Market Environment, Marketing audit and Performance:
Empirical Evidence from Taiwanese Firms
Wen Kuei Wu*
The purpose of this study is to develop and test a model of antecedents
and consequences of marketing audit. Specially, this study appears to
be one of the first papers to focus on the use and contribution of
marketing audit in marketing performance of Taiwanese firms. Our
empirical analysis indicates the greater the environmental munificence,
the less extent of effort dedicated to audits for marketing execution
(AME). The result also yields a strong support for the effects of AME on
the marketing performance. The study provides managerial insights into
how the implementing marketing audit can help ensure the marketing
executives to have adequate information for marketing, and what extent
they have the greatest effect on the marketing performance of
Taiwanese firms.
Field of Research: Marketing Audit, Marketing Management
1. Introduction
In recent years, increasing pressure to reduce costs has forced many
companies to radically reengineer the way they do business. This pressure is
also leading marketing executives to reconsider the goals, structure, and
effectiveness of their marketing arms. As a comprehensive review of a
company’s
market
environment,
the
marketing
audit
identifies
any
inadequacies in overall marketing structures. It also identifies operational
strengths and weaknesses and recommends the necessary changes to the
company’s marketing strategies. If the marketing audits are done correctly,
they will provide management with a useful and analytical tool for evaluating,
measuring, motivating and revising management actions (Mylonakis, 2003).
*Wen Kuei Wu, Chaoyang University of Technology, 168, Jifeng E. Rd., Wufeng District, Taichung,
41349 Taiwan, R.O.C. email: [email protected]
However, the marketing audit is currently still ignored by companies and
business managers due to that many market managers conceive the
marketing audit as a profusion of checklists and as distraction from the current
creative process that is at the heart of marketing functions (Mylonakis, 2003).
The
benefits
of
using
the
marketing
audit
and
implementing
its
recommendations lie in perceptions of its ability to influence a change in
business performance (Clark, Abela, and Ambler 2006). Thus, it is important to
be clear whether and how marketing audits influence the business
performance.
Since the marketing audit must be considered as a comprehensive review and
appraisal of the total marketing operation, it requires a systematic and impartial
review of a company’s recent and current operations and its market
environment (Zikmund and d’Amico, 2000). However, the scope of audit
depends on the cost involved, the target markets served and its market
environment (Mylonakis, 2003). It is necessary to explore how these
environmental conditions influence the issues selected and the activities
implemented for the marketing audit so as to have an insight into what are
exactly the company’s considerations when marketing audits are implemented.
Although the marketing audit has been used since its introduction to the
marketing management process, there is no evidence of its empirical
validation of its practice and usefulness in Taiwan. The purpose of this study is
to investigate how the practice of marketing audits might be influenced by
market environment characteristics, and to examine the scope of conducting
marketing audit as well as what extent they have the greatest effect on
performance of Taiwanese firms.
2. Background and Conceptualization
2.1 The Marketing Audit
The marketing audit was described as a systematic, critical, and impartial
review of the total marketing operation; of the basic objectives and policies of
the operation and assumptions that underlie them; and the methods,
procedures, personnel, and organization employed to implement the policies
and achieve the objectives (Shuchman, 1959). Kotler et al. (1977) refined the
marketing audit concept into a comprehensive, systematic, independent, and
periodic examination of a company’s or SBU’s strategies, objectives, activities,
1
and environment, designed to reveal problems and opportunities, and to
recommend actions that would improve the company’s marketing performance.
The refined audit model identified six proposed components of the marketing
audit, and advocated the use of a standard set of procedures. Kotler et al.’s six
proposed marketing audit components included: (1) the market environment
audit, consisting of analyses of both the macro environment and the task
environment; (2) the marketing strategy audit, to assess the consistency of
marketing strategy with environmental opportunities and threats; (3) the
marketing organization audit, designed to assess the interactions between the
marketing and the sales organization; (4) the marketing systems audit, to
evaluate procedures used to obtain information, plan and control marketing
operations; (5) the marketing productivity audit, assessing accounting data to
determine optimal sources of profits, as well as potential cost savings; and (6)
the marketing function audit, reviewing key marketing functions based
primarily
on
prior
audit
findings.
As
we
can
see,
the
first
two
components—market environment audit and marketing strategy audit refer to
the processes of auditing for marketing planning. The rest components
concern the auditing for marketing execution.
