Introduction: In this ever-changing and highly competitive business environment where customers have become so sophisticated, curious, service conscious and think about what business brings more convenience to them, so it has almost become impossible for a business to survive longer without effective marketing. Customers are the soul and feeder of any business. There is no business if there are no customers and there are no customers if there is no marketing. Marketing means not only to satisfy the customer’s needs, wants but also a step forward to delight them.
In other words, marketing includes all those activities which exactly identify and satisfy customer’s needs and wants and managing long-term customer relationship in such a way that is beneficial for both the organization and its stakeholders. In broaden sense, “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives. (Brassington and Pettit, 2003) Marketing runs throughout the product’s life, trying to seek and keep new and existing customers respectively by improving product appeal and performance, learning from product’s sale result and managing repeated performance. (CIM, 2001) This piece of work highlights the application of different marketing concepts and models on Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited’s one product named as PTCL prepaid calling cards.
This study also critically describes the alarming marketing management issues both at tactical and strategic level. Product Life Cycle (PLC): Product life cycle (PLC) is a useful graphic descriptive tool which explains about the history of a product from its birth (marketing beginning) to its death (withdrawal from market). It has four different stages of life named as Introductory, Growth, Maturity and Decline stage.
According to Day, product life cycle analysis should provide a “systematic framework for examining the market dynamic”. (Day, 1984) Like a human being every product has its own life cycle. For instance, when a baby gets birth, baby is in its introductory stage and needs different level and types of attention like, care, food, shelter, environment etc and these attentions will be changed according to its growth, adultery, maturity stage and so on.
Likewise when a product is born or marketed, it requires different level and types of attention, such as, how and what ways should it be marketed, what sort of marketing strategies should be adopted to market it, what are the business environment can effect to the product, what are the dangers and threats (competitors) for the product, how that product needs to grow in the market and so on. Marketer should pay consideration to all these types of attention to that product as product passes through its different stages like introductory, growth, maturity and decline stage.
PLC provides guidance about what the product has achieved and where it is heading to future (Grantham, 1997). The following diagram explains the marketing objectives a company may adopt regarding a product at every stage of PLC from introduction to decline and the sort of marketing strategies, such as, competition, product, price, promotion, distribution, a firm may adopt at each stage of product life cycle. Source: www. rohan. sdsu. edu Product life cycle of PTCL prepaid calling card: As per market analysis, PTCL prepaid calling cards have just entered into its maturity stage shown by point “b” in the following figure.
At this stage product’s sale growth rate is getting low, profit starts to decline because of market is heading towards saturation and heavy competition with other competitors in the market like GT calling card, Global calling card, Call mate etc bringing with distinguish product’s features, price strategy and heavy price war and promotion, so PTCL’s management has to pay heed attention to its prepaid calling cards products. In order to capture high volume of sale and market share, there is heavy price competition and price cutting among the competitors at this stage.
However, PTCL is a public organization and the first telecommunication company in Pakistan, so that is why, at its growth stage shown by point “a” PTCL have captured the massive market share and the sale volume was at its boom level due to its strong brand image, product enhancement, price strategy, widened and reorganization of distribution channels, customer awareness, rapid profit improvement, comparatively less pricing than competitors to give them hard time in terms of reducing their profit margin or to gradually push to disappear them from the market.
Rapid growth could also the result of repeated purchases by customers (Brassington and Pettit, 2003). Although PTCL had spent a huge investment for the introduction and development of prepaid calling card service in the market at introductory stage by establishing intelligence network (IN), call centres, establishing distribution channels, new recruitments, heavy advertisement for widespread awareness via electronic media, print media, billboards etc. at this stage sale growth rate is slow but introduction stage period was very little in case of PTCL prepaid calling card due to company’s brand image.
According to Rio, A. (2001), “brand awareness and loyalty, allowing the firm to command larger margin and high market share”. Although PTCL prepaid calling is touching the maturity stage but it could be quite possible to push the product back to its growth stage by implementing effective marketing strategies, such as heavy advertisement and promotion, product enhancement, widening distribution channels, pricing strategy. According to Dhalla and Yuspeh, (1976), “numerous brands have been to go from maturity back to rapid growth” (Grantham, 1997).
As per market analysis, it could be possible PTCL calling cards again get back to its growth stage because of its very strong brand image. According to Yoo et al. , (2000), “ high brand equity implies that consumers have a lot of possitive associations related to brand name, over and above those of the product itself”. By realising cards growth sale rate is getting comparatively slow, so, PTCL management is suppose to take the following steps both at the tactical and strategic level which include product enhancement, customer relationship, products new features, to take push the product back to its growth stage. PTCL management should add a feature that a PTCL prepaid calling cards would be now usable in abroad as well. •For safety purpose, PTCL customers can enquire from PTCL customers call centres about the usage history of a calling card to avoid theft and leakage. •Anyone all over the Pakistan could be able to make the payment of their utility bills (gas, electricity, and phone) through PTCL prepaid calling card by using its fixed landline phone depending upon card denomination by avoiding wastage of time in queues in banks. Company should hire the services of well known national heroes like famous cricketers, actor or actress to promote and advertisement of the cards. •PTCL prepaid calling card management has introduced new service named as “0900 entertainment service”. Customers can listen whatever they want, like songs, kids’ world, horoscope, jokes, news, weather reports etc by using PTCL prepaid calling card and line land as well. (www. ptcl. com. pk) Critical Review
Although product life cycle provides the useful information to managers, relating to marketing challenges, alternative marketing strategies, to measure product performance, product and market dynamic about a product in each stage of a PLC but it just describes what is happening instead of what will happen. “It is too general and superficial concept to stand alone” (Brassington and Pettit, 2003). PLC is not very much reliable concept to be used as a forecasting tool because of variation in duration of stages. Another criticism on PLC is that it is almost impossible for the managers to assert that what stage a product is in (Kotler, P. 005). According to Hiam (1990), it is dangerous to say that a product dies in its life cycle; actually it will be ultimately replaced by others and it could be quite possible that the same product can be revitalized. Hiam (1990) believes “it is myth that products have a predetermined life-span” (Grantham, 1997). According to Dhalla and Yuspeh (1976), PLC is a dependentant variable which varies from market to market and brand to brand and length of PLC is affected by both external environment and internally handled by an organization.
It is not necessary that every product passes through a whole PLC, as some products jump from introductory stage to directly maturity stage and hardly stayed at growth stage, for instance, fashionable, stylish and trendy products. It is also essential to identify the distinction between the PLCs of different industries and businesses, product classification, forms and bands. Mercer, (1993b) had made a very strong criticism on PLC and commented that PLC should have been excluded from marketing vocabulary as it is “in effect… a fallacy”.
But in the light of above mentioned study, explanation and scenario, PLC could be very useful marketing tool at tactical level because it provides guidance about the performance of a product at each stage and indicates the managers to take appropriate marketing strategies but it is not very useful in respect of strategic level because it does not provide any prediction at any stage of PLC. Despite having above mentioned pitfalls, PLC is well-used concept (Brassington and Pettit, 2003).