Understanding the product concept
Following the production era of reduced production and distribution costs in order to deliver better value to consumers, firms had success with adopting a different philosophy – the product concept – which took the view that a good product will create its own market or consumers were willing to pay a little bit more choice or something different.
In the production era, Henry Ford’s competitive advantage cost leadership relied upon his efficiency and only producing one type of motor vehicle. Competitors were able to supply the market with a variety of motor cars and attracted a greater market share as a result.
As more and more companies moved to expanding their product range, their common belief was that consumers would prefer products that offered good quality, innovation and performance. This led organizations to focus on offering superior products and constantly improving their offerings on the market – whether or not there was a market need for higher quality products or products with a greater array of features.
Perhaps surprisingly, it was a polar shift in some regards from the previous production era, as in this marketing era, it was believed that quality products were always preferred by consumers with little or no regard towards the price.
Even if this concept is suitable for certain and industries, such as electronics, it has a major drawback: companies focus on adding new features to their existing products without actually considering the needs and wants of their customers.
This criticism had been also highlighted by Philip Kotler:
“Managers are sometimes caught in a love affair with their products. They might commit the better mouse-trap fallacy, believing a better product will by itself lead people to beat a path to their door".
The same type of criticism has been summarized by Theodore Levitt in the term of “marketing myopia". This particular term describes organizations that focus and describe themselves through a particular product, rather than in terms of the need or want that it satisfies.
For example, a bank that frames its mission as “to the best savings accounts and loans", is guilty of marketing myopia – whereas more appropriate mission would be “to provide great financial solutions to our customers".
Therefore, it is important that a company should not only be technologically and product oriented, it should also be customer oriented. As a consequence, the marketing concept eventually evolved over time – where marketers work to understand customer desires, needs and wants by conducting marketing research programs and an effective marketing strategy is one that is based on integrating the customer’s feedback.
In the product concept era, marketing research was scarcely used by organizations and its primary role was to determine customer reactions instead of customer needs. In both the product and the earlier production eras, the customer’s needs or wants are not considered as a priority for the organization.
Please note that the production concept is only one of the five main marketing eras discussed in many marketing textbooks.