What Is a Product?

Defining Product

A product is any good, service, or idea that can be offered to a market to satisfy a want or need.

Learning Objectives

Break down the different components that make up tangible and intangible products

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Products can be goods, services, or ideas, such as intellectual property.
  • Products can be tangible or intangible.
  • Products can also be classified by use, by brand, or by other classifications as well.

Key Terms

  • product: Any tangible or intangible good or service that is a result of a process and that is intended for delivery to a customer or end user.

What Is a Product?

In general, a product is defined as a “thing produced by labor or effort” or the “result of an act or a process. ” The word “product” stems from the verb “produce”, from the Latin prōdūce(re) “(to) lead or bring forth. ” Since 1575, the word “product” has referred to anything produced.

In marketing, a product is anything that can be offered to a market that might satisfy a want or need. In retail, products are called merchandise. In manufacturing, products are purchased as raw materials and sold as finished goods. Commodities are usually raw materials such as metals and agricultural products, but the term can also refer to anything widely available in the open market. In project management, products are the formal definition of the project deliverables that form the objectives of the project.

Goods, Services, or Ideas

Goods are a physical product capable of being delivered to a purchaser and involve the transfer of ownership from seller to customer.

A service is a non-material action resulting in a measurable change of state for the purchaser caused by the provider.

Ideas (intellectual property) are any creation of the intellect that has commercial value, but is sold or traded only as an idea, and not as a resulting service or good. This includes copyrighted property such as literary or artistic works, and ideational property, such as patents, appellations of origin, business methods, and industrial processes.

Product Classification: Tangible or Intangible

A product can be classified as tangible or intangible.

A tangible product is a physical object that can be perceived by touch such as a building, vehicle, or gadget. Most goods are tangible products. For example, a soccer ball is a tangible product.

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Soccer Ball: A soccer ball is an example of a tangible product, specifically a tangible good.

An intangible product is a product that can only be perceived indirectly such as an insurance policy. Intangible data products can further be classified into virtual digital goods (“VDG”), which are virtually located on a computer OS and accessible to users as conventional file types, such as JPG and MP3 files. Virtual digital goods require further application processing or transformational work by programmers, so their use may be subject to license and or rights of digital transfer. On the other hand, real digital goods (“RDG”) may exist within the presentational elements of a data program independent of a conventional file type. Real digital goods are commonly viewed as 3-D objects or presentational items subject to user control or virtual transfer within the same visual media program platform. Services or ideas are intangible.

Product Classification: By Use or By Association

In its online product catalog, retailer Sears, Roebuck and Company divides its products into “departments”, then presents products to potential shoppers according to function or brand. Each product has a Sears item-number and a manufacturer’s model-number. Sears uses the departments and product groupings with the intention of helping customers browse products by function or brand within a traditional department-store structure.

A product line is “a group of products that are closely related, either because they function in a similar manner, are sold to the same customer groups, are marketed through the same types of outlets, or fall within given price ranges. ” Many businesses offer a range of product lines which may be unique to a single organization or may be common across the company’s industry. In 2002 the US Census compiled revenue figures for the finance and insurance industry by various product lines such as “accident, health and medical insurance premiums” and “income from secured consumer loans. ” Within the insurance industry, product lines are indicated by the type of risk coverage, such as auto insurance, commercial insurance, and life insurance.

Benefits and Solutions

The core benefit is what consumers feel they are getting when they purchase a product.

Learning Objectives

Review the four levels of product differentiation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The same product may have different core benefits to different users. For example, one user may install a pool for fitness purposes, while another may do so for status.
  • Different target markets will have different core products, and it is up to the marketer to discover which markets must be targeted for their particular product.
  • Further layers of product benefits are the tangible product, the augmented product, and the promised product. These also affect the buyer’s decision making, and cannot be ignored by the marketer.

Key Terms

  • core product: The core product identifies what the consumers feel they are getting then they purchase the product.
  • tangible product: The tangible product is reflected in the quality, features, brand name, styling, and packaging.
  • augmented product: The supporting services surrounding the product, such as after-sales service for a machine, or parking spaces for a department store.

Benefits & Solutions

The four levels of a product include: core, tangible, augmented, and promised. Core, tangible, augmented and promised products feature characteristics (i.e., the total product concept or offer), which includes everything a consumer evaluates before making a purchase. These factors can include:

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Levels of the Product: The four levels of a product include core, tangible, augmented, and promised.

  • Price
  • Store environment and/or surroundings
  • Brand promise/ value
  • Advertising and marketing activities
  • Buyer’s past experience
  • Accessibility or convenience
  • Brand reputation
  • Packaging

We begin with the notion of the core product, which identifies what the consumers feel they are getting when they purchase the product. The core benefits derived when an overweight 45-year-old male purchases a $250 ten-speed bicycle is not transportation–it is the hope for better health and conditioning. In a similar vein, that same individual may install a $16,000 swimming pool in his backyard, not to obtain exercise, but to reflect the status he so desperately desires. Both are legitimate product cores. Because the core product is so individualized, and oftentimes vague, a full-time task of the marketer is to accurately identify the core product for a particular target market.

Once the core product has been indicated, the tangible product becomes important. This tangibility is reflected primarily in its quality level, features, brand name, styling, and packaging. Literally every product contains these components to a greater or lesser degree. Unless the product is one-of-a-kind (e.g. oil painting), the consumer will use at least some of these tangible characteristics to evaluate alternatives and make choices. In addition, the importance of each will vary across products, situations, and individuals. For example, for a 25-year old man, the selection of a particular brand of new automobile (core product = transportation) was based on tangible elements such as styling and brand name (choice = Corvette). In contrast, at age 45, the core product remains the same, but tangible components such as quality level and features become more important (choice = Mercedes).

