29 Jan 2010

Sample Essay: The Marketing Game: A Strategic Tool for Managers in the 21st Century Market Place

The rapidly changing and turbulent economic environment of today requires companies and enterprises to implement responsive, relevant marketing strategies to survive and grow in whatever industry they are in.  These strategies are necessary to address intense competition; changing market behavior and preferences; and the emergence of new products and technologies that change the dynamics of the marketplace.  Indeed, the main competitive factor for success in many companies in today’s environment lies in the formulation and implementation of effective marketing strategies that focus on consumer analysis, competition analysis, and industry assessment, and the appropriate marketing mix involving target market strategy, product development, pricing, promotions, and place.  Ultimately, the entrepreneur or corporate manager who best understands the dynamics of the market stands to succeed and profit the most in the long-term.

In recent years, business and marketing tools have been invented to assist business strategists, entrepreneurs, and managers on how to plot market strategies.  One of the most recent is called The Marketing Game (TMG) developed by Charlotte Mason and William Perreault, Jr. This marketing simulation game has attracted hordes of users for its applicability, flexibility, and systematic approach to market strategy formulation.

The Marketing Game or TMG

The marketing tool called TMG is considered an effective marketing strategy program or framework because it allows users to strategize using simulated, relevant business conditions.  As explained by Dr. P.V. Balakrishnan (2007) in his marketing presentation entitled Marketing Management Laboratory BBUS 438 for the University of Washington, the TMG aims to accomplish the following objectives:

To develop skills in identifying market opportunities, encompass knowledge of and the ability to apply key marketing frameworks and tools in analyzing customers, competition, and marketing strengths and weaknesses;

To develop insights about creative selection of target markets and making integrated strategy decisions concerning product, price, promotion, place, and the needs of the target market;

To develop skills in marketing analysis; and to provide meaningful and practical experience in translating qualitative and quantitative analysis into conclusions about profitable marketing strategies and programs.

A key feature of the TMG program is that it incorporates all the elements needed in a game environment in the same manner as sports.  In particular, as described by Balakrishnan (2007), the TMG adheres to the key elements of sports namely players, tools, grounds, scoring systems, and umpires.  In relating sports to business, Balakrishnan (2007) describes the players as competitors; the marketing mix, factories, and distribution systems as the tools; the markets are the grounds on which the game is played; share prices and market shares are the scoring systems,; and the regulators are the umpires.  Fundamentally, the TMG is designed to allow users to engage in market and strategy planning activities in a simulated, competitive environment using a rapid feedback mechanism (Balakrishnan, 2007).

The Applicability of TMG

One of the main strengths of the TMG as a market planning tool is its applicability.  In particular, the program attempts to approximate a real business situation in need of strategic market planning.  Thus, as explained by Prof. A.J. Otjen of the Montana State University College of Business University, the TMG presents a “living case where you learn about a situation, evaluate opportunities, develop a strategy, and make market plan decisions (Otjen, 2009).”  She   also harps on the game’s computer modeled feedback mechanism that summarizes marketing outcomes, related financial results, based on both the plan and competitors decisions (Otjen, 2009).

Thus, as explained by both Balakrishnan (2007) and Otjen (2009), an essential attribute of the TMG is that is captures the highly competitive nature of a business environment.  More importantly, the game requires that users, who can be entrepreneurs or corporate managers, to examine and assess a variety of factors affecting a company in relation to the industry it operates in.  In effect, the TMG adheres to one of the most authoritative business and management strategy thinkers in the person of Michael E. Porter, who developed a comprehensive framework to analyze the competitive environment found in industries.  Specifically, Porter, from his book entitled Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance (1985), developed the Five Forces Theory of industry structure.  In this theory, the competitive environment in the industry emanates from the bargaining power of suppliers, the threat of substitutes, the potential entrants to the industry, the bargaining power of buyers, and the intensity of rivalry among existing firms (Porter, 1985).  Basically, these five forces influence each other, and consequently, firms in a given industry operate and create marketing strategies in response to the competitive pressures of the industry and the competition.  This view is echoed by Otjen (2009) in describing the TMG as quote as follows:

…The simulation is competitive, and you must carefully analyze what marketing mixes competitors are offering or what customers they are targeting because that obviously impacts the strengths and weaknesses of your firm and choices that customers have in the market…

Therefore, from a strategic perspective, the TMG clearly defines the relationship between the uncontrollable factors in the industry or marketplace and the controllable factors a firm can manipulate.  In particular, Balakrishnan (2007) explains that the TMG considers such independent variables as competition, consumer tastes, the regulatory environment, and economic, social and cultural factors to have an effect on the marketing strategies of the firm.  In turn, these strategies are aimed to elicit behavioral responses on the part of the customer namely product awareness, brand loyalty, and consequently, product purchase.  In the end, the firm measures the effectiveness of its marketing strategies through specific indicators such as sales, profits, return on investment, market share, among others.

