Part one of this article elaborated on the traditional 4 Ps of the marketing mix which include the components price, product, promotion, and place––see here. Part two continues the discussion and elaborates on the extension to 8 Ps, namely people, physical evidence, process management, and productivity and quality. Examples and explanations will be set in the context of sports brands.
The people component of the marketing mix considers two perspectives: The first perspective refers to internal marketing and the importance of employees to marketing success of an organisation; in the second perspective, brands should view consumers as people with a specific lifestyle and understand their wants and needs; they should not just see them as consumers with whom they undertake a simple monetary transaction (Kotler and Keller, 2012). Lovelock et al., (2008, p. 1/21) add that “Customers will often judge the quality of the service they receive largely on their assessment of the people providing the service”, which leads to the notion that recruiting, training and motivating personnel is crucial for the sustainable success of a company and the products it offers. Furthermore, people provide and receive brand experiences and, therefore, all stakeholders involved with a brand should be considered in the conceptualisation of marketing and communications campaigns (Schmitt, 1999). This includes employees producing, supporting, and delivering products and services, as well as people supporting any kind of operation online or even a brand’s fans and followers on social media who co-create the experience with their engagement and contributions (Bühler and Nufer, 2013). In the sports industry, players, coaches, executives, and broadcasters connect fans to the brand and could therefore be considered marketing assets (Fetchko et al., 2019). Similarly, in business-to-business (B2B) operations, business partners, clients, goods and facilities producers, and supporting services providers are stakeholders that need to be considered within the people component (Ferrand and McCarthy, 2009). Although the key term B2B refers to two companies doing business together, it is crucial to understand that the business partnership or transaction is effectuated between people.
Emotions can be evoked through face-to-face interaction (Schmitt, 1999). For example, a brand could employ a host with strong ties to the brand and its brand community when creating videos for its digital communications channels; this host should radiate a certain personality appealing to the target audience with credibility and familiarity (Fetchko et al., 2019). A possible fictitious example in sports could be that DAZN, a sports streaming platform, would employ former professional boxer and heavyweight champion Mike Tyson to talk about boxing in a podcast or other digital content.
Schmitt (1999) further mentions that “Interactions do not occur in a social vacuum” (p. 167), which implies a direct co-creation of the brand experience between consumers and brands. In the context of events that take place in a venue (not online), this means that the atmosphere in the venue is created between the brand providing the experience and the people in the audience (Bühler and Nufer, 2013). For example: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), a sports entertainment organiser, could be organising an event like Wrestlemania, which comes to life because of the production of the WWE and the cheering of the thousands of people in the stands. In the digital age, an online brand experience can also be created by encouraging fans and followers to engage and contribute with comments and further user-generated content to the experience across social media (Sutera, 2013). Such fan engagement can bolster the attachment of users towards a brand online and increase brand loyalty (cf. Brakus et al., 2009; Newman et al., 2013). This is especially crucial in a post-Covid-19 lockdown world, where event experiences need to be considered without audiences in a venue.
Digital communication channels offer convenient access and great influence in connecting people virtually (Sutera, 2013). Such social influence between a brand’s fans can be reinforced by establishing an ‘Us vs. Them’ environment (Schmitt, 1999). In sports and any other industry, club (or brand) affiliation of fans can be based on shared attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours, which fuel self-categorization of individuals and lead to associate with like-minded and disassociate with unlike-minded people (Yocco, 2016). The example of Nike’s Black Lives Matter campaign shows how the brand clearly positions itself and influences its fans to do the same (Nike.com, 2020). The Multiple In-group Identity Framework by Lock and Funk (2016) explains how fans of a brand can be categorised within three groups with different degrees of inclusiveness:
- the ‘superordinate’ group expresses the most inclusive behaviour to include all fans and consumers; it could be considered the traditional idea of team and brand identity;
- the ‘subgroup’ offers more possibilities for social exchanges with other fans and consumers than the ‘superordinate’ group, because of its inherent physical proximity, but is less inclusive due to a more close-knit circle of its members; and
- the ‘relational’ group offers most possibilities for social exchanges, due to its members knowing each other and possibly being part of each other’s social circles outside of the sport or brand community; nevertheless, because of these reasons, this group is the least inclusive group.
