Over the past couple of days I have been looking at replacing my rather elderly car. it has got to the stage where the cost of annual servicing exceeds the cars value. One of the cars I have looked at is a successor model to a car I owned thirty years ago. the new car has a bigger fuel injected engine that that old car. In fact in the model range, it is a significantly superior model version when compared to the old car.
Yet the new modern car offers a far lower nought to sixty time, a lower top speed and only marginally better fuel consumption.
I was astonished. Surely after thirty years, improvements in these categories would have been made. Yet it seems that, in terms of performance, things have gone backwards.
That got me thinking. How was this new model of car a superior marketing offer than its predecessor? How does it provide marketing opportunity?
Philip Kotler, in his breakthrough book Kotler on Marketing describes three sources of marketing opportunity:
- Supply something that is in short supply
- Supply a product in a new or superior way
- Supply a new product or service (including an IMPROVED product or service)
When goods are services are in short supply buyers should be queuing up to buy them. So in the middle of a pandemic, things like face masks and surgical gloves will be in short supply. This situation requires the least amount of marketing talent. the opportunity is obvious to all. The product is price inelastic so suppliers can charge high prices. However, such shortages tend to be short-lived; so the market opportunity does not last.
When supplying an existing product you need to examine how you can IMPROVE that product. It doesn’t seem that the manufacturer of the car described above has properly considered what is an improvement.
There are three ways to identify product improvements:
- Use the Product Detection Method
- Use the ‘Ideal’ method
- Use the ‘Chain’ method
The problem detection method assumes consumers are accepting the current versions of goods but that they are not fully satisfied with those versions e.g. I like my new car but it uses too much fuel or I like my new car but I wish it had better acceleration. Such statements create marketing opportunities. problem detection is the primary method for product improvement but it is less helpful in terms of new product innovation.
The ‘ideal’ method involves asking consumers what they see as the ideal version of a product. However consumers creating an ideal product wish list can create contradictions. When using the ideal method, you may be faced with overcoming these contradictions. For example, Consumers may like the taste of high alcohol but want them to be lower calories. However consumers also reject low calorie beers as they have too low an alcohol content and a bad taste. You can make a low alcohol beer tastier but only by increasing its alcohol content and you can only lower a high alcohol beer’s ABV by reducing its taste.
The consumption chain method examines the steps consumers take to acquire, use and dispose of products. Are consumers satisfied with the way they consume products and can those steps of consumption be improved. This could be through changes to the product itself or changes to the ancillary services which surround a product.
By analysing the customer activity cycle around your goods you can inform product improvements. You also look beyond purchase value and look at your long-term relationship with those consumers (lifetime value).
When supplying a new product or service, you may not be able to rely on customer opinion, They will not be aware of their need for the product until it appears on the market. No one foresaw the home computer market. In the 1960’s it was expected that every major city might have a computer. When desktops arrived they were tools for businessmen and engineers, not a domestic product. When Apple produced the iPad, people forecast disaster as they saw no market for tablet computers.
Again, there are three models for assessing new product ideas:
- First use your company organisation to derive promising opportunities. This is your sales force listening to customers and investing in blue sky research and development. This can be a high risk approach
- The second method is to create the role of an Ideas Manager. This is a senior role in an organisation who is tasked with managing product improvement and new product development. They should lead a multi-disciplinary team with members from across your organisation including engineers, operations managers, marketers and finance. It is this team who follow a formal process of idea assessment. This can be new product proposals or improvements suggested by staff through systems like Kaizen and Total Quality Management. The Ideas Manager should champion the concept of an Ideas Organisation and should take ownership of the decisions of the ideas committee.
- The Strategic Breakthrough Model: This involves even more improvement thinking targeted at breaking through market growth pinch points and blockages. this could involve finding new customer groups and new market segments. It could mean geographic expansion of your firm or new sales strategies. It could be new pricing strategies or financing solutions, e.g. most cars are now bought via leasing agreements as opposed to the old method of hire purchase. It could also mean adding new product features or developing completely new products.