However, from conceptual and practical perspectives, the marketing audit has
many significant problems including the lack of suitably qualified independent
auditors (Kotler et al.,1977), gaining management cooperation from within
marketing (Capella and Seckely, 1978), information availability (Rothe et al.,
1997), sufficient communication with top managers to ensure access and
understanding of information (Bonoma, 1985). Meanwhile, the marketing audit
is also criticized for disconnecting from the overall control system (Brownlie,
1993); periodic rather than ongoing assessments of marketing performance
(Kotler et al., 1977); and application with the objective of defining problems but
not necessarily providing insights into solutions (Wilson, 1980). As a result, the
used measurement approaches of marketing audit have been primarily
qualitative checklists, with little empirical validation (Rothe et al., 1997; Morgan
et al., 2002). Furthermore, there has been little research on the factors
influencing implementation of marketing audits.
2
2.2Market Environment Characteristics’ Influences on Marketing
Audit
Hostile market environments characterized by intense competition and lack of
exploitable opportunities, and dynamic market environments characterized by
rapid
technological
advancements
and
rapidly
changing
consumer
preferences, are considered to have a significant influence on business
performance (Covin and Slevin 1989; Gray et al. 1998;Jaworski and Kohli
1993; Low 2000; Rust, Ambler, Carpenter, Kumar &
Srivastava 2004; Slater
and Narver 1994). According to structure-conduct-performance (SCP) model
(Mason, 1939; Bain ,1954), market structure affects market conduct, which in
turn affects marketing performance. This means that industry characteristics
affect market conduct (e.g., production and pricing strategies, research and
innovation, pricing behavior, advertising) because these different industry
characteristics can be logically organized, analyzed and putted into
considerations to improve the efficiency and effect of market conduct by skillful
marketers. Clearly, the desire to be competitive in such environmental
conditions may provide the impetus for organizations to implement marketing
audits to ensure the marketing executives to have adequate environmental
information for market conduct—planning and allocating resources properly to
different markets, products, territories and marketing tools.
In the literature, environment has been defined as a multidimensional concepts
(Egeren and O’Connor, 1998): (1) objects external to the organization
(customers, suppliers, competitors); (2) attributes of the external environment
(complexity, dynamism, munificence); or (3) managerial perceptions of
uncertainty. Following Egeren and O’Connor’s (1998) approach, this study will
define environment in terms of marketing manager’s perceptions of the
munificence and dynamism attributes. Environmental munificence refers to
environmental capacity which permits organizational growth and stability. In
environments low in munificence, competition increases (Dess and Beard,
1984; Porter, 1980). Dynamism is the degree of change or market stability.
Overall, the reason why market environment characteristics may influence
marketing audits is because marketing audits provide the marketing
management with programmed appraisals and critical evaluations of the
environmental analysis and help ensure the marketing management to identify
opportunities and threats from markets. Thus, based on the discussion, it can
be hypothesized:
3
Hypothesis 1: The greater the environmental munificence, the less extent
of effort dedicated to marketing audits in terms of audits for
marketing planning (H1a) and audits for
marketing
execution (H1b).
Hypothesis 2: The greater the environmental dynamism, the greater the
extent of effort dedicated to marketing audits in terms of
audits for marketing planning (H2a) and audits for
marketing execution (H2b) .
2.3 Marketing Audit and Business Performance
A review of the various definitions of marketing audit suggest that one might
expect organizations with well-implemented marketing audits to have a greater
capacity to achieve their stated direct and indirect performance objectives.
These objectives might include process improvement and continuous
monitoring of marketing performance (Brownile, 1996), channeling efforts in
optimal directions (Quelch, Farris and Oliver, 1987), gaining important findings,
recommendations and sufficient knowledge of customers for improving the
marketing performance (Mylonakis, 2003), strategy execution effectiveness,
user satisfaction and organizational learning (Morgan et al., 2002), and change
in market share and the overall financial performance (Taghian and Shaw,
2008). More recently, Taghian and Shaw(2008) have started to examine the
use of marketing audits as a facility that can assist with the marketing
orientation strategy, and their relationships with change in business
performance.
