-up. More important is that
new approaches like online ethnography, or netnography are being
increasingly used as appropriate research methods (Cova and Pace, 2006;
Maclaran and Catterall, 2002). Companies would need to resort to
guerrilla tactics and employ people proficient in areas such as online
community engineering. Phenomena like brand hijack (Cova and Pace,
2006:1094) and decisions on how much power should be given to consumers
will eventually speed up the trends that shape contemporary research.
The marketing communication concepts of mass marketing and mass
advertising have also been a subject to considerable revision. The
so-called mass customisation has been boosted by the use of email
marketing, database marketing, RSS and others. The processes of
fragmentation and post-consolidation have given birth to new concepts
like tribal marketing (Cova, 1996:21). Mass advertising and the
one-to-many, one-way linear communications have given way to
one-to-one, many-to-many, two-way, non-linear communication flow (Holt,
2002; Maclaran and Catterall, 2002). The Internet has brought also the
idea of suck as opposed to the traditional push and pull (Travis,
2001:16). The levels of interactivity have changed “the nature of
advertising from persuasion to relationships” (Philport and Arbittier,
1997:75) and the efficacy of advertising itself has been questioned.
The title of the article “Stop Advertising – Start Staging Marketing
Experiences” by Pine II and Gilmore (Strategic Horizons LLP, accessed
10th January 2009) is self-explanatory.
Schmitt (1999:53) argues that three trends in the broad commercial
environment have caused a paradigm shift from traditional
“features-and-benefits” marketing toward “experiential marketing”:
– The omnipresence of information technology;
– The supremacy of the brand;
– The ubiquity of communications and entertainment.
While agreeing with Schmitt’s ideas I would also add to the frame
the influence of postmodern consumer behaviour. Therefore, reference
points for future research are:
– Postmodern condition;
– Experiential marketing;
– Internet as a new branding tool;
– Customer-based brand equity.
Addis, M. and Podesta, S.
(2005). Long Life to Marketing Research: A Postmodern View, European
Journal of Marketing, Vol. 39. No. 3/4, pp. 386-412.
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Forms of Customer Empowerment – The Case “my Nutella The Community”,
European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40, No. 9/10, pp. 1087-1105.
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Firat, A.F. and
Venkatesh, A. (1993). Postmodernity: The Age of Marketing,
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Marketing, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 34-45.
Holt, D.B. (2002). Why Do
Brands Cause Trouble? A Dialectical Theory of Consumer Culture and
Branding, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 29. No. 1, pp. 70-90.
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Philport, J.C. and
Arbitter, J. (1997). Advertising: Brand Communication Styles in
Established Media and the Internet, Journal of Advertising Research,
Vol. 37 No.2, pp. 68-77.
Strategic Horizons LLP, ‘Stop
Advertising – Start Staging Marketing Experiences’ by Pine II, B.J. and
Gilmore, J. H. Online. Available at:
(accessed 10th January 2009).
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Schmitt, B. (1999). Experiential Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 15, No. 1-3, pp. 53-67.
Yordanof is in the tourism business since 1996. His main interests are
in Internet Marketing and more specifically Branding in the Hospitality
Industry. Boyan is an Internet Marketing Executive at RIU Seabank Hotel
Personal URL: http://www.yordanof.com