In scripture, references to chains are negative as they are instruments of oppression. In marketing, chains are an instrument of freedom and value—namely, the supply chain, the continuum that creates and delivers the offering. Picture aluminum mined in Australia at one end and the Apple gadget popping from its white box at the other. Consider all the steps in between. That is the supply chain. Some prefer to use the term “supply chain” for “upstream” actions, raw materials and components leading toward a manufacturer to comprise the product, and “marketing channel” for “downstream” actions leading away from a manufacturer, the distribution and sale of finished goods.
A supply chain is single system containing numerous companies, each with its own specialties, each contributing value realized at the point of consumption (the new iPhone now between your thumbs.) Product (which can be a good or service) is the marketing P that manifests the marketing offering. Promotion gets your attention, its sole purpose. Price also gets your attention, showing how this marketing P is another form of communication. The supply chain is part of the marketing P known as Place, the means of conveying the offering to the end-user. Over the years, I have called Place the silent P, the one that may be least apparent to the average customer yet is just as crucial as other aspects of the marketing mix.
Marketers realize advantages over competitors and deliver additional value to customers through their command of the supply chain, a discipline aptly known as supply chain management. Lamb, Hair and McDaniel emphasize a supply chain orientation for entire companies, “a system of management practices that are consistent with a ‘systems thinking’ approach.” Per the authors, marketers with such orientation have five winning characteristics:
- Cooperative attitude with partners
- Support of top managers
- Effectiveness in conducting and directing supply chain activity
Supply chain management is increasingly complex given marketing’s global expansion. This Forbes piece sponsored by Intel shows the role of technology in automating the supply chain, improving tracking and forecasting. Good supply chain management has been possible without the Internet, as was evident in biblical times. MIT professor Yossi Sheffi points out that Joseph was a master logistician as he insulated Egypt from a multi-year famine. King Solomon’s wealth drew from around the known world, relying on the logistics of the age. And one can envision Nehemiah’s strong supply chain emplacing materials to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall.
A supply chain represents a “super company” of different organizations, all of whom must harmonize to promote each other’s interests and benefit the ultimate consumer.
Romans 12:4-5 NIV
 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Supply chain management requires broad forecasting, spanning availability of raw materials to trends among final consumers. How can Christian marketers apply discernment to such forecasting to make wise and beneficial decisions?
How can servant leadership be applied to supply chain management, ensuring best outcomes for all participants? Should every supply chain have a leader to foster equity and efficiency?
Biblical Image: Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleImages.org