Analyzing marketing problems and cases , Operation Research

Cases are generally based on certain issues and problems. Diagnostic, analytical and decision making skills help in case solution. A case study or case based assessment is designed to test these skills.  A faculty may decide to give cases with or without questions. Sometime to facilitate the process of solving case questions are given at the end of case. These questions may range from situation analysis, problem identification to decision making. Literature suggests that the context affects business or marketing decisions. In order to judge a student's awareness and ability to apply the theoretical and contextual knowledge while making decisions, hypothetical questions can also be given (as discussed through an example in the study school 2).

Few examples of issues which normally a case covers (a case can cover more issues) are discussed in following paragraphs. A question based on the case intends to assess students by gauging their skills in addressing them. Some issues normally found in case studies are discussed as follows:

Issue 1. To analyse the Situation (when the question demands for analysis of any situation):

Please look at the question if it requires analysis of current situation (situation analysis) and intends to assess your diagnostic and analytical skills in this regard. If it is the case, please try to find out towards which unit/s of analysis (The Business Environment, the Industry, the Organization, the Marketing Strategy), the case draws attention and then include them in the analysis. Following pointers may help in such situations:

1: The Environment


1.      The state of the economy and are there any trends that could affect the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?

2.      Current trends in cultural and social values and how do these affect the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?

3.      Current political values and trends and how do they affect the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?

4.      Current or pending federal, state, or local legislation that could influence industry, firm, or marketing strategy?

5.      Overall, any threats or opportunities in the environment that could influence the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?


Structure for discussions may cover:

1.      Economic conditions and trends

2.      Cultural and social values and trends

3.      Political and legal issues

4.      Summary of environmental opportunities and threats

5.      Implications for strategy development


2: The Industry


1.      What industry is the firm in?

2.      Which firms are the major competitors in the industry and what are their annual sales, market share, and growth profile?

3.      What strategies have competitors in the industry been using and what has been their success with them?

4.      What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of competitors in the industry?

5.      Is there a threat of new competitors coming into the industry and what are the major entry barriers?

6.      Are there any substitute products for the industry and what are their advantages and disadvantages compared to this industry's products?

7.      How much bargaining power do suppliers have in the industry and what is its impact on the firm and industry profits?

8.      How much bargaining power do buyers have in this industry and what is its impact on the firm and industry profits?

For example: One can use various frameworks for analysis one such framework is provided by Michael Porter includes five competitive forces that need to be considered to do a complete industry analysis.

Structure for discussions may cover:

1.      Classification and definition of industry

2.      Analysis of existing competitors

3.      Analysis of potential new entrants

4.      Analysis of substitute products

5.      Analysis of suppliers

6.      Analysis of buyers

7.      Summary of industry opportunities and threats

8.      Implications for strategy development

3: The Organization


1.      What are the objectives of the organization? Are they clearly stated? Attainable?

2.      What are the strengths of the organization? Managerial expertise? Financial? Copyrights or patents?

3.      What are the constraints and weaknesses of the organization?

4.      Are there any real or potential sources of dysfunctional conflict in the structure of the organization?

5.      How is the marketing department structured in the organization?

Structure for discussions may cover:

1.      Objectives and constraints

2.      Financial condition

3.      Management philosophy

4.      Organizational structure

5.      Organizational culture

6.      Summary of the firm's strengths and weaknesses

7.      Implications for strategy development

4: The Marketing Strategy


1.      What are the objectives of the marketing strategy? Are they clearly stated? Are they consistent with the objectives of the firm? In the entire marketing structured to meet these objectives?

2.      What marketing concepts are at issue in the current strategy? Is the marketing strategy well planned and laid out? Is the strategy consistent with sound marketing principles? If the strategy takes exception to marketing principles, is there a good reason for it?

3.      To what target market is the strategy directed? It is well defined? Is the market large enough to be profitably served? Who are the customers? Does the market have long-run potential?

