BMW, Apple, Disney, Ritz Carlton, Coca Cola, Tylenol, COVERGIRL cosmetics, Head & Shoulders...
Behind every successful product, service, or brand lies a powerful concept. Products and services that win in the marketplace are successful in presenting an idea that combines a clear benefit with invisible consumer logic. Whether your business is big or small, new, or in some stage of maturity, you need a marketing concept.
What, exactly, is a marketing concept? In short, it is the mental picture of the benefit your target customers believe they will receive when they purchase your product or service.
The best description of "concept" I ever heard was in a speech by Larry Huston of Procter & Gamble in the '80s:
A true measure of a [positioning] concept is its simplicity. When presenting the concept to the consumer, [we] must provide a clean, easily defensible, clearly articulated, emotionally satisfying, thoroughly convincing, superior answer to the deceptively simple question, "Why should I purchase from you?"
Two fundamental types of concepts exist: core-idea concepts and positioning (or marketing) concepts:
- A core idea concept simply describes the product or service being offered, and it is used to determine whether an idea is of interest to a potential buyer.
- A positioning concept attempts to sell the benefits of the product or service by tapping into a real customer belief and providing a relevant context for the idea.
Your business needs a positioning concept; otherwise, you'll look like your competitors. Or, even worse, your target audience or your competitors may be the ones who position you (and how they position you might not correspond to what you want to stand for).
Let's look at an example using a mock business that sells "My Farm" organic milk. The core idea for the farm's product is that the milk contains all the nutritional elements of any other milk, but it's natural and free of hormones.