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What Matters Most in Marketing: The 10 Intangibles

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A marketer's job is to position products in target markets in order to dominate a defined market or product category. A number of factors, both predictable and unpredictable, such as logistics, world economics, trends, competition, advertising clutter, pricing, staff, and resources affect a marketer's day-to-day decisions. However, the real objectives of marketing involve starting, sustaining, and increasing sales, and the real questions that marketers ask themselves are, ''What makes a product salable?'' and, ''How can I increase the salability?'' The following 10 intangibles provide answers to these questions.

The 10 Intangible Features that Determine Sales and Marketing

The 10 time-honored intangible features of highly salable products or services are as follows:

1. Aesthetics.

What glistens, glows, and takes the consumer’s breath away-sells. People appreciate beauty in all aspects of their lives, and the aesthetics of a product are an integral benefit. Harley-Davidson bikes sell more because people perceive them as works of art than because of economic advantages.

2. Distinctiveness.

People enjoy standing out from the crowd and prefer products that represent being outside the mainstream. Products that can be positioned as countercultural, within acceptable limits, are generally successful in markets.

3. Nostalgia.

People are fond of the things they grew up with. Sights, sounds, flavors, and experiences from childhood leave indelible impressions on human minds. That is why, in marketing, the ever-present slogan is “get them while they’re young.” All age groups and brands experience nostalgia, and those products that can be positioned as ageless will have staying power.

4. Prestige.

Modern consumers view their belongings as statements about themselves. Rolex watches that are priced at millions of dollars do not sell because they keep more-accurate time than cheaper alternatives. They sell because they are associated with prestige. For many consumers who can afford high-priced products, prestige is more important than utility.

5. Customization.

Each human being is unique and wants to preserve that uniqueness. Products that can be customized find markets that are more committed than generic products’ markets. This is the reason why people employ architects to plan their dream houses, when their budgets permit, rather use cheaper, generic blueprints. This is the reason why a business-savvy retailer would bear the cost of monogramming a shirt for a consumer.

6. Reliability.

Reliability, though tied to safety and service, is an independent factor. A product or service that performs consistently is reliable. Reliability is one of the things that consumers take into consideration when judging products and services. For example, imagine a company that makes toothbrushes, some that last three months and some that last six months. Then imagine a company that makes toothbrushes that all last only three months. The second company would be perceived as more reliable, even though none of its toothbrushes last six months.

7. Safety.

The instinct to survive and protect oneself is consistently stronger than most other primal instincts. Nothing could be worse for a product or service than being perceived as a threat to consumers’ well-being. Safety concerns influence products such as children’s apparel, cars, and airplanes, to name only a few. Therefore, highlighting the safety features of a product and addressing safety concerns is an essential part of marketing.

8. Service.

In marketing today, service matters more than ever. Both pre and post-sales support and service are decisive factors in consumer purchases. The service reputation of a product controls its position in the market.

9. Simplicity.

A product with easy-to-use features has an edge over a similar, complex product, as simplicity adds significant value to a product. Microwaves with simple manual controls often sell better than microwaves with electronic touch controls, though the former have fewer optional features than the latter. The appeal lies in the simplicity.

10. Philanthropy.

Appealing to the philanthropic sides of consumers is a major concern for marketers. Consumers prefer products and brands that are socially responsive, environment friendly, or that support community efforts. Since modern marketing is about selling values, the creation of a philanthropic image is a part of successful marketing.

In modern markets, where many versions of the same basic product are available in different brands and makes, the salability of a product depends more on its intangible features than on its tangible features. In fact, tangible features and product enhancements are often created to support a product’s intangible features, for intangible features constitute what consumers perceive as decisive benefits. This is basic knowledge in marketing, but it never hurts to review the basics.


Deep, Sam and Lyle Sussman. Close the Deal: Smart Moves for Selling. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1999.
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 works of art  human beings  objectives  Harley-Davidson  aesthetics  matters  economics  targeted markets  Rolex watches  product category

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