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STANDARDIZATION OF MARKETING MIX: A STUDY OF
SLOVENIAN FIRMS
Rozana Šuštar*
Received: 6. 3. 2005.
Accepted: 6. 7. 2005.
Preliminary communication
UDC: 658.8 (497.4)
This article discusses the possibilities for standardizing the marketing mix of
Slovenian firms. The study, using factor analysis, surveyed 298 exporting firms in
Slovenia. The strategic elements for standardization of the marketing mix consisting
of price, distribution, and promotion, were substantially significant factors in cost
reduction and profit increase. The ability of firms to standardize the product and
market themselves emerged as a separate factor of standardization. The study also
found many country-specific variables constraining the degree to which
standardization and its benefits could be undertaken by Slovenian managers.
1. INTRODUCTION
The evolving world of international business is witnessing the emergence of
additional players, including firms from the former Eastern block. These firms are
playing a game of catch-up as they attempt to learn the intricacies of doing
business in today’s global economy. The speed at which this process is occurring
varies across nations. Firms in Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, for
example, are rapidly acquiring the skills necessary to compete on an international
level. These firms have adopted both general approaches to marketing as well as
targeted actions, which have been influenced by the local environment. This
article will discuss the possibility of standardizing marketing mix and the factors
influencing the process of cost lessening, as they apply to the case of Slovenian
firms.
Rozana Šuštar, MSc, Teacher of Corporate Finance GEA College Piran, Kidričeva 22 6250
Ilirska Bistrica Slovenia Phone: +386 5 710 1273 Fax: +386 5 714 5234 E-mail:
centuria.ib@email.si
*
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
As the most developed country in the ex-communist world, Slovenia
possesses more experience in marketing than its Central/Eastern European
counterparts. However, Slovenia is essentially dependent upon international
marketing activities because of its small domestic market. As a result, Slovenian
firms are intensively exploring the possibility of standardizing marketing
programs on a global basis in order to reduce business expenses and to achieve
further growth.
2. LITERATURE BACKGROUND
It has been widely argued that the world-wide marketplace has become so
homogenized that firms can market standardized products and services all over
the world through globally standardized marketing mixes (product, price,
promotion, distribution) and strategies. The standardization offering identical
product lines at identical prices through identical distribution systems supported
by identical promotional programs is today intended as a flexible marketing
strategy to match specific situations (Baalbaki and Malhotra 1993; Kashani 1989;
Reichel 1989; Sandler and Shani 1992). If high export growth, a high level of
exports and a high export profits are desired then the standardization approach is
appropriate. The big issue today is not whether to go global, but rather how to
tailor the globally standardized marketing concept to fit each firm's specific needs
(Quelch and Hoff 1986). This standardization approximate thus results in lower
costs and higher margins (Fisher 1984; Hamel and Prahalad 1985; Hout et al.
1982; Jain 1989; Levitt 1983; MacCormack et al. 1994; Main 1989). Based on
the literature, it is presumed in this study that standardization results in a high
level of exports, lower costs and high export margins for firms.
Organizational characteristics, such as firm size, global marketing
experience and the marketing strategies of management in exporting firms (Koh
1991) compose the internal factors which create the conditions for global
standardization. The nature of a firm’s products, markets, technological
orientation, and resources (Lim et al. 1993) determine competitive advantage in
international markets and the possibilities for profitable standardized approaches.
Strong corporate cultures and management practices with regard to quality,
innovation and product performance (e.g., the "quality, service, cleanliness and
value" principle of McDonald's) are a further determinant of profitable
marketing standardization (Schuh 2000). Other studies (Michell et al. 1998)
pointed out that product strategies are much more standardized, and promotion,
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
distribution and price are more localized. In contrast to this conclusion, the high
price strategy seems to work well everywhere and can be standardized as well
(Botschen and Hemetsberger 1998). The efficient globalization of markets
leads to global products, global brands and global advertising respectively
(Ayal and Zif 1979), however, standardized advertising does often not optimally
fit with the cultures (Raaij 1997). The literature is not completely uniform on
distribution practices being the least standardized elements of the marketing mix
(Ozsomer et al. 1991; Botschen and Hemetsberger 1998).
