The McKinsey Quarterly has an excerpt from a new book “Profiting from Proliferation” by David Court, Tom French, and Trond Riiber Knudsen. The book discusses “how companies should respond to the challenges posed by rising complexity in today’s marketing environmentwhich is characterized by increasingly fragmented customer segments, the declining effectiveness of traditional media, and a constantly expanding number of distribution touchpoints.”
The scope of today’s marketing challenge is breathtaking, and proliferation is the reason. Recent advances in technology, information, communications, and distribution have created an explosion of new customer segments, sales and service channels, media, marketing approaches, products, and brands. But despite better customer information management and lower communications costs, marketing to consumers and businesses is becoming more complex and difficult every day. Marketerseven the most sophisticatedare struggling to keep up.
To understand the full impact of proliferation, consider the wireless-telecommunications market. Carriers used to manage 3 demographically oriented consumer segments; today they manage more than 20 need- and value-based ones. Rather than view baby boomers as a single segment, the industry has created 6 or 8 subsegments, differentiated by their usage tendencies and product needs. The number of discrete offerings has ballooned into the hundreds: prepaid and postpaid calling plans; family-friendly and nights-and-weekend plans; text-, data-, and messaging-capable mobile telephones; video and music phones; and so on. The number of distribution touchpoints has increased from three to more than ten, including company-owned stores, shared and exclusive dealers, telemarketing agents, affinity partners, and the Web. As a result of customer-specific service bundles, the number of price points exceeds 500,000. And the number of communications vehicles will continue to grow dramatically as event marketing, viral marketing, product placement, and other approaches augment traditional media such as television, whose effectiveness is under assault.