A product’s technology platform is the core technology on which it is built. Take for example, the iPod, which is based on MP3 technology. In many cases, the development of a new offering is to take a technology platform and rebundle its benefits in order to create a different version of an already-existing offering. For example, in addition to the iPod Classic, Apple offers the Shuffle and the Nano. Both are based on the same core technology.
In some instances, a new offering is based on a technology platform originally designed to solve different problems. For example, a number of products originally were designed to solve the problems facing NASA’s space-traveling astronauts. Later, that technology was used to develop new types of offerings. EQyss’s Micro Tek pet spray, which stops pets from scratching and biting themselves, is an example. The spray contains a trademarked formula developed by NASA to decontaminate astronauts after they return from space.
A technology platform isn’t limited to tangible products. Knowledge can be a type of technology platform in a pure services environment. For example, the “bioesthetic” treatment model was developed to help people who suffer from TMJ, a jaw disorder that makes chewing painful. A dentist can be trained on the bioesthetic technology platform and then provide services based on it. There are, however, other ways to treat TMJ that involve other platforms, or bases of knowledge and procedures, such as surgery.
Few firms survive by selling only one product. Most firms sell several offerings designed to work together to satisfy a broad range of customers’ needs and desires. A product line is group of related offerings. Product lines are created to make marketing strategies more efficient. Campbell’s condensed soups, for example, are basic soups sold in cans with red labels. But Campbell’s Chunky is a ready-to-eat soup sold in cans that are labeled differently. Most consumers expect there to be differences between Campbell’s red-label chicken soup and Chunky chicken soup, even though they are both made by the same company.
A product line can be broad, as in the case of Campbell’s condensed soup line, which consists of several dozen different flavors. Or, a product line can be narrow, as in the case of Apple’s iPod line, which consists of only a few different MP3 devices. How many offerings there are in a single product line—that is, whether the product line is broad or narrow—is called line depth. When new but similar products are added to the product line, it is called a line extension. If Apple introduces a new MP3 player to the iPod family, that would be a line extension. Companies can also offer many different product lines. Line breadth (or width) is a function of how many different, or distinct, product lines a company has. For example, Campbell’s has a Chunky soup line, condensed soup line, Kids’ soup line, Lower Sodium soup line, and a number of nonsoup lines like Pace Picante sauces, Prego Italian sauces, and crackers. The entire assortment of products that a firm offers is called the product mix.
As Figure 6.4 Product Levels shows, there are four offering levels. Consider the iPod Shuffle. There is (1) the basic offering (the device itself), (2) the offering’s technology platform (the MP3 format or storage system used by the Shuffle), (3) the product line to which the Shuffle belongs (Apple’s iPod line of MP3 music players), and (4) the product category to which the offering belongs (MP3 players as opposed to iPhones, for example).
So how does a technology platform become a new product or service or line of new products and services? In Chapter 7 "Developing and Managing Offerings", we will take a closer look at how companies design and develop new offerings.
Companies market offerings composed of a combination of tangible and intangible characteristics for certain prices. During the Industrial Revolution, firms focused primarily on products and not so much on customers. The service-dominant perspective to marketing integrates three different dimensions of an offering—not only the product but also its price and the services associated with it. This perspective helps marketers think more like their customers, which helps firms add value to their offerings. An offering is based on a technology platform, which can be used to create a product line. A product line is a group of similar offerings. A product line can be deep (many offerings of a similar type) and/or broad (offerings that are very different from one another and cover a wide range of customers’ needs). The entire assortment of products that a company offers is called the product mix.
- How do the product-dominant and service-dominant approaches to marketing differ?
- Do “product-dominant” and “product-oriented” mean the same thing?
- What is the difference between a technology platform and a product line?
- Does a product line have to be built on one technology platform?
- What is the difference between product depth and product breadth?