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.firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Professor Susan Dann Brisbane Graduate School of Business Queensland University of Technology Gardens Point Campus GPO Box 2434 Brisbane Q. 4001 Australia Ph: +61 7 3864 1105 Mob: 0412 144 102 Fax: +61 7 3864 1299 email: email@example.com STREET LEVEL MARKETING Abstract Street-level marketing represents a method of marketing through involvement and membership of psychographic market niche. It is based on combining the observational methodologies of ethnography with the objectivity of marketing planning to assist goods, services or ideas developed to service a psychographic market niche by a member of the market niche. It represents a movement away from the traditional method of observation by intrusion of ethnography, and a penetration by infiltration of niche marketing. Instead it focuses on the development of a marketing technique based on market immersion, street level credibility and business objectivity which can be used to develop low cost credible marketing outcomes. INTRODUCTION Street level marketing (SLM) represents a new movement in the application of marketing theory. 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 the particular needs and wants of the group of which the marketer is a member. In contrast, contemporary marketing theory tends to focus on top down implementation of marketing strategies, aided and guided by intrusive observational marketing research, capturing a single snapshot of a marketing environment and trying to use that to implement as a long term marketing strategy. SLM was developed to aid the marketing of niche specific innovations developed by niche members to fill a need in their niche market. Unlike the top down intrusiveness of the classic marketing techniques, SLM focuses on developing niche based marketing strategies. This gives the SLM marketer the opportunity to use a wide ranging toolkit including ethnography, marketing orientation and their natural competitive advantage of street level credibility. This is not to say that SLM is foolproof - the nature of the market immersion offered by SLM has
its advantages, but does not replace the need for good business practices to be used in conjunction with street level marketing. Street credibility and innate market knowledge will not stop a poorly run business from failing any more than relationship marketing, guerilla marketing or the 4Ps could have saved it. STREET LEVEL MARKETING DEFINED Street Level Marketing maybe defined as the marketing activities undertaken by a member of a psychographic niche to further the adoption of an idea, good or service, developed within the niche, to meet the specific needs or wants of the niche. SLM's intra-niche focus gives it an exclusivity of domain not found in other marketing techniques, because the SLM marketer is a member of their own target market. This is the fundamental 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". Unlike traditional market segmentation, based on intrusive observational processes and adjustments to products and promotional message to identify with the market, the SLM strategies are developed from within. Intra-niche product development offers greater opportunity for marketer and marketees to share a common understanding, and co-develop a product that offers a valued solution to the market need. The concepts consists of a series of sub- elements which expand and operationalise the street level marketing concept. These elements are illustrated in Figure 1. Figure 1: Street Level Marketing
Marketing Orientation Market Immersion Credibility Aidmheil
Marketing Activities Marketing Philosophy Marketing Intelligence Marketing Research
Street Credibility Source Credibility
Self belief Product belief
At the core is the need for a marketing orientation without which street level marketing does not exist, even if some parts of the marketing tool kit are in use in their intra-niche business activities. 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. As with the marketing orientation, immersion is a critical element - without actual membership of the niche, marketing activities direct towards the specific niche are not street level marketing. At best, these activities may be guerilla marketing, traditional market segment approaches or relationship marketing, but they are not the intra-niche oriented SLM concept. Credibility consists of source credibility and street credibility where street credibility is the marketer's reputation outside their commercial transactions. The final element is "Aidmheil" [I'm-th'ell] which is the SLM marketer's faith or conviction in their product service or idea. MARKETING ORIENTATION: THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE A MARKETING ORIENTATED BUSINESS Marketing Activities
The first determinant of street level marketing is whether the organisation engages in activities identified with the marketing concept, and possesses a marketing orientation. Since marketing is 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). Loosely translated, they do not need to have a marketing manager or marketing division to be engaged in marketing. The organisation must have a focus on determining needs and wants of the target customers rather than having a production orientation, and the use of the marketing concept must encourage a long term focus of profitability through market orientation (Gray et al, 1998). The advantage of the intra-niche target focus in SLM is that the organisation has a propensity to be developing products for people who are similar in nature to the producers and this leads towards a market orientation. However, this does not negate the need for customer focus (rather than production orientation) in the development of goods and services to service the market niche, since the producer walks a fine line between producing for the niche, and producing for themselves. . Market orientation requires the organisation 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 at marketing intelligence as the scanning and analyzing of the marketing environment, including the monitoring of competitive activities and changing customer needs. The value of the contingency based model is that it moves away from the automatic assumption of complex market research surveys as the default market intelligence gathering tools, and instead allows for the use of non traditional marketing research instruments for intelligence gathering. Gathering Street Level Market Research: Self Ethnographic Observation 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. Unlike traditional ethnography, which requires the participant observer to intrude into a society and 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 non traditional market research techniques, and the qualitative focus of ethnography does not however exclude quantitative data gathering from the SLM marketing intelligence 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 involves the 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. Market Immersion
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. It turns the classic marketing question of "What business are we in?" to "What business am I?". The greater the involvement with the niche, the higher the understanding of the needs and wants of the niche. This 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 advantages of market 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, as exemplified in markets related to specialist sports goods such as skateboarding or snowboarding, immersion and market membership increase the inherent credibility of the SLM manufacturer or producer. Credibility Credibility is the perceived quality of being believable, based on trustworthiness and expertise (Tseng and Fogg, 1999) It is often seen in the marketing literature as an element of relationship marketing that needs 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 extent to which the recipient sees the source as having relevant knowledge, skill or experience and trusts the source to be unbiased, objective and impartial in their dealings. Street credibility relates to credibility by membership of the market niche, and relates to the reputation developed within the niche by active membership of the niche, outside of the business context. 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 to the SLM orientated marketer. Through adaptation and adoption of marketing techniques associated with larger extra-niche marketing orientated organisations, SLM organisations can also gain benefits from these concepts. In particular, SLM is heavily dependent on the maintenance and transfer of credibility from personal endeavour (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: business 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 is the perceived credibility and benevolence of the organisation, and the degree to which the individual can 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 transactions with members of its own community and market niche. Levels of
