Street Level Marketing

Dr Stephen Dann and Associate Professor Susan Dann

Introduction Street level marketing (SLM) represents a new movement in the application of marketing theory. Much of contemporary marketing theory focuses on top down implementation of marketing strategies, aided and guided by intrusive observational marketing research technique which endeavor to capture a single snapshot of a marketing environment that can be translated into long term marketing strategies. SLM operates from a different perspective in that it uses a bottom up marketing focus whereby the marketing is driven by membership, rather than observation, of a market niche. It focuses on intra-niche marketing where the objective of the organisation or individual is to meet needs and wants of the niche which are also experienced by the marketer as a member of that niche. This does not preclude street level marketers from developing business strategies for extra-niche markets, however, the focus of SLM is on the marketing within the producer's "home" market niche.

The primary application of SLM is to aid the development and marketing of niche specific innovations that are developed by niche members to fill a perceived need in their market niche. The focus on developing niche based marketing strategies gives SLM an opportunity to utilize some of the tools of ethnography in conjunction with a marketing orientation and the market advantage of street level credibility. However, SLM is not without it's weaknesses - whilst market immersion offers an advantages, it does not

replace the need for good business practices to be used in conjunction with street level marketing.

Street Level Marketing Defined Street Level Marketing is defined as marketing activities undertaken by a member of a psychographic niche to further the adoption of a idea, good or service, developed within the niche to meets the specific needs or wants of the niche. The nature of the street level marketing's intra-niche focus gives it an apparent exclusivity in that the marketer is a member of their own target market. This is recognised explicitly as a point of differentiation between SLM and other marketing strategies - street level marketers and SLM campaigns exist within the niche and are not imposed upon the niche by "outsiders". In particular, unlike traditional market segmentation which is an intrusive process adapting products and communications message to identify with the market, the SLM strategies are developed from within, offering greater opportunity for marketer and marketed to share a common understanding as to the value of the product offering.

SLM consists of a series of sub-component elements which expand and operationalise the street level marketing concept. At the most basic level is the notion of market orientation, which is the core of the SLM concept. Without a market orientation, and the use of the marketing philosophy, street level marketing does not exist, even if producers are engaged the use of some of the marketing tool kit in their intra-niche business activities. In addition to marketing philosophy is the concept of market immersion, which represents the street level marketer's involvement in the niche to which they are

marketing their business activity. As with the market orientation, immersion is a critical element - without actual membership of the niche, marketing activities towards a specific niche are not street level marketing. At best, these activities may be guerilla marketing, traditional market segment approaches or relationship marketing, but they do not represent the intra-niche oriented SLM concept. The third element of SLM is the notion of credibility, which is subdivided between street credibility, representing the marketer's reputation outside of the commercial transaction, and the classical notion of source credibility. The final element relates to the concept of "aidmheil" I'm-th'ell] which is the SLM marketer's faith or conviction in their product service or idea.

Marketing Orientation Marketing Activities. One of the key determinants of street level marketing is that the organisation or individual must actively engage in activities identified with the marketing concept, and/or possess a market orientation. As marketing is regarded as a total business concept, it is not necessary for street level marketers to have clearly defined organisational structures which are responsible for the firm's marketing (Doyle & Wong, 1998). However, the organisation must focus on determining needs and wants of the target customers rather than having a production orientation. In addition, the use of the marketing concept encourages a focus on long term profitability achieved through maintain a market focus (Gray et al, 1998). For street level marketing, the advantage of the intra niche target focus is that the organisation is developing products for people who are similar in nature

to the producers. However, this does not negate the need for customer, rather than producer, focus in the development of goods and services to service the market niche. . Market orientation requires the organization to exhibit an appreciation and understanding of the needs of current and potential customers; the systematic gathering of marketing intelligence and an organisation wide response to changes in customer needs (Hunt & Morgan, 1995; Kohlit & Jaworski, 1990 and Narver & Slater, 1990 in Morgan and Strong 1998). Part of the requirements of market orientation is the generation of market intelligence pertaining to current and future customer needs (Gray et al, 1998).

Marketing intelligence Wright and Ashill (1998) in their work on a contingency model of marketing information looked as marketing intelligence as the scanning and analyzing of the marketing environment, including the monitoring of competitive activities and changing customer needs. In the development of the contingency model of marketing intelligence, Wright and Ashill (1998) outline a three step approach to determining the method of intelligence gathering.

The key application for SLM is that the contingency model moves away from the automatic assumption of complex market research surveys as been the default market intelligence gathering tools. The value of this approach for SLM is that the model allows non traditional marketing research instruments to be considered as viable tools for intelligence gathering.

