Some scholars have suggested recently that a market-oriented culture leads to superior performance, at least in part, because of the new products that are developed and are brought to market. Others have reinforced this wisdom by revealing that a market-oriented culture enhances organizational innovativeness and new product success, both of which in turn improve organizational performance. These scholars do not reveal, however, through which new product development (NPD) activities a market-oriented culture is converted into superior performance.
To determine how critical NPD activities are for a market-oriented firm to achieve superior performance, our study uses data from 126 firms in The Netherlands to investigate the structural relationships among market orientation, new product advantage, the proficiency in new product launch activities, new product performance, and organizational performance. We focus on product advantage—because product benefits typically form the compelling reasons for customers to buy the new product—and on the launch proficiency—as the launch stage represents the most costly and risky part of the NPD process. Focusing on the launch stage also is relevant because it is only during the launch that it will become evident whether a market orientation has crystallized into a superior product in the eyes of the customer.
The results provide evidence that a market orientation is related positively to product advantage and to the proficiency in market testing, launch budgeting, launch strategy, and launch tactics. Product advantage and the proficiency in launch tactics are related positively to new product performance, which itself is related positively to organizational performance. Market orientation has no direct relationship to new product performance and to organizational performance.
An important implication of our study is that the impact of a market orientation on organizational performance is channeled through the effects of a market orientation on product advantage and launch proficiency; subsequently through the effects of product advantage and the proficiency in launch tactics on new product performance; and finally through the effect of new product performance on organizational performance. These channeling effects are much more subtle and complex than the direct relationship of market orientation on organizational performance previously assumed. Another implication of our study is that the impact of a market orientation on performance occurs through the launch activities rather than being pervasive to all organizational processes and activities. A reason for this finding may be that NPD is the one element of the marketing mix that predominantly is the responsibility of the firm, whereas promotion and distribution often are in control of organizations outside the firm (e.g., advertising agencies, major retailers) and whereas the channel or the market often dictates the price. Both implications provide ample opportunities for further research on market orientation and NPD