4.      What competitive advantage does the marketing strategy offer? If none, what can be done to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

5.      What products are being sold? What are the width, depth, and consistency of the firm's product lines? Does the firm need new products to fill out its product line? Should any product be deleted? What is the profitability of the various products?

6.      What promotion mix is being used? Is promotion consistent with the products and product images? What could be done to improve the promotion mix?

7.      What channels of distribution are being used? Do they deliver the product at the right time and right place to meet customer needs? Are the channels typical of those used in the industry? Could channels be made more efficient?

8.      What pricing strategies are being used? How do prices compare with similar products of other firms? How are prices determined?

9.      Are marketing research and information systematically integrated into the marketing strategy? Is the overall marketing strategy internally consistent?


Structure for discussions may cover:

1.      Objectives and constraints

2.      Analysis of sales, profits, and market share

3.      Analysis of target market(s)

4.      Analysis of marketing mix variables

5.      Implications for strategy development


Issue 2: To identify and analyse problems in the case

Please look at the question if it requires identification and analysis of some business and/or market and/or marketing related problem bothering executives and intends to assess your diagnostic and analytical skills in this regard. If it is the case, please keep in mind following pointers:

Pointers for Analysing Problems and Their Core Elements

1.      What is the primary problem in the case? What are the secondary problems?

2.      What proof exists that these are the central issues? How much of this proof is based on facts? On opinions? On assumptions?

3.      What symptoms are there that suggest these are the real problems in the case?

4.      How are the problems, as defined, related? Are they independent or are they the result of a deeper problem?

5.      What are the ramifications of these problems in the short run? In the long run?


Structure for discussions may cover:


Problems Found in Situation Analysis

A.     Statement of primary problem(s)

1.      Evidence of problem(s)

2.      Effects of problem(s)

B.      Statement of secondary problem(s)

1.      Evidence of problem(s)

2.      Effects of problem(s)



Issue 3: When issue is to decide or related to 'Decision making '

Please look at the question if it requires you to take a decision/ course of action/suggestion and intends to assess your diagnostic, analytical and decision making skills in this regard. Following pointers may help in such situations:

Decision making requires:

(a)   formulation, evaluation, and recording of Alternative Course of Action



1.      What possible alternatives exist for solving the firm's problems?

2.      What limits are there on the possible alternatives? Competence? Resources? Management preference? Ethical responsibility? Legal restrictions?

3.      What major alternatives are now available to the firm? What marketing concepts are involved that affect these alternatives?

4.      Are the listed alternatives reasonable, given the firm's situation? Are they logical? Are the alternatives consistent with the goals of the marketing program? Are they consistent with the firm's objectives?

5.      What are the financial and other costs of each alternative? What are the benefits? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative?

6.      Which alternative best solves the problems and minimizes the creation of new problems, given the above constraints?


(b)   Selection and recording of the chosen alternative and implementation details

(c)    Pointers:

1.      What must be done to implement the alternative?

2.      What personnel will be involved? What are the responsibilities of each?

3.      When and where will the alternative be implemented?

4.      What will be the probable outcome?

5.      How will be success or failure of the alternative be measured?


Some pitfalls to avoid:

1.      Inadequate definition of the problem

2.      The search for "the answer"

3.      Not enough information

4.      Use of generalities

5.      A different situation

6.      Narrow vision analysis

7.      Realism

8.      The marketing research solution

9.      Rehashing the case material

10. Premature conclusions



Structure for discussions under this section may cover:

  • Statement of selected strategy
  • Justification of selection of strategy
  • Description of implementation of strategy

This may be constructed as under

(a)   Strategic Alternatives for Solving Problems

A.     Description of strategic alternative 1

1.      Benefits of alternative 1

2.      Cost of alternative 1

B.      Description of strategic alternative 2

1.      Benefits of alternative 2

2.      Cost of alternative 2

C.      Description of strategic alternative 3

1.      Benefits of alternative 3

2.      Cost of alternative 3

(b)   Selection of Strategic Alternative and Implementation


Issue4: If while decision making there is need is to conduct SWOT to support the decision. Following pointers may help in such situation:




  • A powerful strategy
  • Core competencies in ______.
  • A distinctive competence in _________.
  • A product that is strongly differentiated from those of rivals.
  • Competencies and capabilities that are well matched to industry key success factors.
  • A strong financial condition, ample financial resources to grow the business.
  • Strong brand-name image/company reputation.
  • An attractive customer base.
  • Economy of scale and/or learning and experience curve advantages over rivals.
  • Proprietary technology/superior technological skills/important patents.
  • Superior intellectual capital relative to key rivals.
  • Cost advantages over rivals.
  • Strong advertising and promotion
  • Product innovation capabilities
  • Proven capabilities in improving production processes.
  • Good supply chain management capabilities.
  • Good customer service capabilities.
  • Better product quality relative to rivals.
  • Wide geographic coverage and/or strong global distribution capability.
  • Alliances/joint ventures with other firms that provide access to valuable technology, competencies, and/or attractive geographic markets.




  • No clear strategic direction
  • Resources that are not well matched to industry key success factors.
  • No well-developed or proven core competencies.
  • A weak balance sheet, too much debt.
  • Higher overall unit costs relative to key competitors.
  • A product/service with ho-hum attributes or features inferior to this of rivals.
  • Too narrow a product line relative to rivals.
  • Weak brand image or reputation.
  • Weaker dealer network that key rivals and/or lack of adequate global distribution capability.
  • Behind on product quality, R & D, and/or technological know-how.
  • In the wrong strategic group.
  • Losing market share because ______.
  • Lack of management depth.
  • Inferior intellectual capital relative to leading rivals.
  • Subpar profitability because _________.
  • Plagued with internal operating problems or obsolete facilities.
  • Behind rivals in e-commerce capabilities.
  • Short on financial resources to grow the business and pursue promising initiatives.
  • Too much underutilized plant capacity.


  • Opening to win market share from rivals.
  • Sharply rising buyer demand for the industry's product.
  • Serving additional customer groups or market segments.
  • Expanding into new geographic markets.
  • Expanding the company's skills or technological know-how to enter new product lines or new businesses.
  • Online sales.
  • Integrating forward and backward.
  • Falling trade barriers in attractive foreign markets.
  • Acquiring rival firms or companies with attractive technological expertise or capabilities.
  • Entering into alliances or joint ventures that can expand the firm's market coverage or boost its competitive capability.
  • Openings to exploit emerging new technologies.



  • Increasing intensity of competition among industry rivals - may squeeze profit margins.
  • Slowdowns in market growth.
  • Likely entry of potent new competitors.
  • Loss of sales to substitute products.
  • Growing bargaining power of customer or suppliers.
  • A shit in buyer needs and tastes away from the industry's product.
  • Adverse demographic changes that threaten to curtail demand for the industry's product.
  • Vulnerability to industry driving forces.
  • Restrictive trade policies on the party of foreign governments.
  • Costly new regulatory requirements.


General: An Operational Approach to Case and Problem Analysis

1. Read the case quickly to get an overview of the situation.

2. Read the case again thoroughly. Underline relevant information and take notes on potential areas of concern.

3. Review outside sources of information of the environment and the industry. Record relevant information and the source of this information.

4. Perform comparative analysis of the firm with the industry and industry averages.

5. Analyze the firm.

6. Analyse the marketing programme.

7. Record the current situation in terms of relevant environmental, industry, firm, and marketing strategy parameters.

8. Make and record necessary assumptions to complete the situational framework.

9. Determine and record major issues, problems, and their core elements.

10. Record proof that these are the major issues.

11. Record potential course of action.

12. Evaluate each initially to determine constraints that preclude acceptability.

13. Evaluate remaining alternatives in terms of costs and benefits.

14. Record analysis of alternatives.

15. Select an alternative,

16. Record alternative and defence of its selection.

17. Record the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the alternative and its implementation.

Posted Date: 3/26/2013 3:03:10 AM | Location : United States

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