Theoretically, business performance from implementations of marketing audits
could be linked into several propositions. First, the comprehensive, systematic,
independent, and periodic examination of the organization’s marketing
function will, potentially, lead to early detection and awareness of existing or
emerging marketing issues that may influence the organization’s business
performance (Brownlie 1996). Second, the marketing audit provides
recommendations for corrective actions to be prepared as a balanced tactical
approach for readjusting the marketing initiatives in line with the market
dynamics (Kotler et al., 1977; Dafe and Macintosh, 1984; Wilson, 1992;
Morgan, Clark and Gooner, 2002; Mylonakis, 2003). Furthermore, the
marketing audit may change the attitude of management toward a more
comprehensive awareness of the environment, a more objective and a less
4
intuitive approach in decision making, and allowing independent opinions to be
expressed and be used to achieve organizational objectives (Sauter, 1999;
Taghian and Shaw, 2008). Hence, it may be expected that the usage of
marketing audits is related more strongly to increase marketing performance.
Considering all these findings, we propose:
Hypothesis 3: The greater the extent of effort dedicated to marketing
audits in terms of audits for marketing planning (H3a) and
audits for marketing execution (H3b), the higher the
marketing performance.
The six hypothesized relationships are shown in Figure 1.
3. Research Method
3.1 Measures
The external market environment measures were drawn from the research
undertaken by Slater and Narver (1992), Khandwalla (1977), Zahra (1996),
and Baum and Wally (2003), and included perceptual measures of the
munificence and dynamism attributes (Egeren and O’Connor (1998)). This
research developed a three-item, seven-point
semantic (1 = strongly
disagree, 7 = strongly agree) differential measure of munificence and a
four-item, seven-point semantic differential measure of dynamism.
5
Figure 1. The conceptual model
ENVIRONMENTAL
MUNIFICENCE
(EM)
AUDITS FOR
(-)
(-)
MARKETING
(+)
PLANNING (AMP)
MARKETING
PERFORMANCE
(MP)
(+)
(+)
(+)
ENVIRONMENTAL
AUDITS FOR
DYNAMISM (ED)
MARKETING
EXECUTION
(AME)
The implementation of marketing audits measures were drawn from the Kotler
et al.’s (1977) six proposed marketing audit dimensions. The first set of
dimensions (i.e. the market environment audit and marketing strategy audit)
was referring to audits for marketing planning. The rest set of dimensions
measured audits for marketing execution (i.e. the marketing organization audit,
system audit, productivity audit and function audit). Hence, a separate
multiple-item, seven-point semantic (1 = never, 7 = frequently) scale was
developed to measure each of these dimensions of marketing audit
implementation. These items asked the respondent to assess how often his or
her firm implements elements of the firm’s marketing audits.
The marketing performance measures were drawn from the researches by
Choi and Mueller (1992) and Slater and Narver (1992). Since subjective
measures of organizational performance are commonly used in research, this
study utilized a perceptual, multiple-item, and seven-point semantic (1 = highly
dissatisfied, 7 = highly satisfied) performance measure related to relative
market share, sales and profitability. Subjective performance measures were
used because objective relative performance measures were virtually
impossible to obtain at the business level and subjective measures have been
6
shown to be correlated to objective measures of performance (Dess and
Robinson, 1984; Slater and Narver, 1994). Relative performance was used to
control for performance differences due to industry differences (Hambrick and
Mason, 1984).
We conducted a series of pre-tests and interviews to finalize the conceptual
model and the measures in the model. First, five academic experts with
extensive experience and knowledge about marketing and marketing audit
were asked to evaluate the adequacy of the items. Second, the revised
questionnaire was pre-tested using a sample of 30 firms randomly drawn from
the CommonWealth Magazine's listing of Taiwan's manufacturers and service
enterprises. The senior executives responsible for marketing were asked to
complete the questionnaire and to provide any concerns related to the
questionnaire.
3.2 Data Collection
A sample of one thousand companies was drawn from a commercially
available
CommonWealth
Magazine's
listing
of
Taiwan's
Top
1000
Manufacturers and 500 Service Enterprises in 2009. To promote sufficient
variation in organization type and organization size, the sample was comprised
of 250 each of small and medium sized service and consumer goods
organizations and 250 each of large consumer goods and services
organizations. Following an initial mailing of the questionnaire, a follow-up
phone call was done to encourage response.
