Communication remains one of the most important tools in the current market. The market has become increasingly competitive. As Chaston (2009, p. 78) states, the market is getting very competitive as the world embraces globalization. The world has been turned into a global village. An American company can now make its productions in China and sell its products in India. The geographical barrier that existed before has completely been eliminated. Transport and communication have enhanced business processes. Firms can now go beyond their borders. This is considered one of the biggest achievements in commerce. The market has been expanded for large firms that can manage to operate globally. However, this also comes at a cost. While an American firm will have an advantage in the fact that the scope of the market is expanded, there will be a price to pay for this. It will also be ready to receive competitors in the local market.
Dell Inc is currently considered the third largest manufacturer of personal computers in the world. This firm has been performing well, especially in the home market of the US. However, Dell is currently facing a serious challenge. Although the challenge posed by the world’s leading PC manufacturers like HP and Lenovo is weighing it down, a more serious challenge comes from Apple. Apple is also an American company that has specialized in the production of phones, iPods, and personal computers. Apple has come out strongly as one of the main producers of personal computers, a fact that makes it a direct competitor of Dell. It has is fighting for a market niche that Dell had secured.
Dell must, therefore; come up with strategies that will ensure that it is able to remain competitive in the market. It must develop marketing communication strategies that will help it develop a competitive advantage against its competitors like Apple. This paper seeks to analyze how Dell can use marketing communication strategies to counter the threat posed by Apple in the market of personal computers.
According to Handlechner (2008, p. 25), the market for personal computers has been on a constant rise in the last two decades. Emerging technologies are changing the social structure of societies around the world. Communication has become very important in the lives of different individuals in the world. In the office, a personal computer is needed to store data and easily retrieve them. It is also useful in preparing various documents within the office. A manager will need a personal computer to track various records relevant to the organization. Back at home, computers are very useful for entertainment, especially as a form of social networking. To a student, personal computers will be useful in performing various tasks that are related to their studies, including research. Every organization in the current world cannot operate normally without a personal computer.
With this massive growth of the market for this product, various firms have come out with various brands of computers to tap on the growing opportunity for this product. Apple has been one of the leading firms that have been considered as the leading manufacturers of personal computers. Dell is facing serious market competition from Dell in the manufacture and sale of personal computers in the United States and other overseas countries. Apple has proven to be the main threat to Dell in this industry for a number of reasons. The United States remains the most attractive market for personal computers. The market is large enough, and the purchasing power is strong enough to support the industry (McLaughlin & Aaker 2010, p. 48). Both Apple and Dell are American companies. They, therefore, enjoy the same privileges in this market. The second reason that makes Apple a serious challenger of Dell in the market is the niche it has acquired in the market. Apple has positioned its products like high-end products. When Apple introduced its laptops in the market, they were marketed as high-end products, and their prices reflected the same. However, this firm is changing its tact in the market. It is spreading its target to other segments. It is now targeting middle-class consumers with products having fair prices, but still holding to its initial market proposition. This was after the realization that this class has the majority of consumers of personal computers.
Apple has been keen on its marketing strategy. According to Ferrell (2011, p. 89), one of the most powerful tools that a firm has in the market is the ability to reach out to the customers with the desired message in the best way possible. The management of Dell has come to realize that this is one of the strongest tools that Apple is using today as a way of developing a competitive advantage in the market. The following pie chart shows the market share of different laptop brands in the market today.
Market Share for Different Brands of Laptop
From the chart below, it is clear that HP is the leading manufacturer of laptops in the world. However, recent reports indicate that HP is dropping its position and new brands like Lenovo are set to take the lead in the market. Dell comes out as one of the leading manufacturers of laptops. With a market share of about 13%, this firm is the third-largest manufacturer of laptops in the current market. However, the recent incidents are poised to change these figures. The emerging trends are favoring other firms while hurting others. Apple is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the emerging technologies in the current market (Gountas & Mavudo 2008, p. 112). It has become very popular, especially among college students. The graph below shows the rate at which Apple is preferred by college students.