Lovelock et al. (2008, p. 1/22) note that “the appearance of buildings, landscaping, vehicles, interior furnishing, equipment, staff members, signs, printed materials and other visible cues all provide tangible evidence” of a company’s existence and service quality; in addition, physical evidence affects the impression consumers have of a brand and, therefore, environmental factors need to be carefully managed and developed. Al-Dmour et al. (2013) refer to Akroush and Al-Dmour (2006) and depict four question-items that can be used in a quantitative study to assess the perception of how a brand’s physical evidence would affect brand equity: (1) “The staff appears in attractive uniforms.” (2) “Public facilities (i.e.: waiting space, queuing arrangements, etc.) of the company are comfortable and attractive.” (3) “My [product or service] provider uses modern and sophisticated equipment.” (4) “The overall atmosphere is comfortable.”
It could be argued that these tangible aspects should be considered in the conceptualisation of aesthetics in the augmented product (see product component in part 1), but the importance of environmental factors is simply too significant. A further essential perspective to be considered is that the above-mentioned items may have an impact on the communication through digital channels. For example, (1) introducing a dress code or specific uniforms for all staff and helpers could intensify the brand experience (Schmitt, 1999). A good example is provided by Sky Sports in Germany, a sports broadcaster. In select shows, commentators and guests follow the same dress code, which consists of a plain shirt and (usually) dark pants; the Sky Sports logo is discretely positioned on the left-hand side on the chest; see Figure 1. An exception is the different shirt-colour of the female host. It could be assumed that it is a calculated exception. Nevertheless, her dress code follows a business casual style. Also, public facilities are crucial when visiting a store, shopping mall, or experiencing a sporting event (Fullerton, 2010). Similarly, (2) it can be argued that such a sensory experience is equally important in an online setting, which entails offering an appealing sensory online experience (Khan et al., 2016). This may refer to an attractive website design (Palmer, 2002) or a convenient user interface for most comfortable user experience (Ryan, 2016), to name a few. Regarding (3) ‘modern and sophisticated equipment’, it can be assumed that consumers expect contemporary and not antiquated equipment or software. An example in the digital age could include an easy to navigate and responsive website design (Kim, 2013). If users find it hard to navigate the ‘virtual facilities’ of a brand, they may not enjoy the experience (Khan et al., 2016). Another example could be the usability of a streaming app or platform such as Netflix or, for example in the sports industry, DAZN or NBA TV. Lastly, (4) the degree of the ‘overall atmosphere’ could be improved by providing consumers a satisfying brand experience, which is based upon the preceding three items. Coming back to the previous example of Sky Sports, if (1) their commentators and staff provide a congruent sensory experience, (2) their production consistently follows the same branding aesthetics, and (3) the provided user experience on desktop, tablet, and smart phone is convenient, comfortable, and of highest quality, then (4) the physical evidence will please consumers, who may in turn tell others about the satisfying experience, i.e. enhance word-of-mouth.
According to Lovelock et al. (2008, p. 1/23), “Creating and delivering product elements to customers requires the design and implementation of effective processes. A process describes the method and sequence of actions in which service operating systems work. Badly designed processes are likely to annoy customers when the latter experience slow, bureaucratic and ineffective service delivery. Similarly, poor processes make it difficult for front-line staff to do their jobs well, result in low productivity and increase the likelihood of service failures.” Furthermore, processes can affect the delivery and, thus, the perceived quality of a product or service, which consequently can hurt relationships with customers, especially, if these are poorly delivered or of low quality (Kotler and Keller, 2012).
