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Marketing: It’s about Features and Benefits right?

Features and Benefits right?

Marketing has always been a way for business to be able to look at a given market and structure a way to compete whether this is through a mix of product, prices, place, promotion. This works and works pretty well as a general guide and of course there are many examples where the 4 P’s do not give the depth or sophistication to more mature marketing strategies.

The point here though is that a part of the 4 P’s is how the product is positioned in the market with what is known as the Value Proposition. There are a couple of ways to build a Value Proposition but for me I have always looked at:

  • Segment
  • Target
  • Positioning

Then delivered a value statement which is built on these antecedents to creating a relevant Value Proposition for the receiver of the communications, be that face to face, in media or through word of mouth.

So, when we go back to the 4P’s we find at the very beginning Product. Now, in old marketing world 1960’s to the 1990’s Products were pretty much marketed on the Features and Benefits (F&B’s). Inside the product stack of any given market, let’s say cars as they are a good example of F&B’s you also have price/quality.

Car manufacturers understand F&B’s well and for years competition was either looking to match F&B’s or better them with improved this and that which would be a Product Point of Difference… until it was copied and then nearly all other manufactures in their segment (maybe Premium cars like, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes) would copy the Feature, for instance airbags.

Then this feature, which had been unique or a Point of Differentiation would become a Point of Parity. In other words they all had it. In this case it is a safety feature/benefit which is of course a good thing. This also over time cascades down to the lower segments as the technology becomes cheaper and a ‘standard’. But the point is that this happens across most sectors and their product offering.

Now in most markets there is broad positioning of products and now are what Michael Porter’s thesis called for in his Competitive Strategy of three distinct positioning statements:

  1. Product differentiator
  2. Low cost leader
  3. The nicher

Now this still makes sense and you can see this in the market place today, think about cameras and your there. You can see all three of these positions in action.

But what is of note is something new, or old, but reinvented and recently commented on by Robert Capps over at Wired Magazine which he calls the “The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine”.

Robert has written an excellent article about the idea that we are in a point in time when some products and services have risen to the point that the ‘quality’ of these products value is not in the ‘quality of the video, image’ but in the accessibility, inexpensiveness, simplicity, wide distribution and open or interoperability (it can be used on the web, with other things).

Think about some really fast growing areas in technology:

Laptop to Netbook

Vinyl to MP3

TV to YouTube

This is all pretty much known, but we have made some trade off’s here and this is the point. In the market today people have happily reduced their expectations of quality as long as they have accessibility.

So, people do not mind watching a low fi version of TV as long as they can watch it on their netbook on the tram, train, bus to work or at home on-demand. The standard is Good Enough. They don’t need it in High Definition, Blu Ray etc. because they want it now where they choose. Importantly though, the number of users by Netbooks using Youtube and other low-fi versions of products like Gmail, Google Doc’s, are very very large indeed. In fact this is a new mass movement which is clearly getting bigger.

This means, that ways of positioning which in old marketing terms via mass marketing by using, the latest and greatest features may not have the mass appeal it once had. Companies have relied on certain things beating the competition such as having the best R&D, technological advancements like Blu Ray from DVD,  or FLAC over MP3. But it may well be now that it is about looking at ways to mesh together existing products and known technologies, which interlink and enable, with accessibility, ubiquitous distribution and simplicity. Which use existing technology without the need for it to be the latest and greatest.

Now, I am not saying that R&D, innovation or product development should be stopped. Not at all, it is what humans are all about improving on what has been done before and creating the new. But, I also think what we are seeing is a huge opportunity of what is known and being able to re-invent it with great access, faster and wider distribution due to technology like the WWW. Because we will reduce our expectation of quality (Value) for accessibility when I want it.

So is it still about Features and Benefits? well yes of course it is. As I would suggest that whilst I have not given this positioning a name it has clear features and benefits.

Kotler probably identified it as one of his five Value Positions from the book Kotler on Marketing as the Value Position of More for Less.

The success of this new wave of low-fi products comes from more; accessability, on-demand, easy to use, wide distribution and of course low cost, inexpensive and in some cases free!

If you would like to read Robert Capps article “The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine” it is here for you and also a podcast on the ABC here as well.

Till next time, The Integrati team.