Product offer – generic to potential


A simple definition of product is a ‘need satisfying entity’. Now after analyzing the various components that actually build up the product, we have a better idea of what a product means. A product has a personality of several components—basic material, its associated features, the bran name, the package and the labeling the price range, the positioning, specialty of the sale outlets, the quality of promotion and the corporate image and prestige. A product that is finally offered in the market is a combination of all these elements.

In fact, the crucial task in product management lies in working out the best possible alignment among the myriad factors mentioned above. The marketing man is constantly at it, always engaged in enriching his product offer. In his attempt to satisfy the customer and score over competition, he brings out refinement upon refinement on his basic product offer, and takes the product to higher levels of evolution.

A product offer can be conceived at four levels: The generic product, the expected product, the augmented product and the potential product. To make this evolution easier to understand, we go by a six-level approach as shown below:

Product Offer can Range from the Generic to the Potential

v The generic product.
v The branded product
v The differentiated product.
v The customized product
v The augmented product.
v The potential product.

The Generic Product

The generic product is the unbranded and undifferentiated commodity like rice, bread, flour, or cloth. Here, the product does not have an identity through a name and is not linked to any one maker or owner.

The Branded Product

The branded product gets an identity through a ‘name’. Ford Cars, Modern bread, IBM Computers, TATA Tea etc., are branded products.

The Differentiated Product

The differentiated product enjoys further distinction from other similar products/brands in the market. The marketer endows his brand with some special attributes/qualities and claims uniqueness for his offer. The differentiation claimed may be intangible or ‘psychological’, highlighted by subtle sales appeals.

Maggi noodles, and Dettol soap are examples of differentiated products with tangible differentiation. Maggi claims a tangible distinction over other brands of noodles. It is ready in two minutes and involves very little cooking. It is available with different ‘taste makers’ for the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian users. The differentiation is tangible and rests on the planks of convenience and variety. Among bath sops, Dettol is differentiated on the basis on its ability to provide total protection from germs.

The scope for differentiation is immense; and to win over customers, firms seek higher levels of differentiation through customizing and augmenting of the product.

The Customized Product

A product that is adapted to the requirements of the individual customer is a customized product. Today, many products coming from the IT and telecom industries have large degree of customization built into them. For example, the telephone ‘knows’ which language a given user would like to use while calling a long-distance operator. It will also allow him to create a distinctive ring so that his best friend knows that he is calling. And, it can also recognize his most frequently called numbers, not just by numbers, but by name as well.

Another example that can be given is the higher end Rolls Royce cars where everything except engine and gearbox are customized be it seat covers, interiors, materials, color and appearance etc.