Laptop Preference among College Students
The trend shown in the above diagram indicates that Apple is increasingly becoming popular among college students. College students make up one of the largest markets for laptops. In Europe, over 60 percent of college students own laptops. The percentage is slightly lower in the United States. However, this percentage is rising on a yearly basis. Such emerging markets like parts of Asia and in Africa have also seen a rise in the use of personal computers among students. The graph above shows that Apple is the most preferred laptop brand, displacing Dell to second place. This makes Apple the strongest competitor of Apple in the laptop market.
Marketing communication is one of the most important tools that a firm can use to develop a competitive advantage in the market. According to Rogers (2001, p. 73), keeping customers constantly informed is very important. Customers need information for different purposes. A newly produced product in the market will require the advertisement to create awareness of its presence in the market. Apple is considered one of the best brands of computers in the market today. Marketing communication is one of the ways that this firm has been using to reach out to the market with its products. Marketing communication comes on various fronts. The following are some of the forms of marketing communication.
Advertising is one of the most popular forms of marketing communication that firms have been using in the market. Advertising refers to a promotional message about a product passed through mass or social media. Advertising is one of the best ways that a computer company can reach out to the target audience. According to Viardot (2004, p. 67), advertising is increasingly becoming relevant in today’s market. When a firm introduces a product to the market, it would need to advertise the product to create awareness of its presence in the market. Kitchen (1999, p. 43) observes that advertisement is the best way through which a firm can market its brand. Marketing a brand needs the creation of a permanent image of a product in the minds of consumers by the use of audiovisual means.
Apple has been keen to advertise its personal computers not only in the American markets but also internationally. This has seen the sale of its personal computers surge forward. Advertising is the best form of persuasion that a firm can use to increase its sales (Hill & Jones 2010, p. 45). It can be used to create a positive attitude of the market towards a firm’s products. It is also important in developing a positive image of the firm in the market. The advertisement also acts as a reminder of the existence of a certain product in the market. Firms use it as a reinforcement of sales and generation of demand.
Personal selling is another promotional mix that firms are using in the current market. Bissoondoyal (2006, p. 56) defines personal selling as a strategy where a firm engages sales agents to sell its products to the consumers. Personal selling is very reliable when selling goods that are highly involved. Some products may require the seller to explain to the buyer how the product is used. Sales agents are, therefore, required for this task. Although it may be considered expensive, Burrow (2009, p. 118) explains that personal selling is very important because it allows for a personal relationship with the customer. A customer can easily be convinced to buy this product because of this personal relationship. Computer firms such as Apple have not considered using personal selling as the best strategy of reaching out to customers, especially due to the size of the market. This strategy is very efficient when the size of the market is relatively small. Both firms operate in a global market. Applying this strategy in a global market can be very challenging.
Sales promotions are another strategy that firms have found to be relevant. As Evans (2012, p. 30) explains, sales promotion involves different strategies that would ensure that the rate at which a product is sold in the market increases. This may involve giving out gifts. Dell can consider giving its customers broadband when they purchase their product. People like free things and therefore offering some products freely to the customers may act as bait. Consumers will not lay emphasis on the product they are purchasing but on the free sample. It can also involve reducing the price of a given product within a specified period. The reduced prices will, in turn, attract the market. Lamb (2012, p. 37) notes that other forms of sales promotion may involve adding some value or quantity on an original product or offering redeemable points when one makes a purchase. This will encourage customers to increase their purchases.
According to Montiel (2011, p. 117), it is always important to maintain a positive relationship with the public. Public relations help a firm in maintaining a positive image in the market. This scholar says that firms (irrespective of their size), need to maintain a positive relationship with the public to operate in the market successfully. One of the factors that make public relations very important is the need to manage negative propaganda that may be leveled against the firm. The market has gotten so competitive that firms are using every available strategy to win the competition. This involves spreading the wrong message to the public about the firm. (Sandhusen 2008, p. 29) recalls the incident that forced Steve Jobs to quit working at Apple before he was recalled to head the firm. It was alleged that he was high-handed when working with the employees. This did not only make him lose favor with the employees. It also resulted in a negative public image of the firm. This message was highly distorted in the face of the public. Apple was considered an oppressive firm by the local market. The only solution that could save the firm from this was to force Steve Jobs to quit working with the firm. The public relations department also had to convince the public that this firm had implemented policies that are meant to improve the working conditions of its employees.