A total of 160 fully completed usable responses were received for an effective
response rate of 16%. As suggested by Armstrong and Overton (1977), the
study compared early responses with late responses. According to a t-test
analysis, these two groups of respondents had no significant differences
across all the key variables. In addition, this study also compared the firms that
responded to survey against those that did not on three characteristics: firm
sales, number of employees, and 2008 return on assets (ROA). There was no
significant difference between responding and nonresponding firms on firm
sales and ROA.
7
3.3 Analysis Procedures
First, exploratory factor analyses (EFA) and reliability analyses were
conducted to analyze items separately for each facet. Based on the results,
EFA revealed two-factor solution for the external market environment
measures accounted for 80.28% of the variance extracted, and revealed
one-factor solution for the marketing performance measures accounted for
80.31% of the variance extracted. Therefore, the retained factors were
succinctly measured by these variables. For the implementation of marketing
audits, EFA yielded a two-factor solution for the first set of dimensions (i.e.
audits for marketing planning) accounted for 72% of the variance extracted,
corresponding
closely
with
the
hypothesized
dimensions
of
market
environment audit and marketing strategy audit. However, the results showed
that 7 of 17 items were inadequate. Likewise, EFA also yielded a two factor
solution for another set of dimensions (i.e. audits for marketing execution)
accounted for 76% of the variance extracted, corresponding closely with the
hypothesized dimensions of marketing organization audit and marketing
function audit. We retained the 14 items that demonstrated acceptable loading
on their hypothesized factor (>0.3) and no significant cross-loading for further
analysis.
We also conducted a subsequent confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to purify
the measures. This measurement model produced the following fit statistics: x2
= 78.55, degrees of freedom (d.f.) = 63, GFI = 0.94, AGFI = 0.90, CFI = 0.98,
NFI = 0.94, RMSEA = 0.04, PCFI = 0.68, and CMIN/DF = 1.25. Overall, the
model provides a reasonable fit to the data. The composite reliability (CR)
coefficients were: environmental munificence (0.81), environmental dynamism
(0.82), audits for marketing planning (0.83), audits for marketing execution
(0.61) and marketing performance (0.85). CR is an indication of internal
consistency and conceptually similar to Cronbach’s alpha; it should exceed
0.60 for exploratory model testing (DeVellis, 1991).
The descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, and polychoric
correlations) of the study variables are shown in Table 1. The average variance
extracted in the remaining constructs was always greater than 0.50, which is
indicative of convergent validity (Sarkar, Echambadi, Cavusgil and Aulakh
2001). As Table 1 shows, the squared phi coefficients between each of the
pairs of constructs were less than the average variance extracted, indicating
8
discriminant validity. Overall, the results confirmed the convergent and
discriminant validity of the measures used in this study.
Table 1
Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of Constructs
Measured
Measures
ED
EM
AMP
AME
MP
Environmental Dynamism (ED)
0.55
Environmental Munificence (EM)
0.42
0.60
Audit for Marketing Planning (AMP)
0.20
0.34
0.71
Audit for Marketing execution (AME)
0.25
0.50
0.17
0.79
Marketing Performance (MP)
0.40
0.08
0.00
0.18
0.66
Mean
4.28
5.18
2.43
2.82
4.13
Standard Deviation
1.25
1.34
2.10
2.12
1.16
4. Results and Discussion
4.1 Effects of Market Environment on Marketing Audits
The structural equation results are shown in Table 2. In support of H1a and
H1b, environmental munificence (EM) was negatively associated with audits
for marketing planning (AMP) (β =-0.36, p < 0.05) and audits for marketing
execution (AME) (β =-0.41, p < 0.05), as we predicted. However, the expected
influence of environmental dynamism (ED) on AMP and AME was not evident.
H2a and H2b were not supported. Organizations must respond to low
munificence and to ensure that consumers choose their service offerings over
competing alternatives by developing a higher degree of market orientation
(Egeren and O’Connor, 1998). The implementation of the recommendations of
the marketing audit can be of benefit to enhance the market orientation
strategy of an organization in achieving business performance objectives
(Taghian and Shaw, 2008). It is therefore reasonable to see organizations
respond to low munificence by implementing marketing audits.
