Managing Product Lines and Brands

Marketing Management Article Series
This article discusses marketing decisions related to product mix of firms.


A product is anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy a want or need.

We can see around us that physical goods (food items, televisions), services (taxi rides, film shows), persons (models, film actors), places (various tourist destinations), organizations (religious organizations, voluntary organizations), and ideas (family planning, safe driving are among the products that are marketed.

Five levels of a product

The marketer needs to understand that a market offer of a product can be made five levels.

1. Core benefit
2. Basic product
3. Expected product
4. Augmented product
5. Potential product.

Every product is bought by buyers because it serves a core benefit to them. Companies have to design their product to deliver a core benefit. (This series of management articles are being written by me to facilitate revision of management knowledge. If no person is interested in revising and updating his knowledge of management subjects, this product will not have a market).

At the second level is the product, which a firm has designed to deliver the core benefit. The firm has understood or noticed a need and then designed a product that delivers the need existing in the market.

At the third level is the expected product. As a need is being satisfied by various products offered in the market place or by the efforts of each individual, people develop expectations about products. When the marketer finds these expectations about products that fulfill particular needs and designs his offering, it will be an expected product.

The customer can design features that positively surprise an average customer. This requires additional effort by the marketer to find features which are valued by certain customers and then offering them to all customers.

While product augmentation refers to use of existing technology to augment products, potential product refers to development of new technology to enhance the product to provide new ways to satisfy customers. Companies that offer potential products invest a lot on research and development activities.

Product Hierarchy

Product hierarchy is another concept of product. Seven levels of product hierarchy are recognized.

1. Need family
2. Product family
3. Product class
4. Product line
5. Product type
6. Brand
7. Item

The example of a need family is products satisfying the core need of security of income. The product family is savings and income. The product class is financial instruments. The product line is mutual funds. The product type is systematic investment plan. The brand is prudential. The item is an index fund.

Product system is another concept related to product. This refers a group of diverse but related items that function in a related manner. Home theater systems could be an example.

Product mix (or product assortment) is the set of all products that a particular seller offers for sale to buyers.

Product Classifications

It is usual to refer to certain product classifications and explain marketing issues related to these classifications

Classification based on durability and tangibility

1. Nondurable goods.
2. Durable goods
3. Services

Classification based on use

1. Consumer goods
2. Industrial goods

Classification of consumer goods

1. Convenience goods
          Impulse goods
          Emergency goods

2. Shopping goods
          Homogeneous shopping goods
          Heterogeneous shopping goods

3. Specialty goods

4. Unsought goods

Classification of industrial goods

1. Materials and parts
          Raw materials – farm products, natural products
          Manufactured materials – component materials and component parts

2. Capital items

3. Supplies and business services
          Operating supplies
          Maintenance and repair items

Product Mix Decisions

The term product mix was already defined. In the area of product mix, marketing decisions are width, length, depth and consistency. 

Width refers to number of product lines (Refer the new product management article).

Length refers to the total number of items in a product line (different brands in a line).

Depth refers to variants of each product in a line (different pack sizes of a brand).

Consistency refers to how closely related the various product lines are in end use, production requirements, distribution channels, or some other way.

Kotler says explicitly that product mix planning is largely the responsibility of the company’s strategic planners. The top management has to assess with the information supplied by company’s marketers, which the product mix. Hence the product mix is a shared decision by various functions of the company and not that of marketing department alone.

Product line analysis

Marketers have the need to know the current and potential sales and profits of each item in a line in order to determine which items to build, sustain, harvest, or divest.

They need to analyze the effect of increasing the length. Can more profit be made by increasing the length?

Brand Related Decisions

Concept of brand equity
Challenges of branding
Brand name decisions
Brand extensions
Brand repositioning


Philip Kotler, Marketing Management (Main text for revision and article)

Marketing Management Online Text Book by Tanner and Raymond - Principles of Marketing

Migration from Knol
All management knols are being collected in .

Related Knols in Marketing

Marketing articles are available under the label
Article on differentiating and positioning

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