Direct marketing is important in the current competitive market. However, this strategy is not very easy when a firm produces in mass. Direct marketing, just like personal selling, involves sending specific individuals to the market to engage consumers directly. In this case, however, the individual sent to the market must be an employee of the firm. As Saxena (2009, p. 82) puts it, it is a situation where a firm bypasses all the intermediaries to sell its products directly to the customers. A firm like Dell or Apple may not find this strategy very relevant. Although the strategy may be useful when test marketing some products, the strategy will be limited to just that: test marketing. It may not go beyond this. Tuten (2008, p. 58) says that Dell has a global market coverage. This makes it very complex to apply direct marketing because it may be challenging to open their facility in every city where their product is sold. However, the strategy can be very appropriate for firms selling high-end products and having exclusive outlets in various cities around the world where their products can be sold.
Critical Analysis and Discussion
Dell Inc is facing stiff competition from Apple Inc in the laptop market. The two firms are known for their quality products. However, Apple has proven to be smatter when it comes to communication. Apple has been able to develop very strong slogans for every product they take into the market. The brand Apple has also had various brand slogans. The first slogan for this firm was ‘Byte into Apple’. It was used in the 1970s. It was changed to ‘Think Differently’ from 1997 to 2002. The firm is currently giving every product its slogan depending on its nature, and the target market. One way that Apple Inc has managed to outsmart Dell is in communication. Apple has spent millions of dollars to communicate to the market (The Chartered Institute of Marketing, 2004, p.78). For a long time, mass media was considered the most appropriate means of communication. However, this has changed. Apple has made a radical shift from mass media marketing. The firm has concentrated on social media marketing. Social media has become very popular in the current market. Zarrella (2009, p. 121) explains that social media is more appropriate when communicating to people who are in different geographical locations, especially when the locations are separated by sea. For instance, by using ABC as a channel to communicate to the market, likely, an individual in South Africa will not get this news (Gerber 2008, p. 89).
Social media marketing is gaining relevance because of its scope. A message sent by this firm through YouTube will reach the intended audience irrespective of the location of the audience. Facebook has become very popular with multinational companies. However, Apple is a better use of this media than Dell. Facebook fans have become accustomed to adverts of Apple popping into their wall quite often. While one may consider this as a bad strategy because one may get pissed off due to the unnecessary messages, it is also a fact that it brings the attention of the viewer to the product. This is publicity, and as Hooley (2008, p. 82) puts it, every publicity is good publicity. The constant adverts pushed forth by Apple will irritate the viewer. However, Apple will always come to their mind ahead of any other brand when they consider purchasing a laptop. The viewer will develop some form of brand loyalty towards Apple because of the constant awareness creation maintained by this firm. Dell has made an effort to use internet marketing to reach out to customers.
Apple has projected an image as a firm that is highly innovative and customer-focused. Its products are considered to offer extra value to the consumers. This has seen it gain popularity in the market at a very rapid rate within the last half a decade. It has been propositioned as a brand of quality to every product they deliver to the market. This strategy has worked well so far. The market believes that this brand is the best in the market. The graph above shows that college students currently believe that this is the best computer brand in the market today. This means that this firm has managed to attract youths to the market. Youths make a very attractive market segment of computers today. Mercer (1998, p. 86) states that youths are the best consumers of electronics. One factor that makes them good consumers is that they do not like overstaying with one electronic product for a long time. They will change as fashion changes. Apple has realized this and is making the most out of it. This explains why Apple is emerging as the market leader for laptops. The company has devised several strategies that help it to keep competitors at bay. Without the new strategies, the company might not be able to maintain market competition.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Apple has come out as a very strong firm and brand in the laptop market. It has created a huge impact among the youths who currently consider it as the best brand for the laptop. Although Dell comes second in popularity, it is evident that it is yet to match the strategy applied by Apple. With the current rate of competition in the market, Dell has to re-strategize to retain its market share. The following are some of the recommendations it should take into consideration.
- Market segmentation: Dell should conduct massive market research and then segment its market according to various demographical factors.
- After a successful segmentation of the market, this firm should then consider market segments that can meet its needs in the best way. It should then target them with appropriate products.
- The firm should then develop marketing communication strategies that would best meet the target market selected.
- Social media marketing should be heavily used when the target market includes the youth.
- When targeting the elderly population, mass media such as newspapers and television channels would be more appropriate.
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