In services marketing, the delivery of services and products can be undertaken through tangible or intangible actions and be directed at people’s bodies (people processing) or minds (mental processing stimulus), or they can be directed at people’s possessions (possession processing) or assets (information processing) (Lovelock et al., 2008):
People processing implicates tangible actions that are undertaken to a physically present customers, who obtains benefits of the purchased product. In sports, for example, this could entail involving fans at a sporting event, such as an ice hockey match, for stadium choreography. One of the benefits of attending such an event is for attendees to participate and contribute to the stadium atmosphere. It could be seen as an augmented product that delivers a tangible benefit. Another example is the provision of food and drinks at a venue. In a digital setting, people processing could entail, for example, active engagement by the brand through social media with viewers of an event (Sutera, 2013), which became even more important after the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020. Certain sports organisations took this a step further after governments around the world banned fans from attending live events. For example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) set up digital screens in stadiums to include virtual fans via livestream (NBA.com, 2020). For these kinds of processes, the marketer’s task is to assess and define the necessary steps to, for example, make such a choreography work or make sure virtual fans have an enjoyable livestream experience and deliver the service at a satisfying quality.
Possession processing involves tangible actions that are made to physical possessions of customers; this could include any value-adding activity occuring during the lifetime of the physical or digital possession. For example: In regard to merchandise for team sports entertainment, such an action could include adding a number and athlete name onto a jersey. Another example would be the repair and maintenance of sporting equipment like a mountain bike or race bike. When looking at digital services and products, possession processing can entail an account upgrade from, for example, a basic package at Sky Sports, which covers German and English football, to an extension that broadcasts all Swiss ice hockey league matches; or it could entail a downgrade, if a viewer is not interested in a specific offer any longer. Similarly, an important process for digital platforms is the proactive update of software and apps in order to provide the best possible delivery of its digital service. However, depending on the perspective, such an update may be categorised as information processing (see below.)
Mental stimulus processing. According to Lovelock et al. (2008, p. 2/8), “Mental stimulus processing refers to intangible actions directed at people’s minds. Services in the mental stimulus processing category include entertainment, spectator sports events, theatrical performances and education. In such instances, customers must be present mentally but can be located either in a specific service facility or in a remote location connected by broadcast signals or telecommunication linkages.” Probably the most obvious example in sports for entertainment purposes could include delivering a sporting event like a football match or a UFC fight to a viewer in the venue, via TV, or through online streaming. However, watching a sporting event for educational purposes could also be included in this category; for example, watching a figure skating competition for the athletic performance in order to learn new moves, requires viewers to ‘think’ while absorbing and processing the new the material, before putting it into action (cf. Pine and Gilmore, 1999). A further product or service directed at people’s minds could entail advertising activities. Based on the premise that advertising may mainly have great influence in establishing brand awareness, brand imagery, and eliciting emotions (Batra and Keller, 2016), it can be argued that Nike’s 2020 campaign ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ achieves the above-mentioned goals. It depicts a variety of sports, athletes, and places it is involved with, it positions its brand to create an unmistakable image, and, consequently, it evokes strong emotions through its outspoken commitment to various contemporary issues such as #BlackLivesMatter and other movements (see video below). Although this processing type is based upon intangible actions, Sisodia and Chowdhary (2012) found that the use of tangible clues in advertisements are essential when communicating with target audiences to make core products and benefits comprehensible and create stronger association between recipients and the brand or company. Based upon that it could be reasoned that tangible clues may be essential in the communication of sporting events, because the main product is a competition between two or more parties taking place in a specific venue, which can be used in storytelling of the brand to strengthen the brand’s narrative (Yocco, 2016), which, again, is an action directed at the recipient’s mind.
