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    Marketing Success Through Differentiation

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    Marketing Success Through Differentiation - Of Anything

    by Theodore Levitt $8.95 (USD)

    Product Description

    Publication Date: January 01, 1980

    Marketers can differentiate any product or service, even commodities which seem to differ only in price from competitors' offerings. Products almost always combine a tangible entity with an intangible promise of user satisfaction. The expected product, which includes the generic product, represents the customer's minimal purchase conditions. These purchase conditions include variables such as delivery, terms, support efforts and new ideas. The sale of the generic product depends on how well the customer's wider expectations are met.

    Product #: 80107-PDF-ENG

    Pages: 8

    Related Topics: Product development, Product management

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    Source : store.hbr.org

    Marketing Success Through Differentiation—of Anything

    On television we see product differentiation all the time, whether the subject of the commercial is a distinguishable good like an automobile or an indistinguishable good like laundry detergent. These are packaged products. How does the marketer differentiate a so-called commodity like isopropyl alcohol, strip steel, commercial bank services, or even legal counsel? The author […]


    Marketing Success Through Differentiation—of Anything

    by Theodore Levitt by Theodore Levitt

    From the Magazine (January 1980)

    Tweet Post Share Save Buy Copies Print

    On television we see product differentiation all the time, whether the subject of the commercial is a distinguishable good like an automobile or an indistinguishable good like laundry detergent. These are packaged products. How does the marketer differentiate a so-called commodity like isopropyl alcohol, strip steel, commercial bank services, or even legal counsel? The author describes the attributes of products that give the marketer opportunity to win the customer from the competition and, having won him, to keep him. Finally, the author describes the alert, imaginative state of mind that characterizes good management of product differentiation. “The way in which the manager operates becomes an extension of product differentiation,” he says.

    There is no such thing as a commodity. All goods and services are differentiable. Though the usual presumption is that this is more true of consumer goods than of industrial goods and services, the opposite is the actual case.

    In the marketplace, differentiation is everywhere. Everybody—producer, fabricator, seller, broker, agent, merchant—tries constantly to distinguish his or her offering from all others. This is true even of those who produce and deal in primary metals, grains, chemicals, plastics, and money.

    Fabricators of consumer and industrial goods seek competitive distinction via product features—some visually or measurably identifiable, some cosmetically implied, and some rhetorically claimed by reference to real or suggested hidden attributes that promise results or values different from those of competitors’ products.

    So too with consumer and industrial services—what I call, to be accurate, “intangibles.” On the commodities exchanges, for example, dealers in metals, grains, and pork bellies trade in totally undifferentiated generic products. But what they “sell” is the claimed distinction of their execution—the efficiency of their transactions in their clients’ behalf, their responsiveness to inquiries, the clarity and speed of their confirmations, and the like. In short, the offered product is differentiated, though the generic product is identical.

    When the generic product is undifferentiated, the offered product makes the difference in getting customers and the delivered product in keeping them. When the knowledgeable senior partner of a well-known Chicago brokerage firm appeared at a New York City bank in a tight-fitting, lime green polyester suit and Gucci shoes to solicit business in financial instrument futures, the outcome was predictably poor. The unintended offering implied by his sartorial appearance contradicted the intended offering of his carefully prepared presentation. No wonder that Thomas Watson the elder insisted so uncompromisingly that his salespeople be attired in their famous IBM “uniforms.” While clothes may not make the person, they may help make the sale.

    The usual presumption about so-called undifferentiated commodities is that they are exceedingly price sensitive. A fractionally lower price gets the business. That is seldom true except in the imagined world of economics textbooks. In the actual world of markets, nothing is exempt from other considerations, even when price competition rages.

    During periods of sustained surplus, excess capacity, and unrelieved price war, when the attention of all seems riveted on nothing save price, it is precisely because price is visible and measurable, and potentially devastating in its effects, that price deflects attention from the possibilities of extricating the product from ravaging price competition. These possibilities, even in the short run, are not confined simply to nonprice competition, such as harder personal selling, intensified advertising, or what’s loosely called more or better “services.”

    To see fully what these possibilities are, it is useful first to examine what exactly a product is.

    What’s a Product?

    Products are almost always combinations of the tangible and the intangible. An automobile is not simply a machine for movement visibly or measurably differentiated by design, size, color, options, horse-power, or miles per gallon. It is also a complex symbol denoting status, taste, rank, achievement, aspiration, and (these days) being “smart”—that is, buying fuel economy rather than display. But the customer buys even more than these attributes. The enormous efforts of the auto manufacturers to cut the time between placement and delivery of an order and to select, train, supervise, and motivate their dealerships suggest that these too are integral parts of the products people buy and are therefore ways by which products may be differentiated.

    In the same way, a computer is not simply a machine for data storage and processing; it is also an operating system with special software protocols for use and promises of maintenance and repair. Carbon fibers are chemical additives that enhance flexuous stiffness, reduce weight, fight fatigue and corrosion, and cut fabrication costs when combined with certain other materials. But carbon fibers have no value for an inexperienced user without the design and applications help that only the experienced seller can provide.

    Source : hbr.org

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