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The total product and Marketing Myopia

myopia.pngIn 1960, Theodore Levitt published a revolutionary article in the Harvard Business Review entitled 'Marketing Myopia'. In this article he argued that too many companies looked inwards at their products, rather than outwards at their customer needs. He famously said that customers do not want drills, but holes. Companies should redefine themselves as satisfying customer needs and redefine their idea of their product accordingly.

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Railway companies went bust because they thought they were in the railroad business when they should have thought of the transportation business.

Do not think bricks but think building materials. Do not think glass bottles, think containers. That way if building materials or containers change, the company can still be in business. More importantly, if the company thinks one level up and is in tune with the changes in its customer's needs, it has a chance to make changes in its production.

Theodore Levitt

Marketers, therefore, should think of products in terms of the total product, which refers to the broad spectrum of tangible and intangible benefits that a buyer might gain from a product once it has been purchased.

Philip Kotler has suggested the following approach to analysing the different levels of a product or service:

  • Core product - this addresses the customer's need for a basic benefit, e.g. a car is a form of transport to get from point A to point B. It could equally be achieved by bus or cycle.
  • Actual product - includes brand names, features, quality, packaging, styling and design. For cars, the brand may be the crucial purchase consideration as cars can confer some status on their owners. They are also aspirational in nature. The purchase of a particular brand of car may allow the owner to park in the Golf Club car park rather than half a mile away to avoid recognition!
  • Augmented product - this is the core product plus all additional elements that add value for customers. Additional features such as after sales service, warranty, delivery & credit, may offer the brand a unique selling proposition, providing competitive advantage.

Core products are developed into augmented products through branding. However, over a period of time, features unique to one manufacturer or brand may become standard and become an expected element of the core product. Parking sensors in cars fit into this category.