To carry out marketing analysis, planning, implementation and control, managers need information. Like Qantas, they need information about market demand, customers, competitors, dealers and other forces in the marketplace. One marketing executive put it this way: 'To manage a business well is to manage its future; and to manage the future is to manage information.2 Increasingly, marketers are viewing information as not just an input for making better decisions, but also a marketing asset that gives competitive advantage of strategic importance.3

During the twentieth century, most companies have been small and have known their customers at first hand. Managers picked up marketing information by being around people, observing them and asking questions. However, many factors have increased the need for more and better information. As companies become national or international in scope, they need more information on larger, more distant markets. As incomes increase and buyers become more selective, sellers need better information about how buyers respond to different products and appeals. As sellers use more complex marketing approaches and face more competition, they need information on the effectiveness of their marketing tools. Finally, in today's rapidly changing environments, managers need up-to-date information to make timely decisions.

The supply of information has also increased greatly. John Neisbitt suggests that the world is undergoing a 'mega-shift' from an industrial to an information-based economy.4 He found that more than 65 per cent of the US workforce now work at producing or processing information, compared to only 17 per cent in 1950. Using improved computer systems and other technologies, companies can now provide information in great quantities. Many of today's managers sometimes receive too much information. For example, one study found that with companies offering all the information now available through supermarket scanners, a brand manager gets one million to one billion new numbers each week.5 As Neisbitt points out: 'Running out of information is not a problem, but drowning in it is,'(>

Figure B.l

The marketing information system

Marketers frequently complain that they lack enough information of the right kind or have too much of the throng kind. Regarding the spread of information throughout the company, they say that it takes great effort to locate even simple facts. Subordinates may withhold information that they believe will reflect badly on their performance. Often, important information arrives too late to be useful, or on-time information is not accurate. Companies have greater capacity to provide managers with information, but have often not made good use of it. Many companies are now studying their managers' information needs and designing information systems to meet those needs.

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