Your Product Is Not a Market

 

Not a day goes by without an article in the San Jose Mercury News, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fortune, or Forbes erroneously equating a product to a market. There is no excuse for this. I constantly see incorrect references to the wireless market, the Bluetooth® market, the handheld market, the cleantech market, and so on. None of these is a market. Not one.

Wireless, Bluetooth, handheld, and cleantech are technology and product categories — not markets — and such inexcusable confusion is equal in egregiousness to an accountant blithely mislabeling assets as liabilities. A market is comprised of people, not things, and this is immutable.

Back in 1989, I wrote “The Mystery of Marketing” to address this very issue. It stands as proof that nothing has changed in almost 20 years.

There are three entities in commerce:

  1. Industry (supply side)
  2. Market (demand side)
  3. Marketplace (interface/nexus)

Industry is the supply, or business, side of the equation; it contains the vendors, channel partners, technologies, and products. Market is the demand side of the equation; it contains the paying customers: human beings. Marketplace is the interface, or nexus, where the industries and markets meet to exchange value.

If I use a wireless product, don’t call me a wireless customer, and don’t lump me into a wireless market that doesn’t exist. “Wireless” is nothing more than the enabling technology du jour that allows me to get my data, untethered. For you to categorize me with your product or technology label, just because I use it, is the epitome of hubris. I don’t care about wireless — other than what it can do to ease life’s challenges.

If there’s a better solution tomorrow, I’ll take it. Does this mean that the market of impatient, data-hungry consumers, of which I am a part, will have changed? Absolutely not. But, if you, the marketing exec, confuse products with markets — as most people do — you will think so and, unfortunately, make a major marketing mistake.

Anyone who interchangeably uses market and product will constantly miss opportunities to identify, serve, and gain sustainable loyalty from customers — and maximize revenues and profits from them. Apple understands this well, and that’s why its loyal customers camp out overnight to buy iPhones.

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2008 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

 

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