For developing marketing plans and strategies, a marketer needs to make individual product decisions. These answers what decisions a marketer has to make before developing and marketing individual products?
Individual product decisions start with setting the right product attributes. To make the product stand out from the competition, branding needs to be done properly. Packaging must be good to protect the product in shipping. Labeling should be done uniquely in a way that provides all information about the product and attracts the customers. Product-support services are required for generating better customer satisfaction and gain competitive advantage.
5 individual product decisions are;
- product attributes,
- labeling, and
- product support services.
1. Product Attributes
The marketer should clearly define the benefits that can be derived out of his product. The benefit is reflected and provided by product attributes such as quality, features, and design. Product attribute decisions greatly influence consumer reactions to a product.
Three product attributes that marketer must ensure are;
- Product Quality
- Product Features
- Product Design
In positioning a product, quality requires careful consideration. Quality is approached from two viewpoints – level and consistent.
While developing a product, the marketer must first decide on the quality level that will commensurate with its position in the target market. Product quality means the capacity of a product to perform its functions, including durability, reliability, precision, ease of operation, and repair.
Quality must be measured in the context of buyers’ perceptions. A marketer is not necessarily required to set the quality of his product at a high level. Rather a quality level should be chosen, keeping consumer needs into consideration.
Besides establishing a quality level, a marketer has to be consistent in maintaining it. This objective can be accomplished through proper quality control management, better product design, and improved manufacturing processes.
The ultimate goal of quality management is to improve the customer value of a product. Thus, quality is recognized as a strategic weapon to fight competition by offering customers goods and services that, in a better way, serve their needs and preferences.
A product can have many features.
First, a product should possess a minimum number of features, which can be increased over time. Product features is a tool used in tackling competition. Therefore, the producer must be innovative in selecting product features.
To make decisions about product features, consumer opinion should be gathered through a customer survey. This will provide the producer with the needed feature ideas. In practice, only those features should be selected for which the consumers are ready to pay the extra cost involved.
To understand what features a product should have, a marketer needs to know about the levels of product.
To be successful, a product should have a distinctive design. Design is something more than a style. A product should be designed to make it attractive, easy, safe, and inexpensive to use and service, and simple and economical to produce and distribute.
As competition increase, design proves to be a very effective tool for differentiating and positioning a company’s products and services. A good design offers other advantages also.
It helps to attract customers’ attention, enhances product performance, reduces the cost of production, and enables the product to cope with competition in a better way.
A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of these intended to identify the products or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors.
To the consumers, the brand is an important part of the product. For example, most consumers perceive a packet of Benson & Hedges cigarettes as a high-quality, expensive product.
But the same cigarettes in an unmarked packet would likely be considered lower in quality, even if the tobacco were identical. The brand symbolizes a specific set of features, quality, benefits, services, and warranty.
Four facets of the meaning of the brand are (1) attributes, (2) benefits, (3) values, and (4) personality.
For example, buyers perceive Hitachi washing machine as a durable, well built, less power consuming, safe, and prestigious household equipment bought by well of families. The marketers’ challenge lies in developing a deep set of meanings for the brand. Having developed the four levels of a brand’s meaning, marketers must locate the levels at which they will build the brand’s identity.
Branding is its own universe. In branding, marketers must consider
- Brand Name Selection
- Brand Equity
- Branding Decisions
- Brand Sponsor
- Brand Strategy
- Brand Repositioning
Brand Name Selection
Successful companies have developed a formal process in selecting brand names. It starts with a careful review of the product and its benefits, the target market, and proposed marketing strategies.
A good brand name should have five qualities;
- It should indicate the product’s benefits and qualities.
- It should be convenient to pronounce and easy to recognize and remember.
- It should be distinctive.
- The brand name should translate easily into foreign languages.
- It should be suitable for registration and legal protection.
Brand equity is the value of a brand, based on the extent to which it has high brand loyalty, name awareness, perceived quality, strong brand associations, and other assets such as patents, trademarks, and channel relationships. A brand with strong brand equity is a valuable asset that can be bought or sold for a price.
For example, Nestle bought Rowntree (UK), Carnation (US), Stouffer (US), Buitoni-Perugina (Italy), and Perrier (France), making it the world’s largest food company.
Precisely measuring actual brand equity is quite difficult. For sustaining brand equity, marketers need to manage their brands carefully. Strategies must be developed for effectively maintaining or improving brand awareness.
This calls for continuous R&D investment, skillful advertising, and excellent trade and consumer service. As the basic asset underlying brand equity is customer equity, marketing strategy should concentrate on extending loyal customer lifetime value, with brand management serving as a major marketing tool.
What decisions does a marketer face to establish and maintain successful brands? The following figure shows the major branding decisions:
To Brand or Not to brand
Marketers first decide whether to brand or not to brand its products. Nowadays, it isn’t easy to find unbranded products. Almost all types of consumer goods and industrial goods are sold under brand names.
However, “Generic” products usually do not carry brands. The decision to brand or not to brand requires careful consideration of some important issues. These are the necessity of branding, benefits of branding, and cost of branding. Branding helps buyers in a number of ways.
The brand indicates product quality, increases shopper’s efficiency, and provides information about new products.
Branding also offers several benefits to sellers. Branding helps sellers process orders, provide legal protection for unique product features that otherwise might be initiated by competitors, and attract a loyal and profitable set of customers. Branding helps the seller in segmenting markets.
