‘In the 1990s managers will be judged on their ability to identify, cultivate, and exploit the core competencies that make growth possible – indeed, they’ll have to rethink the concept of the corporation it self.’
C K Prahalad and G Hamel 1990
Organizations do not exist in vacuum. They operate within a competitive industrial environment. Analyzing its competitors not only enables an organization to identify its own strengths and weaknesses but also help to identify opportunities for and threats to the organization from its industrial environment. SWOT analysis is a systematic analysis of these factors and the strategy that reflects the best match between them.
Let us analyze these principals in relation to the core competence of McDonalds, one of the largest food chain companies in the world. Let us first start with the strengths and the positive aspects which define the performance of this company. How can we define the company’s strengths? Strength is a distinctive competence that gives the firm a comparative advantage in the market place. For instance financial resources, image, market leadership and buyer supplier relations etc
McDonalds is the no: 1 fast food chain stores with a 40 million customers visiting it per day. It has over 30,000 branches in 120 countries. It derives 80% of its revenues from eight countries like Canada, Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, UK, Australia and US. The greatest strength was creating an image in the minds of the people and introducing them to the fast food culture. Delivery speed, customer care and cleanliness are the core strengths on which these stores expanded. They created a corporate symbol and their advertisement campaigns were highly successful in establishing the brand image and logo in the minds of the millions. Two main competitors generally identified with McDonalds are the Burger King and the KFC. McDonalds marketing strategy is concerned with the internal resources, external environment and its basic competencies along with its share holders.
McDonald’s product value is also its greatest strengths. Customers know what to expect when they walk into a McDonalds store. It gives great emphasis to human resources by satisfying both the customer and the employees. Next is the innovation aspect wherein new products line up to catch up with the new trends and tastes of the people. Its diversity into other new business ventures can also be considered as its strengths.
How effective are these strengths to the company in the long run? McDonalds today is not that amendable as it was during its inception. What are the driving factors which results in its present decline in terms of sales and services? To analyze this factor we have to look at the weaknesses part of the companies business and marketing strategy. What can generally be termed as a weakness of a company? The same factors which were considered as strengths also become a weakness if it impedes the overall performance of the company.
Customer trends change and so does their choices. People are generally tired of the same brands that they had been using over the years, so when they do not see the expected innovation they migrate to new brands. Moreover people see McDonalds every where and this over exposure might also be a reason for abstinence. Moreover maintaining the standards of such a huge chain becomes feasible and when there is lack of quality service in one store it effects the whole brand.
The secret of any marketing strategy is to reach the target audience. And here again the target audience should be chosen carefully. In the case of McDonalds as projected in its ads, the targeted audiences were the kids. Demographics and customer financial and psychological aspects define a business concerns success. Health conscious women and senior citizen comprise the major population but kids soon grow out to become adults. Recent law suits and documentaries resulted in the companies recent innovation and a major change related to health related product ranges and this switch over as per the needs of today’s trend and needs has increased the lost popularity of McDonalds a bit.
All the above factors point out the external strengths and weaknesses. There are also internal factors which affect the performance and overall benefits the company stands to enjoy. Kids based marketing strategy which was earlier a weakness has changed since 2003. Now more teenagers and adults rule the McDonalds ad world. The research and develop which lacked earlier is also looked into and the brand quality is being defined with various research and development options today. McDonald at one stage started concentrating on expansion and growing big that it missed out on key factors like quality maintenance and R&D.
One major threat to any brand is its relationship between the management and the franchise dealers. Organization strength is the back bone of any concern and when that starts shaking the whole system will collapse. But slowing McDonald is recovering from all these weaknesses as its brand managers can easily communicate, compare and improve their services through the latest technological developments wherein they can use the internet to motivate, compare and improve upon other centers performances.
The overall analysis of all the external and internal strengths and weaknesses on this company should be linked in order to draft a sustainable plan for the companies’ further improvement. For any improvement or expansion the internal resources must be readily available. And thus analyzing this aspect can lead to a modified strategy to suit its vision. Keeping in mind the available resources the planner should think globally. Hence making use of all the core competencies the firm can definitely sustain in the competitive market.
The change in the top managerial level has creating a new wave in its performance and major changes have been implemented to retain and sustain the brand quality and innovation. As the new CEO rightly quotes,
“The world has changed. Our customers have changed. We have to change too.”
