Businesses are set up to produce products or goods and services. These products are sold to members of the society for money. Goods consist of items with attributes that have the ability to satisfy people’s needs and wants.
Goods are, normally, tangible items. Services are intangible items that can provide value and satisfaction and are also classified as products. This unit introduces you to various forms of products and their characteristics.
People defined products differently; some is based on the benefits or satisfaction derived from it. However, you may like to think, a little deeply, on what is meant by the word ‘product’. Let us attempt to expound this with this illustration.
While conducting a seminar for operational salesmen who had been on the field for between10 to 12 years; they were asked a question- “What are you selling”? Different answers were received from different groups.
One group answered- “Soaps”. When asked again- “What? What did you say?” The salesmen would immediately answer back, “soaps, soaps, soaps”. They even tried to help the seminar leader by putting forward their right hand with the first finger and the thumb holding something rectangular, thereby assisting him to visualize soap – others claimed they sold “bulbs, drills, etc”.
A product is the key marketing mix variable around which all the other marketing mix variables revolve. It cannot be divested from other marketing mix variables, because all of them contribute to form the images of the product from the point of view of the buyers.
These images determine the values and satisfactions expected from a given product and how much the buyers will offer for it. It is therefore important for manufacturers and marketers to understand what a product means to consumers and their expectations from that product.
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Hence, a product can be described in form of anything like goods, services, ideas, people, places, and even organizations that are offered for exchange; or a product is the bundle of benefits or satisfactions offered to a customer.
Also, a product is defined as anything offered or sold for the purpose of satisfying a need or want on both sides of the exchange process. It includes a tangible object that marketers refer to as a good, as well as an intangible service (such as ideas, a place, an event, an organization), or any combination of tangible objects and intangible services.
However, Stanton (1981: 161) defines a product as:
“a set of tangible and intangible attributes including packaging, colour, price, manufacturer’s prestige, retailer’s prestige, and manufacturer’s and retailer’s services, which the buyer may accept as offering want
It should, however, be noted that the consumer is not just interested in your goods. He/she is interested in himself or herself and what ‘benefits’ he/she will get, and not in you or your organization.
Levels of a Product
This can be illustrated with the aid of a diagram as shown below:
Fig.: Marketing Management – Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control, (8th ed.) Source: Kotler, P. (2000).
1) The Core Benefits- This is the fundamental service or benefit that the customer is buying. For instance, the core benefit enjoyed by a guest in a hotel is “rest and sleep”.
2) The Basic Product – Here, marketers have to turn the core benefit into a basic product. For example, in the case of a hotel, such things as a bed, table, chair, bathroom, and dresser are the basic products enjoyed by a guest in the hotel.
3) The Expected Product – Here, marketers prepare an expected product, i.e. a set of attributes and conditions buyers normally expect when they purchase a product. For example, in a hotel, guests expect a clean bed, fresh towels, a constant power supply, and a relatively quiet environment.
4) Augment Product – Marketers are concerned with preparing augmented products that exceed customers’ expectations. For example, a hotel may have a remote-controlled tv set, a remote-controlled air conditioner, fresh flowers, etc.
5) Potential Product – This consists of all the possible augmentations and transformations the product may undergo in the future; just as we have new products in our markets daily due to modifications and diversifications undertaken by manufacturers.
Classifications of Products
Generally, products are classified into two types, namely- consumer products and industrial products.
Consumer goods are those which are used by ultimate consumers or households and in such form that they can be used without further commercial processing.
Consumer goods can further be classified according to the amount of efforts consumers are willing to expend for purchases and the extent of their preferences for such products and services. Thus, consumer goods can be divided into:
- Convenience goods
- Shopping goods
- Specialty goods
- Unsought goods.
a) Convenience Goods/ Products
These are standardized products and services, usually, of low unit values that consumers wish to buy immediately needs arise and with little buying efforts. That is, goods which consumers, generally, purchase frequently with little effort.
The purchase is almost spontaneous, and the person has already a predetermined brand in mind. These convenience goods include soaps, newspapers, toothpastes, toiletries, cigarettes etc.
Often, convenience goods are bought impulsively or spontaneously. For example, when a person goes shopping around and sees a product which attracts his attention, he buys it on impulse. Such goods are not purchased on regular basis.
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b) Shopping Goods
These are goods which are purchased after going around shops and comparing the different alternatives offered by different manufacturers and retailers. In other words, these are durable items with differentiated product attributes that consumers wish to compare in order to be able to find the most suited for their needs before buying.
In this case, emphasis on quality, price, fashion, style and so on, is of great importance. They therefore have to be marketed differently; examples of such goods are clothing, household appliances, furniture and others.
c) Specialty Goods
These are products that consumers insist on having. The buyers are willing to wait until the right products are available before they buy them. Consumers have either developed special tastes or liking for such goods.
Specialty products are usually specific branded items, rather than product categories. They are specific products which have passed the brand preference stage and reached the brand insistence stage.
Examples of these are cars, jewelries, fashion clothing, photocopy machines, cameras etc. They are usually very costly items and include luxury items.
d) Unsought Goods
These are goods that people do not seek either because they did not plan to buy them or they did not know about their existence before seeing them on display, at the point of purchase. Most new, recently introduced products fall into this class.
Therefore, aggressive and continuous promotion is considered pertinent. Examples of unsought products include life insurance, encyclopedia, and blood donation to the Red Cross Society.
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