Marketing intangible products and product intangibles
Giving tangibility to imperceptible product features can aid both sales and postsales efforts
All products, whether they are services or goods, possess a certain amount of intangibility. Services like insurance and transportation, of cours;, are nearly entirely intangible. And even goods, while they can be seen, often can': be tried out before they are bought. Underjitanding the degree of a product's intangibility can affect hoth sales and postsales follow-up strategies. While services are less able to be tested in advance than goods, the intangible factors in both types of products are important for ...view middle of the document...
While some of tbe differenees migbt seem obvious, it is apparent that, along witb tbeir differences, there are important commonalities between tbe marketing of intangibles and tangibles. Put in tertns of our new vocabulary, a key area of similarity in tbe marketing of intangibles and tangibles revolves around the degree of intangibility inberent in botb. Marketing is concerned witb getting and keeping customers. Tbe degree of product intangibihty bas its greatest effect in tbe process of trying to get customers. Wben it comes to bolding on to customers—to keeping tbem—bigbly intangible products run into very special problems. First, tbis article identifies aspects of intangibility tbat affect sales appeal of botb Intangible and tangible products. And, next, it considers tbe special
>lii(fior's noier The current arricle expands on and further develops some of the concepts I introduced in my last ankle for HBR, "Marketing Success Through DifEereniiation Of Anything," which appeared in the January-February 1980 issue. Other articles 1 have wriuen for HBR treat this general subjtci in yet other ways. The^e include "The Industrjalizatior of Service" [September-October 1976) arid "Production-Line Approach io Service" (Septemher-Octoher 1971). To drive home what i believe is a badly neglected distinction, the present article refers to ihe role ai maaagcmeni in the industrial revolution, a subject mote fully developed in my article, "Management and Post Industrial Society," The Public Interest. Suouner 1976-
Harvard Business Review
difficulties sellers of intangibles face in retaining customers.
Intangibility of all products
Intangible products—travel, freigbt forwarding, insurance, repair, consulting, computer software, investment banking, brokerage, education, bealth care, accounting-can seldom be tried out, inspected, or tested in advaiice. Prospective buyers are generally forced to depend on surrogates to assess what they're likely to get. Tbey can look at gloriously glossy pictures of elegant rooms in distant resort botels set exotically by tbe sbimmering sea. They can consult current users to sec bow well a software program performs and bow well tbe investment banker or the oil well drilling contractor performs. Or tbey can ask experienced customers regarding engineering firms, trust companies, lobbyists, professors, surgeons, prep scbools, hair stylists, consultants, repair sbops, industrial maintenance firms, sbippers, francbisers, general contractors, funeral directors, caterers, environmental management firms, construction companies, and on and on. Tangible products differ in that tbey can usually, or to some degree, be directly experienced—seen, toucbed, smellcd, or tasted, as well as tested. Often tbis can be done in advance of buying. You can testdrive a car, smell tbe perfume, work tbe numerical controls of a milling machine, inspect the seller's steam-generating...