Prodvices and servducts
It's happening all around you.
Products and services are merging. Buyers sell and sellers buy. What
used to be neat value chains are messy connected economic webs. Homes are offices.
And if you're a business marketer caught in the middle of these
basic market shifts you're probably as flustered as Les Nessman reporting
from the MTV Malibu beach house.
Age of the hybrid, the halfbreed
and the bastard child
On every front opposites are attracting and their
offspring are unsettling mutants.
As a result, the old approaches to selling and communicating them aren't
just dying, they've already been cremated and Woody Harrelson is smoking
their ashes in his lucky skull bong. New paradigms are redefining our businesses,
what we communicate, how we communicate it, when we communicate it and whom
we communicate it to.
How could this happen to you
happening in three fundamental ways.
First, almost instantaneous communications and computers are shrinking time
and focusing all business transactions on speed.
Second, connectivity is putting everyone and everything online with
each other in one way or another. In fact, we're so intertwined we make
a Twister game between the casts of Cirque du Soleil and the Acrobats
of China look like a Busby Berkley chorus line. Today, we're so connected
that distance is no longer much of a factor in anything. Let alone business.
And third, intangible value of all kinds, like service, information
and emotion are growing so fast they're reducing the importance of tangible
mass. Meaning the physical product itself is becoming less important than the
ancillary things it makes possible through its intangible benefits. (If you
want to know what we just said, check out "Value
Speedy, connected mutants everywhere
is driving products and services to resemble each other in a lot of different
ways. For one, product lifecycles are now shorter than the attention span of
the guy from "Shine" hooked up to a Jolt Cola IV. In turn, rapid obsolescence
demands continual upgrading or replacement.
So now there's no such thing as selling a static product
to a customer and then forgetting about them. The people who are your customers
today will be your customers again in six months—or in six minutes. And
if not, then they'll be someone else's.
The point is, when you're
dealing with the same customers over continually upgraded, changed and customized
products you begin to qualify as a service business.
The need for speed is also causing a lot of people in the service business to
feel like they're selling products. That's because everybody wants
their services fast. Whether it's a burger or a branding program it has
to happen quickly. Quicker. Faster. More quickly. Quickest.
Under this kind of time pressure, there's no way services can be totally
tailored to each and every customer. So even when they're customized, at
their core they still have to be standardized, modularized, packaged and embedded
in software. In other words, they start looking a lot more like products.
Everybody's hooking up
though, products and services are merging because of connectivity. Not only
the connectivity of all users and possible users to each other, but the connectivity
of users directly to makers, the connectivity of users and possible users and
makers to an Internet environment of perfect information, and the connectivity
of product/services that link electronically to information bases.
That's a lot of connecting going on out there.
And it creates a lot of
opportunities for service. It's just crazy. One day you're playing
Pong, the next thing you know, Wes, the gas meter guy with the eye patch, has
an uplink to a satellite on his tool belt.
Connectivity means that customers will maintain ever-closer links to the creators
and marketers of the goods they use. And as a result, the product is becoming
simply a service waiting to happen. And the service is simply the product in
No product, no service, no comprendo
of confusing isn't it?
That's because in this new world, it doesn't
make sense to think of things in terms of products or services any more. Especially
when it comes to marketing and brand communications.
Instead you should be communicating the benefits of product-service hybrids.
What we will ingeniously call value offers.
Essentially value offers are "productized" services and "servicized"
Value offers are solutions to customer problems without the distinction of product
or service labels because the solution becomes so paramount that you can no
longer tell what part of it is product and what part is service. They become
Wake up and smell the value offers
if you don't think this is beginning to happen to you, right now, in your
market, check it out. You may be more out of it than Strom Thurmond on a little
brown jug of Nyquil.
And you can't afford to be.
Because in this new environment, companies that knowingly
(or worse, unknowingly) communicate and brand themselves as if they are selling
unsupported, unconnected products will be viewed as no better than snake oil
salesmen. And firms that communicate unpackaged and unleveraged services will
be perceived to be concerned only with running up their billable hours and unconcerned
about fulfilling the customer's desires.
design and communication of value offers requires a new kind of thinking. You
have to start thinking simultaneously not only about what it is and what it
does but, most importantly, what it enables to happen.
That goes way beyond bundling products and services, Bucky. Bundling is a step
in the right direction because it recognizes that businesses buy product/services
because they have needs that only these things together help to fill. But ultimately
bundling isn't enough.
It's not enough to just toss together a bunch of complementary
goods and services, and stick a brand and price tag on them. The real value
comes when these things are blended so they can't be separated and can't
exist independently of each other.
You're in the mutant business
If you think you're in a product business or a service business, think again.
To survive in paradigm-shifting markets you must be in both. Simultaneously.
For business marketers and communicators, that means you have to change your
mindset about the very nature of what you're branding and what you're
You need to wrap existing products in intangibles like service, information
and emotion and make services tangible by making them real, physical, touchable
A new mindset
If you'd like to see how you can take advantage of this paradigm shift in how value offers can be communicated, go to "Five
And if you'd like to know more about a business branding
system that begins by defining and continues by communicating offers that customers
and prospects truly value, click on "Increase your brandwidth."