An additional objective of this study is to test marketing strategies and
standardization correlation for emerging economies in order to instruct firms’
management in Slovenia to pursue efficient standardization. Marketing mix
strategies are versatile internal factors of standardization in comparison to firm
size and/or business experience, which are more fixed and firm internal factors of
standardization. As intensive restructuring of Slovenian firms takes place, the
study gives special attention to the internal factors which are controllable in the
short term. This does not diminish the need to study supplementary firm
characteristics in order to explain the detailed factors of standardization. Based on
what has been found in literature therefore, we have limited the study (see Figure
1) to a demonstration of marketing mix and market strategies and their impact on
the standardization process.
It is also worth noting that although increased attention is being focused on
international marketing, the literature concerning the standardization of the
marketing mix in the firms of emerging economies is relatively scarce (Schuh
2000). More research on the applicability of marketing know-how and
standardized marketing mix activities in such nations is needed (Akaah and
Riordan 1988).
3. DATA AND METHODOLOGY
3.1. Data sources
A written questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 1230 Slovenian
exporting firms, representing approximately 18 percent of all exporting firms in
the country. From this sample, 298 responses were received, giving a response
rate of 24.2 percent. Two (2) respondents were bankrupt firms and were therefore
not used in the study. The questionnaires were addressed to general managers or
executives involved in making strategic business decisions. All of the seven (7)
questions were of the closed type. The five-point Likert scale was used for the
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
questions. Some of the respondents were queried by phone when responses from
firms were ambiguous or incomplete. Table 1 provides more detailed information
about the variables that were included in the statistical analysis.
Table 1. Data information on variables
Variable
Standardization of distribution
Standardization of promotion
Standardization of marketing mix
Standardization of price
Standardization of competitive products
Standardization of product
Standardization of consumers
Item
STDIST
STPROM
STANMIX
STPRICE
STCOMP
STPROD
STCONS
Scale
5 point
5 point
5 point
5 point
5 point
5 point
5 point
3.2. Methodology
The statistical package SAS was used to analyze the data. The calculation of
Pearson coefficients among the various variables indicated that certain responses
were correlated. Principal component analysis with orthogonal rotations was then
used to investigate these relationships and examine factors involved in the
standardization of marketing mixes. The Varimax method of orthogonal rotation
proposed by Kaiser made factors as intuitively meaningful as possible.
It is considered a disadvantage to choose a rotation subjectively because the
analyst may try to force the factor loadings to fit his/her own preconceived
hypotheses. The selection of these factors was thus based on the combination of
the following criteria:
1. An eigenvalue criterion of one or greater which, according to Kaiser,
includes those principal components whose eigenvalues are greater than or
equal to the average:
j/
p
 j  1/p,
j=1
where:
 = eigenvalue;
j = index of a component;
p = number of variables,
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
in other words, the criterion includes those principal components whose
eigenvalues are greater than or equal to one:
k = max {j│j  1},
where:
k = number of selected components.
2. Catell’s scree test using “scree graph” (one plots j versus j); such a
diagram indicates clearly where “large” eigenvalues cease and “small”
eigenvalues begin.
3. Inclusion of the minimum number of components to explain 55 percent of
the total variation; when the number of variables is equal to or less than 20,
Kaiser’s criterion tends to include too few components, and similarly,
Cattell’s scree test includes too many components:
k = min {k│1 + 2 + ... + k  (q/100)
p
 j },
j=1
where:
q = explained variance.
