An investigation into how marketers cope with an environment of high complexity and turbulence, with special reference to the South African environment

by Mason, Roger Bruce

Abstract (Summary)
This study investigated relationships between marketing success, the level of external environmental complexity and turbulence, and marketing mix tactics. The literature suggested that more successful companies in simple and stable environments use stabilising marketing tactics, while more successful companies in complex and turbulent environments use destabilising tactics, regardless of industry habits, management preferences or market sector. A marketing mix model for the different environments was developed using a chaos and complexity theory perspective.

The study was exploratory, using a qualitative, case study technique. Data was collected via depth interviews and document analysis from four companies in the information technology (IT) and packaging industries. These industries were identified as, respectively, the most complex and turbulent, and the simplest and most stable, South African environments. Two companies from each industry were chosen to reflect more successful and less successful companies.

The more successful company in the complex/turbulent environment was found to use destabilising tactics, as did the more successful company in the simple/stable environment. Therefore, contrary to expectations, it appears that destabilising tactics contribute more to success than stabilising tactics do, regardless of the environment. It was also found, contrary to expectations, that stabilising tactics were used by both the less successful companies. The research concluded that destabilising tactics are related to more success and stabilising tactics to less success. The lack of clear differentiation between the two industries may be because the whole South African environment is complex and turbulent, because the packaging industry is not sufficiently simple and stable to differentiate it from the IT industry or because packaging industry managers perceive their industry to be complex and turbulent and act accordingly. Despite these uncertainties, the research showed the marketing mix model to be reasonably accurate for the complex/turbulent environment, and therefore of potential value to South African companies.

To overcome the equivocal findings, further research is recommended in different industries, in countries with different levels of complexity and turbulence and into specific marketing mix tactics. Research into managers’ perceptions of environmental complexity and turbulence and into co-evolution of marketing tactics and external environments would also be of value.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:management investec business school


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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