Street Level Market Research Whilst traditional market research is not excluded from SLM, it is not the only source of valuable marketing intelligence. Street level marketing's intra niche focus allows for the use of ethnographic research techniques to be applied as part of data gathering for market intelligence. However, unlike traditional ethnography which requires the participant observer to intrude into a society, then attempt to gain acceptance and understanding, the SLM marketer is already a member of the society. They have the understanding of the niche culture, and have membership of the society they wish to study. On the downside, their level of immersion often makes it difficult for the SLM marketer to maintain a level of objectivity, or detachment from their research.

The use of the marketing concept and market orientation is required to focus the SLM organisation to still maintain a business focus whilst providing goods and services that meets the needs of the market niche. Whilst the advantage of street level marketing is that it is marketing of goods and services by members of a niche to address needs of that niche, it needs the objectivity and client focus of the traditional marketing concept and the business discipline of market orientation. Ifive brands, the developers of Penguin Mints, a caffeinated peppermint confectionery developed their product on the strength of their belief in an intra niche need for a product that meet three of their personal needs, caffeine, convenience and fresh breath (www.peppermints.com). In addition to the inherent belief in the value of the product to the market niche (urban professionals with high work levels and strong caffeine needs), the developers of penguin mints supplemented their intra niche experience and perceptions with classical market research.

Whilst market immersion had been sufficient to aid the development of the new product, the use of street level marketing research through both personal observational techniques and classical formal marketing research was needed for the success of the organisation.

Market Immersion, One of the oft quoted questions of marketing is "What business are we in?". In SLM, the question becomes one of "What business am I?" when street level marketers are developing based on their own needs and wants, which are needs and wants shared by their communities. Market immersion relates to the degree to which the street level marketer is part of the niche that they are attempting to address with their products or services. The greater the involvement with the niche, the higher the understanding of the needs and wants of the niche which in turn leads to greater opportunities for niche specific product development. Involvement in the niche relates also to the degree to which the producer of the goods is perceived by the niche to be "one of them". The advantage of the level of immersion are twofold. First, market immersion is valuable for the developing the understanding of the needs of the market by being part of the market, and through the ethnographic observational techniques. Second, in markets related to specialist sports goods, such as skateboarding or snowboarding, immersion and market membership increase the inherent credibility of the manufacturer or producer.

Airwalk shoes (www.airwalk.com) was developed in 1986 to service the sport shoe needs of the skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing and BMX market segments. Designers were recruited from within the ranks of users of the intended end products so that skateboard

riders where used to develop shoes that they would use for skateboarding. The intra niche focus allowed for the recruitment of niche members to assist in developing products that would be used by other niche members. In addition, selective intra niche recruitment also lends greater source and street credibility to organisation by association, and low level celebrity style endorsement of the organisation. The greater involvement in the activities of the niche as a member of the niche, the greater the likelihood of the SLM marketer have a higher level of street credibility and source credibility than an "outsider".

Credibility Credibility is often seen in the marketing literature as an element of relationship marketing to be developed over transactional histories, with clinically planned "credibility" moments to develop an artificial relationship structure. Credibility in relationship marketing is seen as the inherent believability of the intention of a company at a given point in time (Herbig & Milewicz, 1995a, 1995b). SLM is concerned with two forms of credibility, source credibility and street credibility. Source credibility is the classical reputation and source credibility of relationship marketing. In contrast, street credibility relates not so much to credibility by endorsement, but credibility by membership of the market niche. Source credibility relates to the reputation established by the actions of the individual or organisation within the business exchange context issues of trust, believability and reputation as established in relationship marketing. Street credibility is the reputation developed within the niche by active membership of the niche.

Source Credibility, Business Reputation And Street Level Relationship Marketing Street level marketing does not claim to have exclusivity over the operations of an intra niche focused marketing orientated business. SLM is related to the development of marketing focus amongst intra niche focused organisations who serve small and specific target groups. Consequently, marketing issues such as relationship marketing also have an inherent value in SLM. Through adaptation and adoption of marketing techniques associated with larger extra-niche marketing orientated organisations, SLM organisations can also gain the benefits from these concepts. In particular, SLM is heavily dependent on the maintenance and transfer of credibility from personal endeavor (street credibility) into corporate credibility. From a brief review of the relationship marketing literature (Garbarino & Johnson, 1999; Selnes, 1998; Doneg & Cannon, 1997; Herbig & Milewicz, 1995a & 1995b), three areas of relationship marketing are of concern for SLM marketers, reputation, trust and credibility. Business reputation is seen as an estimation of reliability and consistency over time in regards to the performance, and repeat performance of a promised activity (Herbig and Milewicz 1995a). Trust related is the perceived credibility and benevolence of the organisation, and the degree to which the individual rely on the exchange partner with the confidence that the partner will act in a fair manner (Selnes, 1998; Doney & Cannon, 1997). Finally, credibility, in the context of trust, relates to objective credibility which is the believability of the entity's intention to perform the promised action (Herbig & Milewicz, 1995a; Doney & Cannon, 1997).