This form of analysis led to the inclusion of only two of the original
factors, which together accounted for 40.11 percent of the total variance (see
Table 2). From the chosen two factors, the relatively significant variables forming
particular factors were selected under the following conditions:
1. For each factor j, consider those variables that had a relatively high positive
or negative weighting, the variables i for which:
rXi,Yj  0.70maxqrXq,Yj ,
where:
r
i
Xi
Yj
q
=
=
=
=
=
correlation coefficient;
index of a variable;
variable i;
factor j;
index of a variable with the highest correlation coefficient
included in a factor;
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
Xq = variable with the highest correlation coefficient included
in a factor,
which constituted an index of the combined action, or contrast, of the
original variables (Mardia et al. 1979).
2. Because the previous approach did not always lead to meaningful
interpretations, an additional subjective condition, as an option, was
employed:
rXi,Yj  0.50.
Table 2 shows the statistical results based on Varimax rotated factor
loadings.
Table 2. Varimax rotated factor loadings of standardization of marketing mix
Variable/Item
Standardization of distribution (STDIST)
Standardization of promotion (STPROM)
Standardization of marketing mix (STANMIX)
Standardization of price (STPRICE)
Standardization of competitive
products (STCOMP)
Standardization of product (STPROD)
Standardization of consumers (STCONS)
Percent of variance explained
Cumulative percent
Factor 1
0.76039
0.70121
0.67827
0.51997
0.19236
Factor 2
0.18847
0.08314
0.20103
0.04198
0.78792
0.20848
0.24914
0.65258
0.61757
24.68
24.68
15.43
40.11
4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
On the basis of the statistical findings, a useful model of factors which affect
the standardization of the marketing mix for Slovenian firms can be traced. Figure
1 shows the basic relationships among the statistically significant categories of
the model. Based upon the results of the sample firms, it can be reasonably stated
that the standardization of international marketing mix for Slovenian firms is
affected by factors such as the strategies of marketing standardization including
standardization of price, distribution and promotion, and strategy of product and
market standardization.
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
4.1. Standardization strategies
4.1.1. Discussion of standardization strategies
The first factor concerns the standardization strategies of marketing mix
(STANMIX), which includes the variables: price (STPRICE), distribution
(STDIST) and promotion (STPROM). This factor accounts for 24.68 percent of
variance. In its entirety, the factor can be described as the “strategies of marketing
standardization adopted by managers of Slovenian firms”. The product itself is
excluded and discussed separately below. Responses to these specific factor
questions were very consistent, as evidenced by the relatively high correlation
among these components.
Figure 1. Proposed model of standardization of marketing mix
As far as the standardization of marketing mix (STANMIX) is concerned,
the questionnaire included a question on “marketing mix” as a separate dependent
variable. This question was intended to query respondents as to whether or not the
marketing mix as a whole was standardized, as opposed to the standardization of
separate elements. For example, if the product is the core element of the
marketing mix and is standardized, but the other three elements of the marketing
mix are adapted, then it might be assumed that the marketing mix is nonstandardized. However, respondents could indicate that the marketing mix in
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
general was in fact standardized in their response. Such a response could be
expected when elements other than product were secondary in meaning.
The results do not indicate a high degree, but rather a moderate degree of
marketing mix standardization. In marketing practice, total standardization of
marketing mix is difficult to employ (Jain 1989). As noted, differences among the
various EU countries regarding culture and language still exist, as do differences
in customer preferences. This is why even such countries could not be included in
a completely standardized marketing mix (Reichel 1989). It follows that many
Slovenian firms are also adapting their marketing approach to specific countries.
As seen in the results, all of the variables of the second factor (marketing mix as a
whole, price, distribution, and promotion) are correlated, so that changes in or
deviations from standardization in one component, such as price, are likely to lead
to an adaptation of the other components. In accordance with statistical analysis,
it can be assumed that the product will also be standardized for the majority of
Slovenian firms.
For Slovenian firms, consistency exists among the elements of the marketing
mix unrelated to product. This consistency found in the study indicates the same
conclusion as in traditional literature, i.e. that firms, which standardize one
element of the marketing mix are more likely to standardize others, resulting in a
synergy among the elements and a total standardization of the marketing mix and
vice-versa (Seifert and Ford 1989). The study therefore suggests that, for
Slovenian firms, the standardization strategy for the international marketing mix
is largely conditioned by the strategy for product standardization, whereas the
strategy of price, distribution and promotion standardization is determined
primarily by the degree of strategic standardization of the marketing mix.
