Product: Marketing Mix for the Common Good

A product is anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use, or consumption and that might satisfy a want or need.  It includes physical objects, services, persons, places, organisations, and ideas. A Product is a complex concept that must be carefully defined.  Product strategy calls for making co-ordinated decisions on product items, product lines, and the product mix.  Each product item offered to customers can be viewed on three levels:

  • Core Product is the problem-solving services or core benefits that consumers are really buying when they obtain a product.
  • Actual Product may have as many as five characteristics:  its parts, styling, features, brand name, packaging, and other attributes, that combine to deliver core product benefits.
  • Augmented Product includes any additional consumer services and benefits built around the core and actual products

In the concept of marketing for the common good all three of the product levels will be braided within the five common good values:

Human Dignity – the purpose of products and their effect on society

At its core and actual product level product benefits will be beneficial to all humans no matter their class, race, gender, religion, abilities, or any other factor other than them being human.

The augmented product can affect a wider scope of social levels. Fairtrade is a perfect example. The Laughing Man Coffee Company has at its core product quality organic coffee beans. From a marketing and selling point of views, the main asset of the brand is the owner, famous actor Hugh Jackman. However, the company’s most proud and valued asset is its mission: “The Laughing man Foundation supports coffee farming communities by investing in programs that clear the way to health, growth, and success for coffee farmers and their families.”

Hugh Jackman the face of The Laughing Man Coffee
(The Laughing Man Coffee website’s homepage. Source:

Unlike most companies where such values are added or are a part of their missions, here that mission is at the core of the business making it irreplaceable.

If Hugh Jackman leaves The Laughing Man and for example decides to make Gin instead, surely his fans will follow and have the Gin as well, but they will be most likely still getting The Laughing Man coffee too. If on the other hand, the company decides to leave its mission and is no longer supporting coffee farmers and their communities it will translate as “We only pretended for a little while that we care, now all we want is profit”. In this case, not even Hugh Jackmen will be able to keep the consumers that care. By implementing the concept of setting ethical and environmental values in the core of the business values and its products or services, the brand guarantees the continues progress in this direction.   

Solidarity and social justice – social position in relation to product development

Taking a social position has become an important part of modern-day business and it is something that has an immense impact on consumer behaviour. Through branding, this value is effecting the product’s core level. One of the most popular examples is the rebranding of Uncle Ben’s products. “Mars Food is changing the name of its Uncle Ben’s rice products to Ben’s Original after widespread anti-racism protests renewed the focus on companies that for decades used racial images to sell their products.” – The New York Times.

A great example of a brand owning a social position is Ford’s “Welcome to the driver’s seat” ad, acknowledging Saudi Arabia lifting its ban on women drivers.

Ford celebrates lift of Saudi Arabia ban on women driving with this amazing ad
(Ford celebrates lift of Saudi Arabia ban on women driving. Image source: AdWeek)

Even that in these cases the product at its “core” and “actual product” levels does not change (a car is a car and rice is rice) what changes is how the brand of the product affects the community.

There are of course examples where products are created or tweaked to serve a social position. Nike was the first major brand to introduce a sports hijab specifically made for sportswomen. Nike’s campaign is undoubtedly allowing more girls to practice the sport they love and will even allow them to compete at a professional level.

Don't change for the rules. Change the rules. Nike Pro Hijab Ambassador Zeina Nassar
(Nike Pro Hijab Ambassador Zeina Nassar Is Proving Everyone Wrong. Image Source: Instagram)

Environmental sustainability – environmental sustainability in product development and production

At its core level, a product should be designed to not only solve a customer’s problem but also an environmental one. Or at least not to be creating a new problem in the process. The current shift in the car and energy industries are one of the best examples of this happening without losing business value.

At the actual product level, the options are limitless with today’s R&D and technology. A lot of products can be made from sustainable components and be part of the circular economy and the economy for the common good.

One such company is Form, a plant-based nutrition company. Their products include various supplements from which the most popular is protein powder (Superblend Chocolate Salted Caramel, a personal favourite). Unlike most proteins, they use a more environmentally friendly and sustainable plant-based staple for their main product. The packaging of the proteins is compostable and for their products, in glass jars, they have introduced what they call “end of life recycling programme”. The programme aims for their customers to return their glass jars and as a reward, they get a complimentary product of their choice.

(Source: YouTube)

A perfect example of how the whole process of the “actual product” level can be environmentally compliant without sacrificing quality. Quite the opposite.

Augmented product level can also benefit the environmental sustainability in a lot of ways. The Mars Company only recently claimed itself as a “’deforestation-free’ after ditching hundreds of suppliers” for its use of palm oil. I, of course, celebrated the news with a Snickers, but with big companies, you will never know. Important here is that they are setting an example.

Transparency and co-determination – transparency in product development and production

This part of the common good values will really have to apply to all three levels of the product‘s complex concept. The bigger the business producing the product the harder it will be for it to be transparent. From two of the mentioned examples, it will be much easier for Form to be transparent and therefore able to use it in their marketing strategy than it will be for a confectionary giant like Mars.

Difficult, however, does not mean impossible. Patagonia is a business that generates revenue of around $1 billion in recent years and despite its size and global market share have successfully launched the “Footprint Chronicles”. The Footprint Chronicles shows the level of transparency in the supply chain that can be achieved in a company of this size.

(Source: YouTube)

Unfortunately, Patagonia is more of an outlier and there aren’t many other similar examples in the heavyweight brand category. They do show though that there are no excuses other than the will and effort a company is willing to put in their transparency policy. If more companies, such as Patagonia are setting an example of how transparency benefits and profits them the more companies will join the initiative.

Companies have an opportunity to rise to the occasion and leverage their influence to build a better world for all — including themselves. By changing the core values of the business and its products in every single step of the way it will create the foundation of what could be a much better world. Current economic and business values are only benefitting the very few on top. Eliminating or at least shortening the gap will benefit all.

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[…] be able to use this method as a practice when building their brand. As I’ve shown in the previous blog, Patagonia is showing how transparency should be done. Brand loyalty in recent years has become […]

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