MARFIN bridges the gap between academia and business

Some marketing gurus lament on the lack of interaction between academia (Marketing Science) and business. MARFIN aims at bridging this gap. It can do so because it was designed by a marketing practitioner for marketing practitioners.

During my decades of experience with large corporations, I realized several shortcomings in the marketing departments. I thus set out to take advantage of the digital revolution and design a software that would eliminate many of these shortcomings and improve efficiency and creativity of the staff. Using spreadsheets is time consuming and tiresome. Often “don’t disturb me with facts” became the slogan. A smart marketing database is the answer.

At Royal Philips, N.V., I started my career in the marketing research department. During my seven years tenure there, we collected vast market research information, quantitative and qualitative. These research reports were placed in a filing cabinet. I often wondered who would take the trouble to acquire the immense wisdom contained in these reports after I left the company. New employees seldom go back and read the “old stuff”. Will they know how many mistakes we avoided based on our many creative market studies? Or will they understand the mistakes we made and learn from them?

Thus when I started designing MARFIN, my first goal was to create a software program that relies on one unified database and places all the available marketing information at my fingertips. Since this database would be set up on a yearly basis, even the old data would always be available with a click. What insight this would provide! What efficiency!

Whether you collect marketing information, analyze data or develop strategies, it is the Four-P-concept that provides the most appropriate framework. The Four Ps are the key variables of any marketing strategy.

Once the database was designed, I used the Four P structure to compile a list of the items that needed to be analyzed and a list of the decisions that needed to be made for developing a comprehensive marketing plan. I thus broke down both the analytical and strategy development processes into key steps separately for each element of the marketing mix. These steps are summarized in the MARFIN Decision Making Process - see slideshow.

Another shortcoming of business as well as of academia is that often they concentrate only on one element of the marketing mix in a vacuum. Each element of the marketing mix is important, and we can develop a successful strategy only if they are in perfect harmony. How often companies develop a product and then hire an advertising agency to develop a campaign. At Philips, we were probably the first company to realize the importance of developing a product together with the marketing mix. We always presented the advertising agency with a complete marketing package including the definition of the advertising message. Needless to say, we were not very popular with the agencies because this approach limited their creativity; they had to strictly adhere to the defined message. If you watch the ads on TV, how many times you have no idea what the message was that the ad was supposed to communicate.

The MARFIN approach eliminates this shortcoming by requiring the user to develop first a strategy for each element of the marketing mix and then combine them into a comprehensive marketing plan. Since the program uses a unified database, it indicates discrepancies in the respective charts immediately. For example, if we forecast brand sales and they do not add up to the total market that we projected in the Market section, then we will know immediately that one or the other needs to be adjusted. We will either prepare a new forecast for the major brands or will return to the Market section and make revisions to the market growth rate. We will go back and forth between these charts until we are satisfied that both the brand sales and the market forecast look realistic.

A close cooperation between academia and business would be mutually beneficial. It would help business solve issues practitioners encounter day by day and in turn it would help academia to identify questions closer to real life for research.

MARFIN offers a practical and unique platform to further such cooperation. It helps academia better prepare students for the real world, and it helps business by offering to practitioners an everyday marketing management tool. Once brand managers start using the platform, they will be intrigued with the new insights the program offers. They will be inspired to ask new questions and academia will be challenged to find answers to those questions.

MARFIN follows a simple, logical path through the entire strategy development process. This logical path and simplicity are its strengths.

Suzanne B. Irving
Founder MARFIN International, LLC