The Challenge of Mass Marketing

Why mass marketing is so difficult to successful implement

Throughout the various discussions on market segmentation and targeting in this marketing study guide, it has been highlighted that mass marketing (a form of undifferentiated marketing) is a difficult challenge in today’s business world.

Obviously, mass marketing was a relatively common and successful approach in the past. The classic example given is the Ford Motor Company with their standard offering of the Model T Ford, which is the only product they sold for many years and it was only provided in one color (black). If it was successful in the past, why it is such a challenge today?

To explain this, let’s look at the example of traditional free-to-air television stations. These TV stations try to meet the needs of the entire population. For example the same TV station might show sports, followed by a movie, then have some news, then a comedy show, and so on.  Over the course of the day their intention is to have something for everybody.

However these traditional TV stations have lost significant market share in recent years due to the emergence of more defined competitive offerings. In many global markets, subscription (cable) TV is becoming popular. Consumers are able to buy a TV package that may provide the choice of 100 different channels, with each channels focusing on a particular offering or style of program. Clearly these more tailored channels are a better match to the individual needs of most consumers, as opposed to the generalized offerings of the traditional TV stations.

An indirect competitor to these TV station is, of course, the Internet. Today’s younger consumers are quite large Internet consumers and have dramatically lower rates of TV viewing than previous generations. The reason is the Internet, with its vast array of entertainment can better meet the entertainment/ information needs of these consumers.

From this example, hopefully you can recognize that traditional TV station, with their widely targeted array of programs, do not meet consumer needs as well as the more precise offerings of their competitors who are focused on narrow market segments.

This concept applies in most industries where, by more closely meeting the needs of the target market, you can steal some significant market share from a generalist provider. And of course, over time, more and more specific competitor offerings are launched, which further erode the market share of a generalist. Therefore, in most industries, being a mass marketer in today’s business world is simply not a long-term viable option.

Note: It could be argued there are some exceptions to this position. Firms such as Google (search engines), Facebook, Microsoft Office software, and Apple (with their iPhone and iPad) are examples of successful mass-marketers as their product offerings are generally designed to appeal to everybody. However, this represents a handful of companies out of the many millions of firms throughout the world, so statistically the odds of succeeding as a mass marketer are quite limited.