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Delivering products that stand out: examining how to position and sell nutraceutical products based on other market successes. (Strategy Sketchbook).

We don't sell products, we sell benefits because consumers are motivated by them. There are many combinations of steel, plastic and other materials that transport us from one place to another--these combinations are known as cars and trucks. People buy cars and trucks because they look good. Or, they buy them because they are investing in safety for their family. And maybe they buy a vehicle based on the way it handles, passes other cares or just makes them feel like they are having fun. Most firms understand the concept of selling benefits. Yet, products consistently come into the marketplace that focus on an attribute, not a benefit.

What is an attribute? Attributes are the characteristics by which products are identified and differentiated. They usually include features and functions. Adding vitamin C to a product is an attribute. Designing a drink to contain twice as much vitamin C as another leading drink is also an attribute. Stimulating the immune system is a benefit. In broader terms, keeping someone healthy by keeping their immune system at peak is a greater benefit.

It appears that nutraceutical products regularly feature and communicate attributes. In terms of the supplement category there are many ingredients and product names that communicate "arthritis" or "osteoporosis." Of course these are diseases that people do not want. However, most experts believe product naming should be neutral and should convey a benefit.

First, a name of a product must be easy to remember, easy to say, distinct and not easy to copy. In today's world the name also should be available for international registration in that it should not mean anything in common languages. Starbucks does not communicate anything about coffee, it is easy to say and has proven to be very memorable. Wal-Mart stems from a family name, does not communicate much and is easy to remember. Similarly, Kraft and Nestle in the food business and Tide in the detergent business also follow the rules.

Second, products must communicate benefits. Starbucks coffee tastes good and its coffeehouses offer customers a place to relax. Many people even when drinking Starbucks coffee at home think of relaxation, not just good coffee. While some may think Starbucks has experienced fast growth because of its brand of coffee, it is more likely a result of the fact that it provides an experience or benefit for which consumers will pay a premium. Another example is Tide gets clothes clean. In the case of both Tide and Starbucks they are able to charge a higher price for their products because consumers believe there are benefits and are willing to pay for them. Wal-Mart means low prices. Not "we have clothes and tools and..." In the case of Wal-Mart it attracts the largest number of customers in the history of stores (#1 retailer in the world) because they provide the benefit of low prices.

Third, attributes should support benefits. Procter and Gamble regularly uses new additives and new product forms to be certain its Tide brand cleans very well. Wal-Mart has the most efficient distribution system of any retailer and pressures suppliers to be certain Wal-Mart can offer low prices. Attributes provide a reason for benefits.

In applying this exercise to nutritional products Centrum serves as a pertinent example. Centrum has a neutral brand name that is easy to say and means nothing. Centrum became the number one selling multivitamin by convincing consumers that it is the most complete. Its brand support line, "Everything from A to Zinc," fully underscores that positioning. The product is continually updated with nutrients that have been recently supported scientifically and that have made consumer news. Those are the attributes that support the benefits.

On the food side, Tropicana orange juice is the number one selling brand in its category. The name is neutral, the benefits are taste and nutrition and the benefits are supported by including not-from-concentrate orange juice and various types of fortification. Tropicana also clearly communicates the benefits by communicating exactly the value of the fortification.

Other examples include Viactiv, which has a neutral name, promotes the prevention of osteoporosis (the benefit) and is supported by a good tasting delivery of calcium.

There are many products that get "stuck" on selling attributes, touting things such as "We give you... or "Now a great source of... But where's the benefit? What about all of the products with generic names? Garli.... whatever or Gen...something. These names are easy to copy and at the same time very confusing for consumers.

Consumers should be offered a product that is unique, that provides them with something that stands out. A product name should also be one that consumers can easily recall and that does not sound like any other product. Lastly, consumers should be offered a product that has a benefit and adds value to their life. Most of all, do not extend a winner product into dozens of other categories. Procter and Gamble is a good example of this as they have more number one brands than any other firm, but each brand is a winner in only one category. There are Puffs facial tissues, Charmin bathroom tissue and Bounty kitchen towels. The company planned never to take the Charmin and market it across other categories using the same brand name. As a result the company has built brands that deliver benefits in dozens of categories, so apparently the formula works.

Greg Kitzmiller is a marketing faculty member at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, Bloomington, IN. He is also co-director of the Global Business Information Network (GBIN) at the Kelley School of Business. He combines international and domestic strategic and marketing management experience with university teaching, professional speaking, executive education and consulting. Mr. Kitzmiller can be reached at 1309 East Tenth St., Bloomington, IN 46405-1701; 812-855-1004; Fax: 812-855-6440; E-mail:
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Author:Kitzmiller, Greg
Publication:Nutraceuticals World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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