Street level marketing relies on these concepts heavily in that the marketing organisation is engaged in transaction with members of its own community and market niche. Levels

of trust associated with intra niche focused organizations are expect to be greater than those associated with "outsider" organisations who enter the niche by intrusion and imitation. Consequently, penalties for failure to deliver in business are also expected to be much higher for SLM companies. Membership of the community gives a higher initial credibility and trust level, however, business reputation, and the tools of the relationship marketer, must are still applicable to convert this level of trust by association into business goodwill.

Street Credibility, market immersion and Personal Reputation as branding Street credibility is a nebulous concept positioned somewhere between reputation, brand image and the personal reputation of the business owners. Street credibility has been defined as a command of the styles associated with urban youngsters who are respected by their contemporaries (Collins New English Dictionary, 1997). For the purpose of this paper, street credibility exists in a broader context than merely that of "urban youth". It represents an intra niche or intra industry reputation that is developed separately from the business reputation. Street credibility is a mixture of personal and corporate reputation, peer and target group respect and recognition, in conjunction with a recognised technical expertise, market knowledge and understanding of the industry. It brings elements of consumer focused measures such as market mavenism (Feick and Price, 1987), and celebrity endorsement factors such as expertise, trustworthiness and target market empathy (Andreasen, 1994; Walker, Langmeyer & Langmeyer, 1992). Street credibility is also a form of developed reputation associated with expertise in the niche market,

either through experience, understanding or demonstrated predictive ability in determining or assessing trends in the market place.

Street credibility is unlike corporate reputation or goodwill insofar as it cannot be purchased or manufactured. Attempts to artificially construct "street cred" are often cited as guerilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing focuses on grass roots campaigning, creating a 'street feel' for a corporate product within the target niche. The difference between guerilla marketing and SLM is that guerrilla marketing is intrusion based marketing, whereby the organisation enters the niche, mimics or 'borrows' imagery and icons associated with the target market in an attempt to associate their product with the niche. Whilst this approach may have certain levels of success, those campaigns that fail do so because the target market feel manipulated, used, condescended to or offended by what becomes, to them, a blatant attempt to buy street credibility. SLM differs in that it gains the street credibility from being part of the grass roots movements targeted by guerilla marketing.

Development of the product within the niche also lends credibility to produce through coproduction ownership, which whilst not always part of the SLM approach, is apparent in industries where intra niche product testing and development are a major part of the product development techniques (Wikström, 1996). In particular, software such as the Quake franchise developed by ID software involved by street level marketing (gamers developing gaming software) and market co-production (end users testing the product, providing suggestions and in some cases, providing upgrade and solutions to problems in

the software). The sense of community and niche ownership of the product was also enhanced by the street credibility of the company who had acquired a business and non business reputation within the target market. However, street credibility alone was not sufficient for the ID software Quake franchise to succeed insofar as the company was also required to deliver on its promises in a business like fashion. By using the street level marketing approach, of using marketing tools with an initial intra niche focus, ID software were able to translate of street credibility and business credibility into brand equity and into product sales.

"Aidmheil" (Faith In The Product.) The final element of the street level marketing concept is often referred to in the anecdotal evidence concerning entrepreneurship, new product development and non traditional marketing applications such as social cause marketing. Aidmheil [pronounced I'm-th'ell] is a Celtic term, relating to the notion of "faith", which has been adopted to represent the street level marketing element of "faith in the product, good or idea". Faith in this context is not associated with a religious or spiritual concepts, rather it looks at the marketing organization's belief in their product, and the inherent potential for success related to this product. Aidmheil also touches upon the notions passion and enthusiasm for service, product or idea, which is infused into the product's branding and imagery by the actions and statements of the supporting organisation. Michael Gudinski, founder of Mushroom records, was described as having founded the recording label with "little more than self-belief and passion" (Professional Marketing, 1999). Other SLM orientated organisations, such as Airwalk, also make reference to the notions of passion and

enthusiasm, with their web site specifying that "somewhere at the core of every journey there is passion, soul and heart" as being prerequisites for being considered for an Airwalk sponsorship. In addition, in SLM, the focus of the aimdheil is often on the market niche and the benefits that can be given back to the community and the niche in conjunction with the personal success of the organisation.

Conclusion, Future research