Just-in-time manufacturing was adopted shortly after World War II to save companies from drowning in excess inventory as they attempted to capture the benefits of scale while serving too few customers. Marketing organisations can get their own surplus production problems under control today by embracing an analogous approach: just-in-time marketing.
No business is so profitable it can’t be destroyed by bad inventory management. Which is why today’s shorter product lifecycles and rapid technological obsolescence call for even better demand forecasting tools and flexible manufacturing approaches.
But companies also create a great deal of intangible, virtual inventory that puts their overall profitability at risk – that is, when they produce excess marketing.
Just like physical inventory that risks spoiling or becoming obsolete while stacked in a warehouse, excess marketing inventory – product information and vague brand preferences that sit in customers’ minds – yields few long-term returns. Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse Research has found that consumers are less influenced by branding campaigns than ever before, for example. (See Figure 1, “Recognising Marketing’s Inventory Problem.”)