Effects of the tobacco regulation on the marketing mix of tobacco firms in Kenya
This study sought to identify the effects of the tobacco regulation on the marketing mix variables of the tobacco firms in Kenya. It also sought to identify the problems these firms were experiencing as they modified the marketing mix variables to suit the new regulated environment. The rationale for the study arose out of the fact that there is increasing pressure locally and internationally for enforcement of tough tobacco controls aimed at reducing its consumption, with some of the lobbyists even calling for the total elimination of the industry. This has affected the marketing activities of the tobacco firms. Many tobacco firms therefore have had to adjust their marketing mix variables to respond to the new challenges. The study used primary data, which was collected through the use of a questionnaire. The mode of data collection was though personal interviews. The study was a census study of the four tobacco firms operating in Kenya. The data, which was obtained from all the four tobacco, firms was analyzed using descriptive statistics. Findings of this study revealed that regulation of tobacco industry has brought very serious challenges to the tobacco industry. The study also found out that the tobacco firms have reduced significantly advertising and promotions e.g. through outdoor advertising, electronic and print media. The industry can longer freely use the traditional marketing mix elements. They have been forced to modify all the elements if the have to survive. The are now using more direct ways of reaching their target consumer. Secondly tobacco firms have invested heavily in marketing research activities in an effort to develop more environment and user friendly products. A lot of research efforts have also been put on consumer studies in order to identify more direct and effective channels of communicating to their target consumers. A lot of promotional efforts are now focussed at the point of sale. In an attempt to improve and correct the negative public image associated with smoking, the study found out that these tobacco firms have formed a lobby group to argue and " present their position to the relevant bodies including the government. The study further revealed that these firms are also now involving themselves in social responsibility issues like afforestation, rural health development, informal sector support programmes (like the Jua Kali sector) as well a contributing to infrastructure development like rural road repairs and education programmes which are geared to educate the public on the risks associated with smoking. Finally the research found out that although the tobacco regulations are clearly spelt, the enforcement of these rules and regulations is quite weak and as a result the locally owned firms were flouting these regulations. and therefore having an unfair advantage. The study found out that the subsidiaries of the multinational firms were already on a industry voluntary code which set the industry's own position with respect to tobacco promotion and advertising particularly at this time of heavy restrictions on its sale and marketing. In view of the changing environment as a result of increasing globalization, internationalization of business and increased calls for regulation of the businesses, the tobacco industry must look for new perspectives and innovative marketing tools for them to successfully face the new challenges. The traditional marketing mix elements cannot freely be applied in the regulated business environment and therefore the need to identify new ways through which to reach their target consumers. Tobacco firms able to develop environmentally friendly products with affordable prices and able to maintain low operational costs will have a competitive advantage in the market place. The researcher intended to collect the information from all the marketing managers or their equivalents, from the four firms but in one of the firms it was not possible to personally collect the information. The questionnaire was left and was picked later. Thus it was not possible to gather additional information or expound on questions that may have required elaboration. Besides some of the respondents were reluctant to discuss some of the issues especially where they were aware that they were flouting the regulations. These limited gathering of additional relevant information. This study has been conducted at a time when the government machinery has not been able to fully implement and enforce all the control measures proposed in the tobacco control bill. Besides there is mounting external pressures from the WHO and other multilateral donor agencies on the government to enforce the existing regulations and enact new ones. There is therefore need for further research when these regulations are fully enforced. Strict enforcement of the tobacco regulations will create a new regulated environment in which some of the firms currently operating in Kenya will pull out or new players will enter the market. This will provide also need for further research to find out how the firms' marketing mix elements will be affected and to document how these firms will modify these variables to suit the fully regulated environment.