James R. Cantaloupe, Chairman and CEO, McDonald’s, 2003
Now let us analyze the sustainable competitive advantage of the company. What is sustainable competitive advantage? How can it be related to McDonalds? SCA is the advantage a company has which is difficult or impossible for other companies to possess or break through. It can either be the brand, dynamic customer care, cost structure or its patent. Whatever the advantage in order to be considered as sustainable it should either be proprietary or distinctive. Other than this three different aspects that help in SCA are,
o The managerial and organizational process should share a good integration and coordination. The much needed ‘value’ is created thereby as everyone strives to work for a common goal. The organization should learn and bring about changes according to the need of the hour and should always be flexible to changes in the environment such as customer trends, legal or government restriction and developments in the technology. McDonalds is presently concentrating on this advantage by concentrating on organizational behavior and managerial expertise. Previously this advantage was ignored as the organization was more into expansion of its outlets over the globe than strengthening its core advantage. As the result the revenue did not see much of a change while newer outlets were open. The company suffered a massive loss first time since their inceptions which further lead to the change in the managerial heads.
o Technological, structural and financial assets of a company are excellent market position which helps in the SCA. McDonalds no doubt is abundant with such aspects like structure, technology and finance. To identify and implement these assets in the proper direction towards the improvement of the company is all that is needed. After 2003 the company has really started to concentrate on its greatest advantages.
o Most of all the greatest advantage is the vision or the dream with which the company was started. Sustaining this dream over the years is any companies’ greatest advantage. A brand usually revolves around this vision sustaining this vision and working in lieu with it is a great SCA. McDonalds was started out to help people who had very little time to cook or was too busy to get into a proper restaurant. The vision was to provide quick service, cheap products and quality satisfaction. Keeping this vision in mind the company which slackened a bit because of incompetent franchise holders is being weeded and new and better people are put in this place as the torch bearers of the company sustaining and living the vision.
To sum it all up SCA means implementing the best value based strategy using all the advantages which are unique to the company and that which cannot be copied or replicated by other competitors. The importance of this SCA can be evident by the reply the great investment guru Warren Buffet gave when asked about how he evaluates his investment portfolio. He simply answered ‘sustainable competitive advantage’. Hence based on the dynamic integrated and intelligent human resources can always be the only dependable and sustainable SCA.
Outsourcing boom or doom in today’s business environment
Today everything is outsourced from employee appointment to finance and customer care. No organization is best enough to handle all kinds of work. Moreover concentrating on every detail is not possible with a big concern especially like McDonalds. But great care should be taken not to outsource the core competences of the company. General advantages of outsourcing are cheap service, knowledge of markets offshore, flexible resources, speedy operations, expansion in supplier relationship etc. most of all the company can concentrate on its core competencies and outsource rest of its operation. Recently McDonald has tested its drive through order facility. Wherein it makes sure that the order placed with the outlet is accurate. The order taken by the outsourced company is reverted back to the home restaurant. These call center has a digital camera which clicks the vehicle you drive through and the delivery man back home can integrate the order and the person who placed it using the image of the car. Outsourcing thus helps in the increase of the external suppliers and fills up the difficulties faced because of the lack of the latest technologies and other innovations.
What started of as a success story with McDonalds had to face a number of risks, competitions and major set backs. What makes it still strong and ranked among the top business concerns is its core competences and the sustainable competitive advantages both internal and external. Of course keeping up with the changing times the company has also set foot in outsourcing but the point to keep in mind here is not to be driven away by this outsourcing mania. This company has started to revert back to its golden glory recently because of large scale revamping of its organizational and structural changes being implemented.
No particular competitive strategy is guaranteed to achieve success at all times. Risk attitudes can change and vary by industry volatility and environmental uncertainty and several internal conditions also might be involved. Thus the “four P’s” of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) provide a good starting point for consideration of the requirements of strategy implementation in the marketing function. The mix of these marketing elements should be appropriate and the plans for each of the elements should also be appropriate.
The marketing function is consumer oriented and hence marketing decisions are based on the careful identification of consumer needs and on the design of marketing strategies to meet those needs. The distribution system brings the product or service to the place where in can best fill customer needs. Access to distribution can mean all the differences between success and failure for a new product. Because many products require support from distribution channels in the form of prompt service, rapid order processing etc the choice of distributors, wholesalers and jobbers is extremely important.
Promotion is more than advertising. The location, size and nature of markets which the business strategy defines will guide promotion mix decisions and should indicate the content of promotional material as well. Pricing is a complex issue because it is related to cost, volume, trade offs etc and because it is frequently used as a competitive weapon. Pricing policy changes are likely to provoke competitor response. Using price to jockey for position can lead to price wars, which usually hurt all participants.
Marketing has received increasingly greater attention in the competitive business since the early modern era. The old concept of marketing focused on the firms existing products and considered marketing to consist of selling and promotion to maximize sales at a profit. The new concept however focuses on the firms existing potential customers and seeks to earn profit through customer satisfaction with an integrated marketing program.