An organization's value can be enhanced by continually improving how it meets the needs and wants of its customers. Its product mix is a key tool in this effort. Consisting of the full array of a firm's marketplace offerings, the mix is designed in terms of width, depth, positioning and product characteristics.
The width, or breadth, of a product mix is a measure of how many different types of products the organization offers. Each type is called a product line, and every line is distinct from the others in terms of its use by customers and what benefits people seek from it. For example, a fruit-processing company might sell lines of jam, juice and pie fillings. To enhance the firm's overall value to its customers, marketers could add width to its product mix with a new line of fruit-based sauces.
The depth of a product mix refers to the number of distinct items in a product line. For example, the fruit-processing firm's line of pie fillings might include apple, cherry and strawberry; it could be deepened further with sugar-free varieties. Adding depth to a line is a common means of attracting customers with different tastes and better satisfying existing customers' desires for variety. This strategy can also help the firm take advantage of economies of scale in production, distribution and marketing.
Positioning refers to people's perceptions of a brand, an individual product or a product mix. A company with a wide product mix is generally perceived as more of an expert in the industry than a competitor with only one line. On the other hand, a firm with a narrow product mix could be positioned as a boutique marketer of highly specialized goods. Sometimes the firm can enhance its value by repositioning its product mix. For example, a maker of dry soup mixes could reposition its array of offerings as flavorings for casseroles and stews.
The value of an organization's product mix to its customers is often centered on three product characteristics: quality, functionality and style. Quality refers to the brand's dependability or durability. A product's functionality is a measure of how effectively, safely and conveniently it performs and delivers promised benefits. Style is based on cosmetics and aesthetics, like color, texture or smell. Improvements on any or all of these dimensions can better satisfy value-conscious buyers and significantly enhance the firm's competitive strength.