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Home arrow Management arrow A Framework for Marketing Management


To be branded, product offerings must be differentiated. At one extreme are products that allow little variation: chicken and steel. Yet even here some differentiation is possible: Perdue chickens and India’s Tata Steel have carved out distinct identities in their categories. At the other extreme are products capable of high differentiation, such as automobiles, commercial buildings, and furniture.

Product Differentiation

Means for differentiation include form, features, performance quality, conformance quality, durability, reliability, repairability, style, and customization.5 As discussed below, design is also a means for differentiation.

  • • Form. Form refers to the size, shape, or physical structure of a product. For example, aspirin can be differentiated by dosage size, shape, color, coating, or action time.
  • • Features. Most products can be offered with varying features that supplement their basic function. A company can identify and select new features by surveying recent buyers and then calculating customer value versus company cost for each potential feature. Marketers should consider how many people want each feature, how long it would take to introduce it, and whether competitors could easily copy it.6
  • • Performance quality. Performance quality is the level at which the product’s primary characteristics operate. Firms should design a performance level appropriate to the target market and competition (not necessarily the highest level possible) and manage performance quality through time.
  • • Conformance quality. Buyers expect a high conformance quality, the degree to which all produced units are identical and meet promised specifications. A product with low conformance quality will disappoint some buyers.
  • • Durability. Durability, a measure of the product’s expected operating life under natural or stressful conditions, is a valued attribute for durable goods. The extra price for durability must not be excessive, and the product must not be subject to rapid technological obsolescence.
  • • Reliability. Buyers normally will pay a premium for reliability, a measure of the probability that a product will not malfunction or fail within a specified period.
  • • Repairability. Repairability measures the ease of fixing a product when it malfunctions or fails. Ideal repairability would exist if users could fix the product themselves with little cost in money or time.
  • • Style. Style describes the product’s look and feel to the buyer and creates distinctiveness that is hard to copy, although strong style does not always mean high performance. Style plays a key role in the marketing of many brands, such as Apple’s tablets.
  • • Customization. Customized products and marketing allow firms to be highly relevant and differentiating by finding out exactly what a person wants and delivering on that. Customized products include M&M’s with specialized messages and Burberry coats with customer-selected fabric and accessories.7
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