trust associated with intra-niche focused organisations are expected 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, are still applicable to convert this level of trust by association into business goodwill. In addition, expectation of ethical dealings, and sensitivity to niche cultural values are also higher where failure to maintain niche credibility results in the company being seen as having "sold out" its niche membership. 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 owner. 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 co-production ownership. Whilst this is not always part of the SLM approach, where intra-niche product testing and development occurs, it increases the sense of community and niche ownership of the product. The street credibility of the company is acquired through their business and non business reputation within the target market, and by incorporating the niche into the product design and production phases this also increases the street credibility of the product. "Aidmheil" (Faith in the Product.) 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 organisation's belief in their product, and the inherent potential for
success related to this product. This 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. Cothrel and Williams (1999) refer to existence of an aidmheil like state in cybercommunities where users willing take unpaid roles of responsibility because of their passion for, and belief in, the cybercommunity. Flores (1998) identified the role of passion in self identity, and it is in the context of corporate identity that the aidmheil passion for the niche and niche productsolution is delivered. It is a both an internal characteristic that must come from within the marketer, and an externally visible trait with which the consumer can identify. Aidmheil is divided between product faith, which is the inherent belief in the validity of the product as a solution to the needs of the niche, and self belief, which is the passion felt by the SLM marketer for the niche and the product. It touches upon the notions of passion and enthusiasm for a service, product or idea and this is infused into the product's branding and imagery by the actions and statements of the supporting organisation. In addition, in SLM, the focus of the aidmheil 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. As with street credibility, aidmheil cannot be bought or manufactured, but can be nurtured and encouraged by supportive organisations. CONCLUSION, FUTURE RESEARCH The concept of street level marketing is very much in its embryonic stage. As a concept or approach, it attempts to explain the success of companies and products which have emerged from their own market niches. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world today did not succeed through the use of traditional top down approaches to marketing which evaluate the market and environment looking for a niche to ‘exploit’. Rather street level marketing takes a bottom up approach of identifying a personal desire, within the context of a social grouping, and then designs, promotes and provides a service to the niche market. Further research is required to refine and apply the framework of street level marketing to a wider audience. In the initial stages, there needs to be more case study analysis within the framework undertaken before developing more specific measures, particularly for the concept of aidmheil. This paper has presented an alternative view of marketing practice and a new framework to analyse and explain marketing success. Case Study 1: Applications of Market Immersion: Airwalk Shoes 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 the intended end users so that skateboarders were developing shoes for other skateboarders. This gave the company an insight into the needs of their target niche. Airwalk integrated their product development with market co-production by having end users of the product being involved in the design and testing, and providing suggestions and solutions to design problems. In addition, selective recruitment of niche members respected for their product knowledge (shoes) and product related skills (skateboarding) also led to greater source and street credibility for Airwalk. The process used a low level celebrity endorsement approach for the organisation by transferring the credibility of the skateboarders to the organisation, not through endorsement of the products, but through endorsement of the organisation. The endorsement for the company credibility came from the designers' involvement in the market niche, and the organisation's depth of market immersion. Aidmheil is also clearly present in the Airwalk organisation through their reference to the notions of passion and enthusiasm as is illustrated by their web site specifying that
"somewhere at the core of every journey there is passion, soul and heart", this being the prerequisites for consideration for any Airwalk sponsorship. Because of the higher level of involvement in the activities of the niche by members of the niche, Airwalk gained a higher level of street credibility and source credibility than "outsider" brands like Reebok or Nike. REFERENCES Aijo, T.S. (1996) The theoretical and philosophical underpinning of relationship marketing: Environmental factors behind the changing marketing paradigm, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 2, 1996, pp. 8-18. Airwalk, (1999) www.airwalk.com [Friday, 22 October 1999] Andreasen, Alan (1994), Marketing Social Change. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass Publisher. Cothrel, J. and Williams, R. L.,1999, On-line communities: “Helping them form and grow”, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol 3, No 1. pp. 54-60. Doney, P & Cannon, J. P. (1997) An examination of the nature of trust in buyer seller relationships, Journal of Marketing, 61, 35-51 Doyle, P & Wong V, (1998) Marketing and competitive performance: an empirical study, European Journal of Marketing, 32 (5/6), 514-535 Feick, L.F. & Price, L.L. (1987). The market maven: A diffuser of marketplace information. Journal of Marketing, 51, 83-97. Flores, F., 1998, “Information technology and the institutions of identity: Reflections since “Understanding Computers and Cognition”, Information Technology and People, Vol 11, No. 4. 351-372 Garbarino, E. & Johnson, M. S. (1999) The Different Roles of Satisfaction, trust and commitment in customer relationships, Journal of Marketing, 63, 70-87 Gray, B, Matear, S., Boshoff, C. & Matheson, P. (1998) Developing a better measure of market orientation, European Journal of Marketing, 32(9/10), 884-903 Grönroos, C. (1990), Service Management and Marketing: Managing the Moments of Truth in Service Competition, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA. Herbig, P & Milewicz, J. (1995a) The relationship of reputation and credibility to brand success, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 12(4), 5-10 ----- and -----. (1995b) To be or not be… credible that is: a model of reputation and credibility among competing firms, Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 13(6), 24-33 Morgan, R. E. and Strong, C. A. (1998) Market orientation and dimensions of strategic orientation, European Journal of Marketing, 32 (11/12), 1051-1073
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