The next level is the augmented product. Every product is backed up by a host of supporting services. The buyer often expects such services, so they will reject the core-tangible product if these are not available. Examples include restrooms, escalators, and elevators in the case of a department store, and warranties and return policies in the case of a lawn mower. For example, Dow Chemical has earned a reputation as a company that will go the distance to service an account. It means that a Dow sales representative will visit a troubled farmer after-hours in order to solve a serious problem. This extra service is an integral part of the augmented product and a key to their success. In a world with many strong competitors and few unique products, the role of the augmented product is clearly increasing.

The outer ring of the product is referred to as the promised product. Every product has an implied promise. An implied promise is a characteristic that is attached to the product over time. The car industry rates brands by their trade-in value. There is no definite promise that a Mercedes-Benz holds its value better than a BMW. There will always be exceptions. How many parents have installed a swimming pool based on the implied promise that their two teenagers will stay home more or that they will entertain friends more often?

Features and Attributes of a Product

The features and attributes of a product are integral to the product design process, which in turn assists in the creation of new products.

Learning Objectives

Discuss how features and attributes factor into the product design process

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The design process of products focuses on figuring out what features are required, brainstorming possible ideas, creating mock prototypes, and then generating the product.
  • The features and attributes of a product play a role in all three sections of the design process: Analysis,Concept, and Synthesis, which form a continuous feedback loop.
  • Feature creep is the ongoing expansion and addition of new features in a product, often to the detriment of the product design process.

Key Terms

  • analysis: In product design, the analysis stage is where designers begin research on how to find a solution to the problem at hand.
  • feature creep: The tendency of a design project or product cycle to accumulate more and more features or details, rather than to be completed and released at a more basic level.
  • attribute: a characteristic or quality of a thing

Product Design

This is the process of creating a new product to be sold by a business to its customers. It is the efficient and effective generation and development of ideas through a process that leads to new products.

The process of designing a new product (or updating the features of an existing one) is usually completed by a group of people, designers or field experts in the product they are creating, or specialists for a specific component of the product. These people would essentially determine all the features and attributes of the product. The process entails focuses on figuring out what is required, brainstorming possible ideas, creating mock prototypes, and then generating the product. At this point, product designers would still need to execute the idea, making it into an actual product and then evaluating its success and seeing if any improvements are necessary.

Product designers conceptualize and evaluate ideas, turning them into tangible products. Their role is to combine art, science, and technology to create features and attributes of current or new products that other people can use. Their evolving role has been facilitated by digital tools that now give them greater freedom to communicate, visualize, and analyze ideas.

The Design Process

This follows a guideline and involves three main sections: Analysis, Concept, and Synthesis – in a continuous feedback loop. Attributes and features play a role in all three sections.

Analysis: Here, the designers decide on committing to the project and finding a solution to the problem. They pool their resources into deciding how to solve the task most efficiently. Everyone in the team begins research into what the product should look like to satisfy the objective.

Concept: The key issue of the matter is defined. The conditions of the problem become objectives, and restraints on the situation become the parameters within which the new design must be constructed. The concept phase is where ideas for new features are considered.

Synthesis: The designers brainstorm different solutions for their design problem. Once they have narrowed down their ideas to a select few, they can outline their plan to make the product. Prototypes are built, the plan outlined in the previous step is realized and the product starts to become an actual object.

In the evaluation stage, the product is tested, and from there, improvements are made. Although this is the last stage, it does not mean that the process is over. The finished prototype may not work as well as hoped so new ideas may need to be brainstormed.

It is through this process of analysis, concept and synthesis that products are designed, with specific features and attributes added in order to maximize the use value and desirability of the product to the final user.

Example

Different types of products will have varying levels of sophistication when it comes to features. For example, the Swiss army knife. Various models exist, with different tool combinations for specific tasks designed for everyday use. The simplest model sold includes only a single blade, the most complicated model features many extra tools like: a smaller second blade, tweezers, toothpick, corkscrew, can opener, bottle opener, slotted/flat-head screwdriver(s), phillips-head screwdriver, nail file, scissors, saw (regular, wood), file, hook, magnifying glass, ballpoint pen, fish scaler, and so on.

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“The Giant” Swiss Army Knifer: Since 2006, Wenger has produced a knife called “The Giant.” It includes every implement the company has ever made. With 87 tools and 141 different functions. Although expansive, it is not as portable as other knives.

 

Feature Creep

The evolution of the Swiss army knife may be seen as a good example of this phenomenon: the ongoing expansion and addition of new features to a product. Extra features go beyond the basic function of the product and so can result in over-complication rather than maintaining a simple design. Viewed over a longer time period, extra or unnecessary features seem to creep into the system, beyond the initial goals.

The most common cause of feature creep is the desire to provide the consumer with a more useful or desirable product, in order to increase sales or distribution. However, once the product reaches the point at which it does everything that it is designed to do, the manufacturer is left with the choice of adding unneeded features, sometimes at the cost of efficiency, or sticking with the old version, at the cost of a perceived lack of improvement. While feature creep may have positive effects, it can also lead to cost overruns and product cancellations as producers lose sight of the original goal.