The standardization of price (STPRICE) emerged as the most prevalent
standardized element of the marketing mix among Slovenian managers. The price
variable registered the highest mean value on the Likert scale and was statistically
the most often standardized of the three components included in this factor
(standard deviation equals 1.33). This is similar to the findings of Seifert and Ford
(1989) who observed that American exporters use standardized pricing overseas.
Michell et al. (1998) pointed out the opposite for 63 UK multinationals in a
developing market operating a non-standardized approach to price which is not
consistent with our study and the study by Botschen and Hemetsberger (1998).
Price considerations may be related to the fact that Slovenian firms ship a
majority of their exports to the European Union, which as a “one market” is
amenable to greater price standardization. Pricing and its standardization were
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judged to be particularly valuable in Hungary, but less valuable in Bulgaria
(Hooley et al. 1993). It can be speculated that as prices become more uniform
throughout Europe, an increase in promotional expenditures could also be
expected (Daser and Hylton 1991). According to the study, price is not strongly
correlated with the distribution and promotional mixes, whereas these latter two
variables are strongly correlated with each other. It may be assumed that the
standardization of one of these latter two variables is likely to lead to the
standardization of the remaining member of the pair.
The standardization of distribution (STDIST) is the next variable in this
factor. The average score of 2.54 on the five-point Likert scale, where a “1”
indicated adaptation and a “5” indicated total standardization of distribution
(standard deviation equals 1.32), indicates that Slovenian firms are quite likely to
use non-standardized distribution approaches when entering foreign markets. This
is in line with the findings of Ozsomer et al. (1991) who found that MNCs in
Turkey mostly standardize product-related elements such as brand name and
positioning whereas distribution practices are the least standardized elements of
the marketing mix. In contrast, Botschen and Hemetsberger (1998) concluded
for Austrian, German and Italian laddering firms that distribution could be well
standardized. We can conclude that distribution channels in the European Union,
and other target markets for Slovenian firms, are not perceived to be homogenous,
meaning that Slovenian managers adapt to the channels at their disposal. It is
clear that the geographical structure and dispersion of the target market,
government regulations and laws, and the availability, accessibility and
effectiveness of a market’s distribution system influence the standardization of
the distribution strategy (Baalbaki and Malhotra 1993). This is especially
characteristic of Slovenian firms, which are newcomers seeking to penetrate a
market. Slovenian managers must find new channels, which have not yet been
closed by competitors, and gain control of these channels as they grow in order to
increase possibilities to standardize distribution channels. Consistent with our
factor analysis the standardization of distribution is a significant factor of
enhanced standardization enabling Slovenian firms to lower costs and achieve
high export margins.
The final variable in this factor is the standardization of the promotional mix
(STPROM), consisting of advertising, sales promotion, publicity and personal
selling. Advertising strategy can, according to Botschen and Hemetsberger
(1998), be standardized to a high degree. In many situations, the standardization
of the promotion program is more crucial than the standardization of the technical
specifications of the product (Ayal and Zif 1979). In contrast, this variable of the
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Slovenian study exhibited the lowest mean score of the three components, 2.43 on
the five-point Likert scale, where a “1” indicated adaptation and a “5” indicated
total standardization of promotion (standard deviation equals 1.23). As is the case
in Turkey, certain similarities exist in advertising themes however advertising and
the rest of promotion mix used by MNCs are somehow less standardized than
other elements of marketing mix (Ozsomer et al. 1991). The low occurrence of
promotion standardization may be due to the fact that Slovenian firms are not
well known in Western markets, making it difficult for them to standardize their
promotional mix. As a result, they usually adopt a more case-by-case promotional
mix, which is country and customer-specific. Even within familiar markets such
as the European Union, cultural differences among nations still demand for
Slovenian products the tailoring of promotional strategies. In this sense, cultural
factors more strongly affect the marketing of culturally sensible products, which
are also exported from “foreign” Slovenian firms, thus necessitating local
advertising/promotion modification (Sandler and Shani 1992). Based upon results
in our study Slovenian firms have still enough space to lower costs and increase
export profits by the standardization of promotion, which is a significant factor of
enhancing standardization.
