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An Essential Marketing Primer for Public Agencies from a Most Reliable Authority
on November 27, 2006
For dyed-in-the-wool marketers like myself, Philip Kotler, international marketing professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School, has been a distinguished guru for nearly four decades, and his textbook of fundamentals, "Marketing Management", was required reading for me in graduate school. Now teamed with consultant Nancy Lee, a long-time specialist in social marketing, he has finally translated his tried-and-true marketing principles into the public sector, a challenging application given how results from such efforts can be extremely long-term and far less tangible than what can be more easily measured in the private sector. What's more, going head-to-head with private enterprises, public agencies have been at a great disadvantage because they have not proactively sought this discipline in targeting citizen needs. Previously unused initiatives like customer-driven strategies, outsourcing and performance metrics are now bought to life in a new milieu.
Kotler and Lee do a fine job discerning the distinctions and commonalities between consumer and citizen value and how a strong marketing platform can really elucidate the latter. The book's first two chapters go to the heart of identifying citizen needs and the marketing mindset required to address them. The next eight chapters each tackle an accepted private marketing tenet and how to apply each toward an agency marketing effort. Organized into a toolbox, these principles include developing and enhancing popular programs and services; establishing incentives and motivating prices; optimizing distribution channels; creating a brand identity; communicating effectively; improving service and satisfaction; influencing positive public behaviors through social marketing; and forming strategic partnerships. The book ends with vital information on how to manage the marketing process primarily through data collection, performance measurement and the creation of a compelling marketing plan.
What makes the co-authors' points resonate are the real-life examples they provide at the beginning of each chapter to prove the effectiveness of such tactics in practice. For instance, we read how in Nepal, optimizing distribution channels by selling condoms in convenience stores has dramatically improved access for the groups most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Another example is how the Finnish government tackled the country's high levels of heart disease by following the twelve principles of social marketing, which include steps like removing barriers to behavior change, highlighting the costs of competing behaviors and using prompts for sustainability. One of the more fascinating stories is how the city of New York has developed its own marketing plan in the wake of its recovery from 9/11. Rewards from the marketing plan have come in the forms of having a commercial tie-in with the History Channel, relocating of the headquarters for Virgin Airlines to New York, and bringing the Country Music Awards to Radio City Music Hall. Through these anecdotal accounts, Kotler and Lee are able to show how public agencies truly benefit from private sector learning and marketing practices.