According to Kotler (2001), a product can be defined as basically anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use or consumption with the possibility of satisfying a want or need. Within a product, there are three distinct levels, which outline the different levels of benefits or offerings from the product or company. Each level of offerings is focused closely around the needs and wants of the consumer, and are also used as a comparison to the offerings of competing products. The three mentioned levels include the core product level, the actual product level, and the augmented product level. Each concept level is significant to the final presentation of the product. This concept of the multi-level product is also an exceptional tool in attempting to meet all levels of consumer needs and wants.
BMW motoring group are an exemplary company to illustrate this concept. The core level of a product is described by Crawford & Di Benedetto (2000, pg. 242) as "the real purpose for which the product was created." The core product is described by Moseley (2000) as being used to distinguish not what the product is, or how it functions, but is focused on what the product will result in or offer as a final result. In this regard, BMW have described their core product not as a luxurious form of transport, but as "an ultimate and superior driving experience" (Breen, 2002 pg. 123). From this, it can be proposed that this belief was the core benefit BMW believed they offered to the consumer.
BMW's ultimate goal was clear: "to be the leader in every premium segment of the international automotive industry" (Koland, 2002. pg. 120) and so in order to accomplish this distinct goal, BMW aligned their product, through use of the multi-level product concept, to best suit the needs and wants, in relations to goods and services on offer, to the "high-end of the industry." (Guyer, 2002. Pg.
15) The second level of a product is the actual product level. This level demonstrates the existent elements and attributes in which the product holds, such as the product's parts, styling, features, brand name, packaging and other characteristics that combine to deliver core product benefits (Kotler, 2001). This level is important in depicting the immediate benefits involved with the product, such as, in relation to BMW, free maintenance, or possibly the diverse range of options available in regard to luxury and styling to personalise the vehicle to best suit the consumer needs and wants, or, again, perhaps even the prestige and honourable image acquired in relation to owning such an eminent product. Other benefits or services that are considered actual products may be the 24-hour consumer hotlines, dealership locations, dealer uniform styling or the fact that all dealership layouts and designs are extremely similar.
Benefits such as these are associated with this actual level of the product and complement the core benefits level. The final product level is proclaimed as the augmented product level. Kotler (2001) claims that the augmented product level outlines the additional and complementary consumer services, offerings and benefits built around the core and actual products. (Kotler, 2001). In addition to this, King (1973, pg. 14) also claims that ."..
competitive effectiveness increasingly demands that the successful seller offer his prospect and his customer more than the generic product itself. He must surround his generic product with a cluster of value satisfactions that differentiates his total offering from his competitors." This statement, again illustrates the need for additional benefits surrounding the core and actual benefits, to fulfil and satisfy the needs and wants of consumers, in an attempt to be perceived as a more appealing product than that of competitors. BMW offers such services as, obviously, warranties, finance and delivery but in addition also offers courtesy cars, 24 hour road side assistance, 12 months free maintenance, an airport shuttle service, a customer assurance program and even driver training programs to differentiate between themselves and competitors (Martin, 1995). By offering such a diverse range of additional services, BMW are perhaps enticing more consumers to their product than the competing companies are attracting.
The multi-level product concept is considered extremely advantageous to the marketing of products. This concept allows marketers to explore and research the many levels of needs, wants and desires of the numerous assorted markets. Thus, accordingly being able to decide on the most beneficial market to target, whilst also determining the most pertinent methods in which to advertise and market these products, in order to be most prosperous. Crane (2001) states that perhaps it is unlikely that the values of all consumers can be satisfied with any given products offerings, and so it is important to focus the product to a direct target market whilst still broadly catering for all other markets, in order to accomplish successful marketing. Moseley (2000) further added the concept of simply researching and focusing on the most beneficial target market and focus on repeat purchasing.
BMW discusses their marketing strategy as "changing before the market forces us to change" (Koland, 2002. Pg. 118). This idea forwarded by BMW, has been the key to their success in becoming the leading luxury car distributor in the world. Guyer (2002) introduces the supposition that business and social conditions have changed quite radically, in terms of competitive pressures, technological advances, safety and environmental regulations as well as consumer preferences, and so by BMW leading the way and pioneering the innovation sequence, they are controlling the market and generating the most appeal from consumers.
Crane (2001, pg 372) noted that, "the attempt to positively augment a product into levels is likely to be a complex and time-consuming activity." This statement complements the idea that indeed, a product is a complex concept, and adds the notion that there is an enduring and difficult process that follows when developing a product and the surrounding benefits the product offers. The multi-level product concept is an effective, efficient and widely used concept in the marketing arena. The distinct and prevalent outlines of each level assist marketers to better distinguish company strengths and weaknesses in certain areas, and also compare additional services and products offered by competing companies that may appear more appealing to consumers. BMW have successfully and strategically used this concept to advance up the luxury car rankings to their current position at number one. BIBLIOGRAPHY Breen, B.
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