4.1.2. Summary of factor loading
The study discovered that the standardization factor “strategies of marketing
standardization adopted by managers of Slovenian firms” is similar to the
strategies of marketing standardization adopted by most of the firms from other
countries. The differences to some findings in the relevant literature (Michell et
al. 1998; Botschen and Hemetsberger 1998; Ayal and Zif 1979) exist because
Slovenian products and services, brands and firm images are not worldwide
known, making it difficult for managers in Slovenian firms to standardize a
promotional mix and market channels in a global context.
4.2. Strategy of product and market standardization
4.2.1. Discussion of strategy of product and market standardization
The second factor is the “strategic standardization of product and market”.
This factor accounts for 15.43 percent of variance. The product variable
(STPROD) within this factor analysis is treated separately since it is one of the
key elements of the marketing mix. This is similar to Jain’s (1989) and later
Okechuku’s (1994) findings about the “nature of product”. In the communist era,
standardized product innovation and quality were not a high priority for
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Slovenian producers. Today, this problem is being confronted as Slovenia opens
and liberalizes its economy. It is a given fact that Slovenian firms need products
with valued commercial attributes such as quality and technological
sophistication if they are to succeed in the demanding markets of developed
nations. However, there remains a technology gap in Slovenian firms and a lack
of detailed and extensive marketing knowledge among Slovenian managers. In
this era, high-technology products require the adaptation of high technology
systems comparable to those already in place in the country of one's competitors
(Achumba et al. 1984). This will determine the extent to which the product must
be modified in order to be compatible with and easily integrated into any existing
system in the world. This lack of knowledge is an obstacle to the standardization
of products in the global marketplace and calls for marketing adaptation
(Katsikeas and Morgan 1994). In this manner, Slovenian firms perceive quality
and innovation to be essential for successful export activities. Thus, products
need to be more standardized in foreign markets just as was found in the Baalbaki
and Malhotra research (1993).
According to Levitt (1983), however, common consumer preferences lead
inescapably to the standardization of products. If consumer needs (STCONS) are
shared across nations and cultures, then managers of Slovenian firms standardize
products for these markets. Hooley et al. (1993), for example, found that a large
proportion of Hungarian firms believe their markets to be essentially commodity
markets where little adaptation is necessary to meet customers’ needs for products
and services. The successful standardization of Slovenian products can, in this
case, facilitate the standardization of other elements of the promotional mix.
However, as previously noted, this study does not imply that Slovenian firms
have adopted standardized marketing mix approaches in the majority of
situations. Moreover, consumer differences do exist in diverse countries with
regard to their perception of consumer needs (Kustin 1993; Sandler and Shani
1992). Rather, when the possibility to standardize exists, it is highly probable that
Slovenian firms will pursue standardization of the marketing mix which is
consistent with Solberg’s (2002) findings of consumer similarities as well.
The final variable for the third factor is the standardization of products by
competitors (STCOMP). Slovenian firms generally follow their competitors’ lead
in standardization. This conforms to the literature on economics which states that
managers need to broaden the strategic scope of product standardization and
consider international competition even when acting in local markets; for
example, in terms of channel choice, the influence of international competition
has to be taken into account (Vahlne and Nordstrom 1988). Successful
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
standardization of a product by competitors acts as an indication that consumer
needs can be treated homogeneously to a firm’s advantage. Quelch and Hoff
(1986) found that firms competing with the same competitors in different markets
with similar market shares can standardize products and, in a broader context,
marketing programs. The observation and emulation of competitors’ strategies is
part of a firm’s learning process, which Slovenian managers appear to be pushed
to follow. Accepting that Slovenian export firms possess rigid isolating
mechanisms, which constrain firms in imitating standardization approaches
(Fraser and Hite 1990), and that large market share leads to competitive
advantages, there is a clear policy conclusion along Levitt’s lines. Namely, a firm
should use the elements of homogenization in world demand to correspond to its
product offering (Kogut 1983).