Information processing involves intangible actions directed at consumers’ assets, which may comprise operations such as data processing, billing, consulting, etc. Traditionally, the information processing model was conceptualised upon the proposition that the more uncertain a task is, the more information has to flow between decision makers during the performance of the task in order to achieve a certain level of quality; however, if the task is clear from the beginning, it can be pre-planned, saving time and effort (Galbraith, 1974). Hence, it is recommendable for the product or service to follow a clearly structured and transparent process that eliminates any kind of uncertainty, which will diminish the need for users to contact a customer care hotline. An example can include the billing of an online service like sports broadcaster DAZN: The platform may offer various ways to pay for the service, such as monthly payments through a credit card or PayPal. Offering a clear explanation of how the transaction occurs, limits uncertainty on the side of the customer and heightens trust that the process will be properly executed every month (cf. Yocco, 2016). The same can be applied to any other information processing. According to Sisodia and Chowdhary (2012), this category focuses on visualization, which leads to the notion that visuals may help better deliver messages with more informative character. Based upon that, the ubiquity of digital media and the channels accessible to distribute messages enable users to gather and share information with little or no effort (Sutera, 2013). At the same time, users expect that information can be found and understood with the least possible effort (cf. Galbraith, 1974), which is where Galbraith’s (1974) proposition of a transparent and certain information process becomes relevant in a digital context again.
Productivity and Quality
The last of the 8 Ps has been named differently across various literature, e.g. performance (Kotler and Keller, 2012), personalisation (Goldsmith, 1999), and productivity and quality (Lovelock et al., 2008). The following section introduces three perspectives and combines them to offer a final position on the productivity and quality element.
Kotler and Keller (2012) “define performance as in holistic marketing, to capture the range of possible outcome measures that have financial and nonfinancial implications (profitability as well as brand and customer equity), and implications beyond the company itself (social responsibility, legal, ethical, and community related)” (p. 26; italics added). This definition sets marketing into a broader context and underlines the importance it has on the overall outcome of a company’s activities viewed from an internal and external perspective. A different view is offered by Goldsmith (1999), who speaks of the ‘new marketing responsibility’ and contends, “the Personalisation decision is so important that is should be among the first decisions managers make so that the degree and nature of product personalisation should guide subsequent marketing decisions” (p. 179; italics added). This means that the opportunity for potential buyers to personalise a brand’s products or services will offer a unique product for every individual consumer. Lastly, Lovelock et al. (2008, p. 1/21; italics added) largely combine both arguments and posit, “Productivity relates to how inputs are transformed into outputs that are valued by customers, while quality refers to the degree to which a service satisfies customers by meeting their needs, wants and expectations. Improving productivity is essential to keep costs under control, but managers must beware of making inappropriate cuts in service levels that are resented by customers (and perhaps by employees, too). Service quality, as defined by customers, is essential for product differentiation and for building customer loyalty. However, investing in quality improvement without understanding the trade-off between incremental costs and incremental revenues may place the profitability of the firm at risk.”
The key take-away from the three definitions above is that productivity and perceived quality may increase, if brands offer personalisation opportunities to users and consumers, which in a digital society equals additional interaction and engagement possibilities with the brand through digital channels. This notion finds indirect support in the Experiential Marketing concept from Schmitt (1999), in which interactive campaigns are intended to add experiential value to a brand experience and bolster brand satisfaction and enhance brand loyalty. This is also highlighted by Pine and Gilmore (1998, p. 102), who write that “Escapist experiences can teach just as well as educational events can, or amuse just as well as entertainment, but they involve greater customer immersion; acting in a play, playing in an orchestra, or descending the Grand Canyon involve both active participation and immersion in the experience.” Therefore, it can be deduced that involving users and consumers in the co-creation process of a product or a brand experience shall empower them, make them feel more connected to the brand community, and ultimately an integral part of the brand.
Ramaswamy (2008) suggests that co-creation between a brand and its customers should be based upon the DART model, which includes
- dialogue between the brand and users, as well as between users (how to communicate);
- access between the brand and users (how to receive and experience product or service);
- risk-return for both users and the brand, because the personalisation of a product or service can reduce the risk that a customer may not like the product, since it was co-created by the user; similarly, the company lowers the risk of losing a customer, because the perceived quality of the product is higher since the customer enhanced it herself; and
- transparency of information, possibilities and opportunities for users.
