The marketing mix for specialty products

Many marketing textbooks present the consumer product classification system, which is a model that helps guide the development and design of the marketing mix. Please note that there are several articles on this website relating to the consumer product classification system – please refer to Related Topics at the end of this article.

As a reminder, the consumer product classification scheme classifies products into four groups, namely: convenience products, shopping products, specialty products and unsought products. Please note that this article discusses how the consumer products classification system guides the marketing mix for specialty products only. (Please refer to Related Topics at the end of this article for the marketing mix implications for the other categories of products.)

Examples of specialty products include wedding dresses, professional advice, specialist products and equipment – please refer to this article for more examples of specialty products.

Designing the marketing mix for specialty products

Product mix

Specialty products are deliberately sought out by the consumer. This is because the brand or product is held in high regard by the consumer, or the product offering has a series of unique benefits that is only obtainable through this product solution.

In other words, the product offering is almost seen as a “monopoly” to the consumer – that is, it is a must have product for their particular problem or needs.

As a consequence, the product mix is the most important element of the marketing mix for specialty products. Often the product offering for specialty products can be tailored to individual needs (such as professional advice and counseling and medical services), or the brand represents significant high quality relative to the rest of the market (such as a luxury car or up-market holiday resort).

With these reasons for the consumer seeking out a specialty product, it becomes quite evident that a high level of quality needs to be maintained, along with frequent innovation and product improvements, the necessary flexibility and tailoring where required, and all supported by a strong recognizable brand.

Pricing mix

Pricing is a little bit more relaxed with specialty products. Because the product is seen as having unique benefits, the consumer is less price sensitive. For example, consider a high luxury cruise liner, where wealthy people are seeking luxury, comfort and social engagement with similar people – they are far less likely to make a purchase decision based on a price attribute.

Therefore, specialty products are generally priced higher than shopping products and often adopt a “what the market will bear” pricing mentality. Obviously, prices still have to be within a consumer’s reference price range. For example, if a consumer needs specialist legal advice, then they might be willing to pay up to several thousands of dollars or more per day, but there would become a point where price would become an issue.

Because of the reduced price sensitivity in the marketplace for this style of specialty product, discounting and other forms of price incentives are generally ineffective, as a signal a reduced level of quality to the consumer.
If a brand is midway between a shopping and a specialty product, then they may utilize some form of discounting to attract both shoppers and those consumers seeking a particular product benefits.

Place mix

The selection of retailers (and agents or other sales channels) needs to be undertaken quite carefully. Specialty products usually benefit from exclusive distribution. This means that they will only stock their products in a limited range of stores. These stores become “partners” of the manufacturer/brand and work together to build the brand and achieve sales.

For example, it is common for high fashion clothing to be exclusively available in one store only in each major city or town. As the retailers benefit from having an exclusive deal with the manufacturer of a specialty product, they are only willing to support the brand if they are given some exclusive rights. They will generally not stock competitive brands.

In addition, according a high status product/brand into multiple retailers in the one city will dilute the brand’s equity as it will be seen as too commonplace.

Therefore, manufacturers of specialty products will seek out retailers in particular and look to form long-term partnerships with them.

Promotional mix

Specialty products still need to have a good supportive promotional program behind them, this is despite the fact that product is the most critical component of the marketing mix.

Because they have to be seen as a high status brand, or an expert in their field – marketers of specialty products will often benefit from public relations, publicity, and media attention. These brands are generally more newsworthy and stories and reviews in reputable publications and online sites will assist in building and maintaining their reputation.

High status image advertising – such as upmarket magazine advertising – would be highly effective for fashion brands, expensive cars, and so on.

Generally, sales promotions, discounts, direct marketing, aggressive personal selling, should be avoided as these promotional tactics would not be consistent with a high-quality brand and building an elite following of customers.


The consumer products classification system
How products are classified in the consumer products classification system
Examples of the different classes in the consumer products classification system
Why the consumer products classification system is used
The marketing mix for convenience products
The marketing mix for shopping products
The marketing mix for unsought products

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