4.2.2. Summary of factor loading
Slovenian firms’ strategy of product and market standardization is in line
with the theoretical and empirical answers in the relevant literature. This is due
to the fact that strategies of product and market are the core twin
standardization strategies, which enable exporting firms in Slovenia to utilize
the market benefits of standardization.
5. CONCLUSION
There is a considerable body of literature covering the standardization of the
marketing mix in the international environment. However, authors have differed
in their assessment and assignment of significance to each of the specific factors
which address a variety of situations. This study adds to the existing literature by
reinforcing some of the findings of these authors with respect to the significance
of certain factors related to the process of standardization in an emerging
economy.
The first most significant factor of standardization studied was the
standardization of the marketing mix and its elements of price, distribution, and
promotion. The study stressed that the standardization factor “strategies of
marketing standardization adopted by managers of Slovenian firms” is similar to
the strategies of marketing standardization adopted by most of the firms from
other countries. Differences to some of the findings in the literature exist
because Slovenian products and services, brands and firm images are not known
worldwide, making it difficult for managers in Slovenian firms difficult to
standardize promotional mix and market channels in a global context.
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R. Šuštar: Standardization of marketing mix: A study of Slovenian firms
Second in significance were the strategies for the standardization of product
and market. Slovenian firms’ strategy of product and market standardization is
in line with the theoretical and empirical answers in the literature. This is due
to the fact that strategies of product and market are the core twin
standardization strategies, which enable exporting firms in Slovenia to utilize
the market benefits of standardization. Both factors are very much internal to the
firm, and thus reflect the strategies and decision making of managers in Slovenian
firms.
One of the interesting findings of the study was that the strategy for
standardization of the product emerged as a factor separate from the remaining
elements of the marketing mix. This finding points to country-specific effects
influencing the international involvement of Slovenian firms. These influences
originate in Slovenia’s communist past and have evolved under its current
economic transition. For example, one economic legacy of communism is the lack
of technologically advanced products with well-known brand names. As a result,
Slovenian firms lack products with sufficient attractiveness for export and
international standardization.
6. DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
Despite the considerable body of literature on standardization, there is a
scarce amount of scholarly work dealing with the standardization of the
marketing mix for firms in emerging economies. These firms are becoming
increasingly involved in international business and, therefore, will have a greater
role to play in global market activities.
More research into the problems and processes of global standardization
undertaken by firms of emerging economies is required. Since the study gave
40.11 percent of variance, further research into internal factors such as firm size,
business experience, resources etc., and into external factors and their impact on
standardization is needed. This research will generate knowledge of value to all
practitioners, in particular to those.from emerging markets in the field of
international marketing.
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STANDARDIZACIJA MARKETING MIKSA: EMPIRIJSKO ISTRAŽIVANJE
SLOVENSKIH PODUZEĆA
Sažetak
U ovom se radu raspravlja o mogućnostima standardizacije marketing miksa slovenskih
poduzeća. U empirijskoj se analizi, uz pomoć faktorske analize, razmatraju odgovori
298 ispitanih slovenskih izvoznika. Pritom se pokazalo da su strateški elementi
standardizacije marketinškog miksa – cijena, distribucija i promocija – značajan faktor
snižavanja troškova i povećanja profita. Za sposobnost poduzeća za standardiziranje
proizvoda i tržišta zaključeno je da se radi o samostalnim faktorima standardizacije. U
istraživanju je također utvrđeno da postoje i brojne varijable specifične za pojedine
države koje ograničavaju razinu u kojoj bi slovenski manageri mogli koristiti
standardizaciju marketinškog miksa i njezine prednosti.
88
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