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Do You Really Understand What You Are Selling?

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Several marketing tactics depend on the nature of the product itself. For this reason it is helpful to have a broad understanding of how to think about products. As you will see, marketing practitioners and academics have put together a variety of "typologies" for thinking about products, and examining these typologies (and their implications for tactics) is the purpose of this tutorial.


Products are simply bundles of benefits. We have seen this before when we segmented the market based on these benefits. In the basic view, a product exists on 3 levels. The first level is the core product, or the core benefits the product delivers. It typically represents the problem a customer is trying to solve. It is basic and may consist of only one idea, but it is the key reason why someone buys the product. An example might "transportation" for a car buyer, or as Theodore Levitt pointed out (and he invented this concept), buyers don’t buy quarter-inch drills, they buy "quarter-inch holes". This is a high level view of a product, much like the word "solution" is a high level view of what many firms sell today. Nonetheless, without a core benefit, you have nothing to offer customers.

The actual product is the second level. Features exist at this level, but so do abstract attributes (see the tutorial on attributes and benefits) and some benefits. In any event, these features, abstract attributes and benefits are tightly aligned with the core benefit and represent the physical product we see.

The augmented product consists of all the additional services (warranty, installation, delivery, service, etc.) built around the core and actual product.

This view is useful in focusing our attention on having a core benefit, but also for understanding the augmented product characteristics that most products eventually must possess to stay viable in the market.


Economists have classified products as well, and I find this classification to the most useful in understanding some of the issues associated with the tactics of marketing. Consider that with positioning statement in hand, we now want to configure and market a product that delivers on this positioning statement. That will focus our attention on the various attributes associated with the benefits we are promising. Indeed, we will be trying to communicate these attributes (and benefits) to customers. But how easy is this going to be? This depends on the type of attribute.

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