From the traditional product-dominant perspective of business, marketers consider products, services, and prices as three separate and distinguishable characteristics. To some extent, they are. HP could, for example, add or strip out features from a piece of testing equipment and not change its service policies or the equipment’s price. The product-dominant marketing perspective has its roots in the Industrial Revolution. During this era, businesspeople focused on the development of products that could be mass produced cheaply. In other words, firms became product-oriented, meaning that they believed the best way to capture market share was to create and manufacture better products at lower prices. Marketing remained oriented that way until after World War II.
Who determines which products are better? Customers do, of course. Thus, taking a product-oriented approach can result in marketing professionals focusing too much on the product itself and not enough on the customer or service-related factors that customers want. Most customers will compare tangible products and the prices charged for them in conjunction with the services that come with them. In other words, the complete offering is the basis of comparison. So, although a buyer will compare the price of product A to the price of product B, in the end, the prices are compared in conjunction with the other features and services of the products. The dominance of any one of these dimensions is a function of the buyer’s needs.
The advantage of the service-dominant approach is that it integrates the product, price, and service dimensions of an offering. This integration helps marketers think more like their customers, which can help them add value to their firm’s products.
In addition to the offering itself, marketers should consider what services it takes for the customer to acquire their offerings (e.g., the need to learn about the product from a sales clerk), to enjoy them, and to dispose of them (e.g., someone to move the product out of the house and haul it away), because each of these activities creates costs for their customers—either money or time and hassle.
Critics of the service-dominant approach argue that the product-dominant approach also integrated services (though not price). The argument is that at the core of an offering is the product, such as an iPod or iPhone. The physical product, in this case an iPhone, is the core product. Surrounding it are services and accessories, called the augmented product, which support the core product. Together, these make up the complete product. One limitation of this approach has already been mentioned; price is left out. But for many “pure” products, this conceptualization can be helpful in bundling different augmentations for different markets.
Customers are now becoming more involved in the creation of benefits. Consider a “pure” product like Campbell’s cream of chicken soup. The consumer may prepare that can as a bowl of soup, but it could also be used as an ingredient in a recipe like king ranch chicken. As far as the consumer goes, no benefit is experienced until the soup is eaten; thus, the consumer played a part in the creation of the final product when the soup was an ingredient in the king ranch chicken recipe. Or suppose your school’s cafeteria made king ranch chicken for you to consume. In that case, you both ate a product and consumed a service.
Some people argue that focusing too much on the customer can lead to too little product development or poor product development. These people believe that customers often have difficulty seeing how an innovative new technology can create benefits for them. Researchers and entrepreneurs frequently make many discoveries, and then products are created as a result of those discoveries. 3M’s Post-it notes are an example. The adhesive that made it possible for Post-it notes to stick and restick was created by a 3M scientist who was actually in the process of trying to make something else. Post-it notes came later.