The New Age of business probably started in the 1970s and 1980s, when the emphasis was put on manufacturing efficiency. Using such methods as just-in-time and total quality management, managers focused on achieving economies of scale.
The Second Generation arrived in the 1980s and 1990s and emphasized effectiveness - process re-engineering, world-class manufacturing and vision with the focus on the processes leading to economy of scope.
We now are getting ready for the next jump, the Third Generation. It will be about global brand value.
Brands are about delivering the values that meet or exceed customer expectations. Marketing is about identifying, promoting and sustaining these values.
Today, the information revolution is changing the global picture completely. The Internet has made it possible for companies to communicate at the global level with consumers. But this same technology enables customers to take a deep look into companies and supply chains. As a result, customers are becoming more knowledgeable and demanding.
To deliver values today, brands also must deliver consistency. Customers must identify the same brand image and values all over the world, and they must be the same across different markets. Global brands require global branding.
Two successful examples of this immediately come to mind: McDonald's and Mercedes-Benz. Both manage to convey a consistent brand image and set of values worldwide.
But here's the hard part: A product or service must satisfy different needs of customers with different cultures and backgrounds. Different market needs often stretch brands because marketers have focused on different values in different markets.
This can result in different perceived values and different positioning. A marketing function of this nature tends to introduce 'goal incongruence' and, ultimately, inefficiencies. Companies have achieved consistency in the product delivery process but not consistency in marketing.
When customers buy a product or a service, they do not buy a single brand; they buy the sum of a supply chain. A positive experience will be the result of the successful delivery of the value process, a delivery made possible by a model in which each business activity of the supply chain serves a common purpose.
In this context, marketing can be seen as the process of breaking down organizational resources and capabilities to channel them toward the value delivery. An effective brand-management function, to create and sustain a brand, is a combination of global efficiency in the use of physical assets, which deliver products and services, with the consistent management of intellectual capital that delivers values.
Competitive advantage is not derived simply from products and services but stems from human capital, putting the customer experience at the top of the business protocol.
In this context, customers must be given an efficient, effective and consistent experience from the brand. But in order to deliver consistent experiences, it is necessary to link organizational values and capabilities throughout the supply chain to the individual customer experience.
Thus, the management challenge of the next business generation will be to write and implement a vocabulary of common purpose throughout all organizations and supply chains.