The ‘Whole Product’

Volume 15 Letter 3

Creating market demand where previously there was none is at the heart of any new product launch strategy and many experienced marketers miss this vital point. To create market demand, you need to create the “whole product”, the minimum set of product, and services necessary to ensure that the target customer will achieve his or her compelling reason to buy1. Get it right and reap the rewards. Miss it and suffer the consequences. Take Amazon’s Kindle vs Sony e-Reader in the portable reader market.

In 2006 Sony entered the portable reader market; a full year ahead of Amazon’s Kindle. At that point portable electronic readers were available but they were clunky, heavy chunks of hardware with fuzzy displays. Sony did the research and determined that a light weight reader with a crisp clear display would do the trick. The new Sony e-reader was a fantastic piece of kit earning accolades from the media.

As brilliant as it was, the Sony e-reader missed the mark. It had downloadable books but with a limited selection of titles and cumbersome download procedures sales lagged. The Kindle wasn’t technically a “better” product, but it was “the whole product”. Amazon’s Kindle offered four times the number of book titles and downloading was simple using Kindle’s own mobile wireless connection. When Kindle hit the market it was sold out within six hours of launch! The Kindle has since grown the e-reader market from 2% of all books sold in 2008 to over 28% in 2014.

Sadly for Sony their experience in the music business was eerily familiar as Apple stole the market the same way. Sony’s MP3 player was equal to the Apple iPod but, as with the e-reader, without a library of songs to choose from customers flocked to Apple’s iPod which offered 1000’s of titles through iTunes at 99 cents a download.

What can we learn from Sony, Apple and Kindle……

  • Always focus on the entire customer experience not just the product itself. The Sony e-Reader couldn’t download books directly leading to frustrations causing an unsatisfying customer experience
  • Find out what it is that makes the “whole product”. Amazon didn’t own the book titles and nor did Apple own the music titles but giving customers access to them was an important part of the “whole” product.

New products and services often require the customer to change behaviors and, in business settings, actually change processes. Focus on how your new product will affect the customer’s daily life or business life and make it easy for them to make the switch. Making the customer’s life better is the “whole” product.

What is your “Whole Product?”

1. Quote from Bill Davidson found in Crossing the Chasm Geoffrey Moore Collins Publishing

2. For more info on the Kindle vs Sony Story: Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne: Red Ocean Traps, HBR PP68 March 2015

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