A producer has four alternatives for sponsoring his brands;
- Manufacturer’s brand (national brand), the brand selected and owned by the producer of a product or service.
- Private brand (or intermediaries, distribution, or store brand), the brand selected and owned by a reseller of a product on service.
- Licensed brand, a brand used under license from other manufacturers who created it earlier.
- Co-branding, a brand created by combining the brand names of two different companies on the same product.
A company has four options regarding brand strategies;
- Line extension, adopting a successful brand name to introduce additional items in a given product category under the same brand name, such as new flavors, forms, colors, added ingredients, or package sizes.
- Brand extension, adopting a successful brand name to launch a new or modified product in a new product category.
- Multibranding, a strategy under which a seller develops two or more brands in the same product category.
- New brands, creating a new brand name when entering a new product category for which none of the existing brand names are suitable.
A well-positioned brand might need repositioning in the market later. A competitor’s brand may snatch away the company’s market share.
Demand may also fall due to changes in customer wants. So, marketers might find it necessary to reposition their existing brands before introducing new ones, ensuring brand recognition and consumer loyalty.
Repositioning may involve changing both the product and its image.
Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its menu, adding lower-fat skinless chicken and non-fried items such as broiled chicken and chicken salad sandwiches to reposition itself toward more health-conscious fast-food consumers.
Repositioning of a brand can also be made by changing only the product’s image. When repositioning a brand, the marketer should make sure that such an action will not result in losing or confusing existing loyal buyers.
Most of the products are to be packaged before putting them in the market. Some marketers consider the packaging as the fifth element of the marketing mix, and they treat packaging as a part of product strategy. Packaging refers to the task of designing and producing the container or wrapper for a product.
The package may include the product’s primary container (the bottle holding ETERNITY perfume); a secondary package that is thrown away when the product is about to be used (the cardboard box containing the bottle of ETERNITY); and the shipping package necessary to store, identify and ship the product (a corrugated box carrying six dozens bottles of ETERNITY).
Labeling is also part of the packaging and contains printed information appearing on or with the package.
Apart from containing and protecting the product, packaging also has several other benefits for which it is now being recognized as an important marketing tool.
With the increase in self-service in retailing, the packaging is supposed to supplement and substitute the salesman’s job. Packaging attracts attention, describes the product, and completes the sale. Good packaging creates instant consumer recognition of the company or brand.
For example, in an average supermarket, which stocks 15,000 to 17,000 items, the typical shopper passes by some 300 items per minute, and 53 percent of all purchases are made on impulse.6 Innovative packaging gives a competitive advantage to a company.
On the contrary, ill-designed packages may cause apathy for consumers resulting in a declining sale. Good packaging is also required for ensuring product safety.
“Developing a good package for a new product requires making many decisions. The first task is to establish a packaging concept. The packaging concept states what the package should be or do for the product.
Should the main functions of the package be to offer product protection, introduce a new dispensing method, suggest certain qualities about the product or the company, or something else?
Decisions must be made on specific elements of the package, such as size, shape, materials, color, text, and brand mark. These various elements must work together to support the product’s position and marketing strategy. The package must be consistent with the product’s advertising, pricing, and distribution.”
Companies select the best package from among many package designs after testing. Factors considered in this test are ease in use, ease in handling by dealers, and the consumer response received. The selected package should be modified with the changes in buyers’ preferences and advances in technology.
In making packaging decisions, the company must also take into account environmental considerations. Companies should always be ready to take responsibility for the environmental costs of their products and packaging.
A simple example of a label is a tag attached to the product. Complex graphics are also labels that are part of the package. Labels serve various purposes from which the seller has to select the appropriate one.
The label identifies the product or brand, grade the product, and also might describe several things about the product, such as who made it, where it was made, when it was made, its contents, how it is to be used, and how to use it safely. The label also helps in promoting the product through attractive graphics.
A marketer should be concerned about the legal aspects of labeling, and their decisions should conform to the legal requirements in this respect. Labels can mislead customers, fail to describe important ingredients, or fail to include needed safety warnings.
For protecting consumers’ interest Government might introduce various laws to regulate labeling.
The law may require the labels to contain;
- unit pricing (stating the price per unit of standard measure),
- Open dating (stating the expected shelf life of the product), and
- Nutritional labeling (stating the nutritional values in the product).
The producers/sellers must ensure that their labels contain all the necessary information.
5. Product Support Services
A product is offered in the market, along with some services. Such services augment the actual products. The producers are increasingly using Product-support services for gaining competitive advantage.
A study comparing the performance of the business that had high and low customer ratings of service quality found that the high-service businesses managed to charge more, grow faster, and make more profits.
Undoubtedly, service strategies deserve careful attention by the marketers.
A product and its support services should be designed to meet the needs of the target customers. Deciding which product-support services to offer is to determine both the services valued by target consumers and the relative importance of these services.
Determining customers’ service needs involves more than simply monitoring complaints. Companies should undertake periodic customer surveys to get ratings of current services as well as ideas for new ones.
Products can also be designed to reduce required servicing by coordinating product-design and service mix decisions.
Recognizing the importance of customer service as a marketing tool, many companies have introduced strong customer service operations to handle complaints and adjustments, credit service, maintenance service, technical service, and consumer information.
Finally, an effective customer service operation coordinates all the company’s services, creates consumer satisfaction and loyalty, and enables the company to remain at an advantageous position in relation to its competitors.