9
Table 2 Structural Relationships
Dependent
Predictor Estimate Standard Standardized t-value
Variable
AMP
AME
MP
Error
R2
Estimate
EM
0.45
0.11
-0.36
-2.70**
ED
-0.03
0.18
-0.02
-0.15
EM
0.56
0.17
-0.41
-3.32**
ED
-0.12
0.20
-0.08
-0.62
AMP
0.01
0.03
0.02
0.42
AME
0.11
0.05
0.20
2.25**
0.13
0.17
0.04
*P<0.1; ** p<0.05
The lack of support for the ED/AMP and ED/AME relationships could possibly
be due to the limitations of marketing audit. Indeed, many organizations think
the market environments are too turbulent to be predicted and thereby there is
little need for systematic and impartial review of market environment. Hence,
the marketing audit may be ignored because of the environmental dynamism.
Another contributing factor may have been the fact that completing a
marketing audit does not automatically imply that what the auditors consider to
be the appropriate actions will be taken by the client—marketing manager
(Brownile, 1996).
4.2 Effects of Marketing Audit on Marketing Performance
As seen in the Table 2, only the path coefficient regarding the effect of AME on
the marketing performance (MP) was significant. This significant path
estimates indicates the implementation of AME is associated with better
marketing performance (β =0.20, p < 0.05). This result offer strong support for
the effects of AME on the marketing performance (i.e., H3b) and reveal the
importance of effective AME on marketing performance outcomes. This result
is consistent with similar findings reported by Taghian and Shaw(2008). The
pursuit of marketing audits, especially audits for marketing execution, can
enables management to identify contemporary marketing weaknesses or
detect emerging marketing issues in implementing marketing strategies and
lead to effectiveness of marketing activities.
We did not find a relationship between the AMP and marketing performance.
The lack of results may be due to the poor implementation of AMP within
respondents.
There are only approximately 30 percent of the respondents
10
indicated that they used AMP periodically. Furthermore, AME seems to be
used mostly to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing activities.
This could possibly suggest that AME has more possibility than AMP to result
in superior marketing performance.
5. Conclusion and Suggestions
5.1 Managerial Implications
The results of this study indicate that there was a strong and significant effect
indicating a positive relationship between low environmental munificence and
marketing audits, suggesting that managers might pay more attention to
implementing marketing audit for responding to low munificence and ensuring
the marketing executives to have adequate environmental and competitive
information for market conduct. For businesses that already confront with low
munificence in market environment, it is highly advisable to conduct marketing
audits periodically, not only to assure marketing executives of assessing the
key trends and their implications for company marketing action, but also to
assure the marketing strategies and activities of been proceeded righteously
and completely in a manner consistent with both consumer needs and
organizational goals of marketing.
Our findings suggest that AME including marketing organization audit and
marketing function audit is beneficial. Indeed, AME helps management to have
insight into how the marketing strategies and action programs were
proceeding as planned, and whether the marketing mixes were matched with
market environments.
Notwithstanding the insignificant force of AMP upon marketing performance,
the ignorance of AMP within respondents still needs to be acknowledged.
Theoretically, the usage of the AMP may assist with the more comprehensive
understanding of market environment and the more sophisticated formulation
of marketing strategies. However, the poor implementation of AMP shows that
managers within respondents do not consider AMP as an aid to the
management of a market strategy. It is worth noting that AME along is not
enough; the failure to study market environments and consumer needs and
ensure them have been comprehensively implemented with AMP might lead to
the misunderstanding of market situations and downfall of marketing
11
performance.
5.2 Limitations and Further Research
As with any study, there are limitations in the present work that need to be
identified. First, although the surveys were conducted among knowledgeable
marketing decision makers, the problems associated with self-reported data
from mail surveys are possible and then we recognize the potential for
single-informant response bias. Second, the study employed perceptual
measures for all of the constructs. The outcome measures were also collected
contiguously with the other construct indicators. However, analyses of the
multi-item scales provided supportive evidence regarding the reliability and
discriminant validity of the measures.
In terms of future direction, several fruitful research areas can be offered. First,
future studies might consider identifying other variables such as the process in
preceding the marketing audit, the different levels of market development, and
the perceived importance of marketing audit that are likely to mediate the
relationships as well. Moreover, future studies could also consider the
influences of marketing resources deployment and adapt the variable
measures of marketing audit to fit other types of business. Finally, larger
national samples would be beneficial for comparing and testing potential
international differences using structural equation methods to verify these
findings.
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