In Search of Marketing Equilibrium: Relationship Marketing vs. Hypercompetition

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Jouma! of Marketing Management, 1997, 13, 4 2 1 ^ 3 0

Evert Gummesson
Stockholm University, School of Business, Stockholm, Sudden

In Search of Marketing Equilibrium: Relationship Marketing Versus Hypercompetition This paper is a discussion on work in progress conceming tke development qf relationship marketing (RM). It is particularly focused on the concept of marketing equilibrium which is a marketing management correspondence to market equilibrium, the traditional concept of neoclassical economic;. The paper starts with a brief introduction to the author's approach to RJ\4. It proceeds with a summary of the concept of marketing equilibrium. The next section is a discourse on hypercompetition, a partiailarly intense type of competition that has been observed by several authors. RM offers a marketing theory based on collaboration with various stakeholders through long-term relationships, customer retention and loyalty. In contrast, hypercompetitiett claims that customers uHU switch between suppUers at an inaeasingly faster rate and that competitors will become increasingly hostile to one another. Two basic questions are raised: do RM and hypercompetition represent two conflicting but coexisting trends that arc both growing in intensity? and How can this coexistence or conflict be conceptually handled? Tlie aim qf this paper is not to be complete and provide an answer, only to draw the reader's attention to hypercompetition as an opposite trend to RMand to offer a platform for further analysis and constructive and reflective scholarly dialogue.

The 30R Approach to R M The 30R approach to RM is the outcome of an ongoing research project on "the new markedng" (Gummesson 1994, 1995). 30R refers to thirty reladonships that were found to exist in marketing. During the research process, three core variables stood out: relatiorahips, networks and interacdon. A consequent definidon of RM then became "RM is marketing seen as reladonships, networks and interacdon". The 3ORs wiU not be listed here, but their basic structure wiU be given. A distinction is made between market reladonships (reladonships between actors in the market such as suppUers, customers, compedtors and intermedieiries), and two types of non-market reladonships which exercise an influence on market reladonships, but are not part of the market propier. These are mega reladonships (reladonships in society, above the market reladonships, such as reladonships to governments) and nano reladonships (reladonships inside organizadons, such as intemal customer reladonships). Services markedng and ttie network approach to industrial marketing have provided the primary theoredcal impietus for the author to explore the shortcomings 0267-257X/97/050421 + 10 $12.00/0 ©1997'nte Dryden Press

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of traditional marketing management theory.^ Both theories were bom in the 1970s and have continued to giow in importance. The author's idea to merge the two goes back to 1982 and has since been pursued and broadened (Gummesson 1983, 1987, 1995). The term RM, however, was not used in a general sense until about 1990 (see e.g. Christopher et al. 1991; Groru-oos 1994; Gummesson 1994; Hunt and Morgan 1994; Sheth 1994). Instead, terms Uke long-term interactive relationships, interactive marketing, network approach and a new concept of marketing were used. My resejtrch approach is theory generating and based on comparative, qualitative analysis and syniiieses between data from inductive, real-world studies^ received theories and new theories in the process of development. Marketing Equilibrium This section is an introduction to the general concept of marketing equilibrium and a discussion on certain aspects of the equilibrium. Marketing equilibrium is a serendipitous outcome of the author's research on RM. The concept is further elaborated in Gummesson (1995, 19%). The three forces of marketing equilibrium are competition, collaboration and...
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