In sports, this could include shopping for merchandise online, for example in the Juventus FC online store: Dialoguewould expect the possibility for users and the brand to talk to each other through a website chat option; similarly, dialogue between users could be offered through comments on shopping items. This could be of help when a potential customer has a question about an item or wants to consult comments of previous buyers. Unfortunately, none of these features were found while randomly picking the item ‘Juventus Third Authentic Jersey 2020/21’ and looking at the site (see here; accessed 30 August 2020). Access refers to how the product or service shall be received and experienced. In the case of the above-mentioned jersey, this could include the shopping experience offered to users, such as how easy it is to navigate through the online shop, find and alter features, or how much fun it is to shop on the website (Palmer, 2002). A further perspective could be the ease of access to the website for shopping purposes from a smart phone; a responsive website design would be expected for a better user experience (Ryan, 2016). Furthermore, for example, access to specific software that allows users to personalise the jersey with number and name, which is a widely used feature, would add value to the user experience. This is nicely implemented in the Juventus online shop. The risk-return relationship is based upon the proposition that the risk of not liking the purchased product is minimised, because buyers co-created the product to make it as much to their liking as possible. In the case at hand, the personalisation features include the size, flocking, and badges. A more extreme personalisation could involve changing the colour of the jersey, removing or changing the chest sponsor, altering the cut of the shirt, etc. However, the question arises, ‘How much personalisation is necessary to please users without diluting the branding aspect of the offered product?’ Lastly, transparency shall provide “all the information, which might be helpful to improve the outcome of the service experience” (Solakis et al., 2017, p. 542), which could include looking up previous purchase history, which is often offered in online shops, as well as the prices of possible top-ups, postal delivery, customs, etc. It could be argued that total transparency would also include offering an overview of the costs incurred to produce a specific product and the margins that are made upon it.
Lovelock et al. (2008) discuss four steps that increase productivity and quality of co-producing customers:
- Compare the present role that consumers and users hold in the business and the role the company would like them to hold.
- Assess if consumers and users are aware that the brand expects them to undertake a certain performance, i.e. co-produce a product or experience, and if they possess the necessary knowledge and skills.
- Ensure motivation of consumers and users by clearly communicating rewards and benefits of the co-production performance.
- Appraise the co-production performance of consumers and users on a regular basis to ensure that the necessary quality is upheld and that they know which knowledge or skills need to be improved.
An example in regard to online communication of a sports brand could be: A brand such as Adidas, Nike, or Puma would like to add crowdsourced material from its fans and followers through social media for a video report. Firstly, the brand needs to understand, if its fans and followers are willing to contribute footage according to certain guidelines. Such an analysis can be based upon previous interactions between the club and users; possibly, the brand has already tried to encourage small contributions from fans in previous posts, which would parallel a ‘foot in the door’ approach (cf. Yocco, 2016). Secondly, it is necessary for the brand to explain in detail what it expects users to do and make sure they know how to undertake that task. For example, the club could issue clear guidelines for the video, such as ‘The video should be shot horizontally (16:9) in 1080p, should show you in sneakers from our brand, and be max. 5 seconds long’. Next, the brand should continuously highlight the benefits and rewards that fans could reap from participating, in order to keep them motivated. In the case at hand, benefits and rewards could include ‘5 seconds of fame’ on the brand’s social media channels, a discount coupon for chosen videos, or similar. Lastly, the submitted videos from fans should be assessed. This could happen through an open review process from the community, which, however, bears the risk of trolling and other negative evaluation. Alternatively, an internal panel defined by the brand can be introduced and presented to the community. This panel would then appraise all relevant submissions and deliver their feedback also to the submission that did not make the video. This should ensure that contributors that did not make the cut this time, would not be discouraged from participating next time.
The 8 Ps of the marketing mix include the 4 Ps of the traditional marketing mix, namely price, product, promotion, and place and are extended to the proposed 8 Ps of the contemporary marketing mix by adding people, physical evidence, process management, and productivity and quality. The extension may be based upon the services marketing mix as suggested by Lovelock et al. (2008), but can widely be applied to products as well. This article offered an overview of how the 8 Ps can be addressed and applied in a digital setting. Although theory and practical examples were presented, elaborations on all respective elements are not final and can be expanded by further perspectives and examples.
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