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WHAT IS A PRODUCT?

This question may seem trivial, but it is one which has become more and more complex thanks to our increasingly competitive environment.  Because of that environment, companies employ a lot of effort in differentiating their products from the competition with value added services that we have come to see as an integral part of a product. 

Does that definition seem confusing?  Let take a real life example.  Jeep’s Trail Rated certification is a very good example of this.  In brief, Trail Rated is a certification system that testifies to a vehicle’s ability to go off-road and perform well under those conditions.  There are many technical components to that certification, most of them escape my limited technical understanding.  But what is interesting is the fact that the marketing people at Jeep thought about that certification and with it, the image of ruggedness that it gives to the products.  Also very interesting is the fact that this certification is only available to Jeep products; I am convinced that other SUVs undoubtedly possess some of the attributes that earn Jeep vehicles their badge of honour, but these vehicles are not eligible for the Trail Rated certification.  So in essence, only a Jeep can be called Trail Rated.  This is an example of a very interesting value added service component. 

Another example?  Few can argue the passion the Mac users have toward their brand; the line-ups to get the latest iPhone are a testament to this.  Having used a Mac in the past, I can confidently say that their machines are very well made and durable.  And having recently experimented with Windows 8, I can also say that Mac’s operating system is excellent.  I can also say that the celebrated aesthetic component of Mac products does nothing for my productivity or the quality of my work.  However, this is such a strong aspect of any Mac product that compared to equivalent machines, the Mac will sell for more.  Of course some of the price difference is down to the components and in large part, for the brand, but my Dell computer which is brushed aluminum just like some of the Mac products and has all the bells and whistle of those machines, is at least $600 less expensive.  And it does the job just fine.  So what part of the added price can be attributed to the aesthetics?  I leave that debate to experts but it is a significant chunk for sure.

Now, how can all of this be applied to our own products?  In conceiving a product, we need to think about all the component of that product:

  1. - Brand notoriety (a very important aspect of product differentiation);
  2. - Styling;
  3. - Support (pre-sales, customer support, website, etc.);
  4. - Guarantee;
  5. - After-sales support;
  6. - Turn-key selling process (widely used in furniture and appliance, where they deliver the product to your home and install it);
  7. - Payment options;
  8. - Product availability;
  9. - Others.

Nowadays, most if not all of these attributes help define what a product is.  It is important when you are defining your next product that you consider these elements as they are strong differentiation factors which will set you apart from your competitors. 

 

Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed, MBA
Marketing consultant