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The New 4 P’s of Marketing: Product = Value

I recently read that the Mona Lisa is worth somewhere around $780 million. I’ve fought the crowds at the Louvre museum in Paris to get a glimpse at the iconic painting. It’s mysterious and beautiful, but if not for its fame I wouldn’t consider hanging it in my house. Not really my style.

I would argue that the value of the painting isn’t exclusively in the picture itself. Had my uncle Jim painted the Mona Lisa it wouldn’t be hanging in the Louvre. And, he would have a heck of a time getting that oily paint off of his fingers.

Of course, in order to determine the actual value of the painting it would need to go to auction. The highest bidder determines the real value of the painting. There are people with both the interest and means to spend an inordinate amount of money on the Mona Lisa… just not me.

Value is in the eye of the beholder.

The first classic P of marketing is Product. As I said in my last post, it’s time to replace Product with Value. I know the word value doesn’t begin with the letter P, but hear me out. A product’s features, benefits and characteristics are set. If you were to change the features, benefits and characteristics you would simply have a new product.

However, different people value the same bundle of features, benefits and characteristics differently. That is because value is dependent on context and perspective. Marketers rely so heavily on identifying the right target market because these are the people who share the context and perspective to value the thing we are selling.

Value is also malleable. A group of people would value the exact same product more (or less) if their context and perspective were to change.

So, a marketer’s job is to either find a group of people with the context and perspective producing the highest value on product or change the context and perspective of an audience in order increase their perceived value the product. Either way, the focus should be on the value, not the product.

Let me give a real world example. At Victoria’s Secret we introduced a wonderful product for the PINK brand that was dying a slow and painful death. It was a seamless panty made of light, stretchy and comfortable fabric. All of our research and experience told us it should be a big winner, but it was failing.

The merchants and planners had finally given up and decided to replace the product. That’s when I had the idea to change the context and perspective of our current customers. I asked the merchants and planners to allow me to test a crazy idea before they pulled the plug on the product.

At the time, our special panty was displayed on a fixture with most of the other panties. It was sold as part of a bundle: five panties for twenty-five dollars. So, I had the product taken off the panty fixture and displayed by our yoga pants (a hot seller at the time). The price was raised and the panties were no longer offered in the price-bundle. We then printed new tags for the panties along with small signs on the rack that read, “Yoga panties.”

A star was born.

The new yoga panties were an instant hit. We changed nothing about the product itself. The same panties that had been sitting on the panty fixture one week before were now hanging on the wall next to yoga pants. Our customers were simply provided a new occasion to wear the product… with yoga pants and during activities associated with yoga pants. Value was created instantly by tweaking the context and perspective of our shopper.

I’m not sure what type of underwear the model for the Mona Lisa wore, but given her smile it might have been an early version of the yoga panties. Da Vinci was a genius.

Context and perspective determine value.


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