Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Focusing on the Product


Really? For how long?
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The Marketing Mix composes of 4 Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Out of the four Ps, in my last post, I discussed about how companies rely on cheap promotion like the senseless use of sex appeal to promote their product. In this post, I want to focus on the first P, i.e. the Product and let me limit my discussion to food companies.

When I was a child, there was a Nepali brand of biscuits that used to be very fresh, delicious and crispy. Now I prefer Indian biscuits because that Nepali brand has lost its original taste as well as quality. Their taste is either slightly musty or each piece of biscuit in the packet have dark edges making the biscuits taste bitter. I’ve experienced the same problem with a certain chocolate brand. When it was launched at first it was as good as Kit-Kat. You could purchase the taste of a Rs. 10 chocolate-covered wafer for Rs. 5. When I tasted the same chocolate-covered wafer a few years later, I was disappointed. This reminds me of the ever-increasing brand of noodles. The old noodle brands have diversified their product in terms of the offering in taste. Sadly, the product seems to have lost its original taste. The same holds true for bakery products. When the company is new then everything is so fresh and yummy. A year or two later, the product loses its quality. You begin to find pieces of egg-shells in fruit cakes and the cookies start to grow darker and bitter.

I haven’t been in those production factories or bakery kitchens to identify the exact reason for these kinds of changes in taste and quality over the years (or months, in some cases). However, based on conjecture there must be four reasons why these problems occur. First, the raw material that is being used for making the product may have deteriorated in terms of quality. Second, the quality standards might not be set. If they are set, then they are either not being followed or the quality testing methods and equipments are not available. And, if the quality monitoring methods and equipments are available and the standards are being followed then the standards set may not be very precise. For example, what colour should the biscuits manufactured be? Is it okay if every biscuit produced is burned to black at the edges? Third, the production machine might not have been repaired and maintained on a regular basis. It is obvious that if the input and processing device is out of order then the output cannot be what is expected. Fourth and the most important – these food production companies may have been too focused on pricing, promotion and distribution that the core product received no attention. No one really remembered to preserve the originality in taste and quality of these products.

Is it?
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As a consumer, I’ll try a new kind of food product if someone has told me it’s good. Otherwise, I may rely on the packaging to make that first decision. After the first taste, I’ll go back to the supermarket and buy the same food item again only if I like the taste. If at any point of time the product disappoints me then I’ll stop purchasing that product as long as there are other options available in the market. (I recently did that with one brand of cake that turned from being soft and sweet to hard and extra-sweet.) No one has a commitment towards any product. As soon as the companies decide to switch away from their originality and degrade their quality then there will be a group of conscious customers who will decide to switch away from the company’s offerings. At the end, it is the one who serves the best product on a consistent basis that earns loyal customers in the long-run.

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