Product is the first and most important element of the marketing mix. A product is anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use, or consumption and that might satisfy a want or need. Products can be physical objects, services, people, places, organizations, and ideas. Product strategy calls or making coordinated decisions on product mixes, product lines, brands, packaging, and labeling.
A product can be considered on five levels. The core benefit is the essential use-benefit, problem-solving service that the buyer primarily buys when purchasing a product. The generic product is the basic version of the product. The expected product is the set of attributes and conditions that the buyer normally expects in buying the product. The augmented product is additional services and benefits that the seller adds to distinguish the offer from competitors. The potential product is the set of possible new features and services that might eventually be added to the offer. All products can be classified according to their durability (nondurable goods, durable goods, and services). Consumer goods are usually classified according to consumer shopping habits (convenience, shopping, specialty, and unsought goods). Industrial goods are classified according to how they enter the production process (materials and parts, capital items, and supplies and services). Most companies handle more than one product, and accordingly product mix can be described as possessing a certain width, length, depth, and consistency. These four dimensions are the tools for developing the company’s product strategy. The various lines making up the product mix have to be periodically evaluated for profitability and growth potential. The company’s better lines should receive disproportionate support; weaker lines should be phased down or out; and new lines should be added to fill the profit gap. Each product line consists of product items. The product-line manager should study the sales and profit contributions of each item in the product line as well as how the items are positioned against competitors’ items. This provides information for making several product-line decisions. Line stretching involves the question of whether a particular line should be extended downward, upward, or both ways; line filling, whether additional items should be added within the present range of the line; line modernization raises the question of whether the line needs a new look and whether the new look should be installed piecemeal or all at once; line featuring, which items to feature in promoting the line; and line pruning, how to detect and remove weaker product items from the line. Companies should develop brand policies for the individual product items in their lines. They must decide on product attributes (quality, features, design), whether to brand at all, whether to do producer or distributor branding, whether to use family brand names or individual brand names, whether to extend the brand name to new products, whether to create multiple brands, and whether to reposition any of them. Physical products require packaging decisions to create such benefits as protection, economy, convenience, and promotion. Marketers have to develop a packaging concept and test it functionally and psychologically to make sure it achieves the desired objectives and is compatible with public policy. Physical products also require labeling for identification and possible grading, description, and promotion of the product. Sellers may be required by law to present certain minimum information on the label to inform and protect consumers.
After reading the chapter the student should understand:
• The levels of the product
• How a company can build and manage its product mix and product lines • How a company can make better brand decisions
• How packaging and labeling can be used as a marketing tool
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