A Systematic Approach to Market Planning

To appreciate the value of the TMG, one must examine the systematic manner in which the game process was designed.  As derived from Otjen (2009), the TMG process flow is illustrated in Figure 1 below.  Basically, the player of the TMG assumes the position of the marketing manager in charge of all the marketing initiatives of a given firm.  Consequently, as explained by Balakrishnan (2007), the game begins with an analysis of the market situation and a determination of market opportunities.  In this phase, the business manager examines the industry environment or market place environment to determine such vital trends as industry growth, customer behavior and trends, technological factors affecting the industry, the competitive environment, among other key market conditions.  After assessing the market place and identifying programs to tap into market segments, the manager is then compelled to engage in sales planning and budgeting in view of the products and services to be introduced in the marketplace.  In the sales planning stage, the manager needs to account for the product’s market share data and forecasted volume of demand per customer segment and distributional channel.  Meanwhile, the budgeting process includes the determination of the necessary costs to be incurred in positioning and introducing the product in the market place.  Budgeting items may include salaries, research and development (R&D) costs, advertising and sales promotions, expenses, customer service expenses, market research reports expenses, and so on.

Once the forecasts have been derived, the manager then formulates and calibrates the marketing plan, which is basically composed of the four P’s of marketing namely product, price, place, and promotions.  For product strategies, the manager decides upon the relevant product attributes that correspond to what the market needs and differentiate these from those offered by the competitors.  In this stage, the manager should already know what kind of product positioning he or she want to establish in the market place.  Consequently, manager then calculates and sets the appropriate price for the product.  In this stage, the manager determines the product cost and retail prices.  In determining the price of products, a manager would have to consider the product’s image or value in the eyes of the customer.  Consequently, the manager then identifies the distribution strategy, by analyzing and determining the appropriate distribution channels per channel or account.  The manager then formulates a promotions plan that includes advertising strategies and activities.  In each of the marketing mix elements, the manager makes use of well-organized templates and fields where data and information are imputed and processed.

Once the marketing mix has been determined, the manager then subjects the plan to the simulation phase.  In this stage, the manager receives constant feedback concerning the reactions and competitive environment in the simulated market place.  The feedback comes from customers, competitors, the regulators, and the other forces present in the simulated market place.  After assessing the feedbacks in relation to the marketing mix, the manager then makes the final marketing plan and submits it.  Subsequently, the marketing reports are then sent back to firms and the next cycle of marketing decisions, as prescribed by the TMG program, commences.

Throughout the TMG process, the manager is assisted on each of the market planning stages clearly and systematically.  This systematic, yet easy to use process applied in the TMG is enhanced using computer and Internet technology.  Furthermore, the player is assisted by built-in tools to generate illustrative aids such as graphs, charts, figures, diagrams, and other features to produce professional market reports.

Fundamentally, the iterative cycle inherent in the TMG module reflects the flexibility of the program.  In actual business situations, market trends are always in a state of flux.  Products and services change depending on the so many forces such as client preferences, technology, new inventions, economic instability, and so on.  Given this reality, the TMG trains users to be nimble, innovative, and multifaceted in terms of strategic thinking.  The range of factors and variables accounted for users playing the TMG are numerous indeed.  For example, on the aspect of competitor analysis alone, the user would have to consider the competitors past, present, and future strategies, their market positioning in various market segments, their financial performance, and a host of other factors.  Users playing the TMG would also need to conduct comparative analysis of competitors in matrix format comparing sales, products, sales representatives, market shares per channel, and a host of other variables.  Another example is the pricing strategy.  In this aspect, the user needs to consider such factors as production costs, investments in machinery and assets, economies of scale, as well as customer perception of the product’s value and image.

Meanwhile, product positioning strategies also require that a TMG player knows what makes his or her products superior to competitors and what kind of products fit into a particular customer segment.  Essentially, with so many variables and interrelationships to examine in the simulated market place, plus the fact that the system is designed to account for changes in the market place, users of the TMG are bound to develop in-depth, critical thinking skills.

Figure 1: TMG Process Flow (Source:  Prof. A.J. Otjen, Montana State University College, 2009)

Analysis of market situation/ opportunities

Planning and budgeting

Make marketing plan decisions

The marketing game simulation

Company reports returned to firms

Conclusion

The TMG strategy program offers corporate managers with a relevant, responsive and systematic approach to market planning and strategy.  The program is very much applicable in today’s uncertain, fast changing economic environment because it conditions managers to think strategically and critically.  In effect, the program reduces the danger of managers confining their analysis on just one or two elements of the marketing analysis, thereby allowing them to forge sound, detailed, and effective strategies.  Consequently, the program’s systematic process flow enables users to develop the marketing plan in its fullness, thus minimizing the risk of overlooking a key step in the market planning process.   Another significant feature of the TMG is that it is designed to accommodate game situations and therefore offers users with an exciting, challenging, and highly engaging market planning experience.

In the final analysis, the TMG is a valuable training and strategizing tool for managers examining the business landscape in the 21st century.  Amidst the current economic recession, managers need to be aided by tools that allow them to craft holistic marketing strategies effectively and swiftly.

Reference List:

Balakrishnan, P.V 2007.  “Marketing Laboratory BBUS 438,” A marketing presentation for the
Business Administration Program of the University of Washington Otjen, A.j. 2009

The Marketing Game! Viewed 9 April, 2009,
<http://www.msubillings.edu/businessfaculty/otjen/index2.html>

Porter, M 1985.  “Competitive Advantage:  Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance,”
The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan, Inc.

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