In the paper written by G. Lynn Shostack: Breaking Free from Product Marketing, I was initially intrigued by the subtitle which read “ Service marketing, to be effective and successful, requires a mirror-opposite view of conventional “product” practices.”
From reading nothing beyond the above, the fact that the word “product” was italicized, and the statement so bold, the argument although seemingly obtuse, was one I was willing to at least hear out.
The paper begins basically re-iterating the initial statement in longer terms. That “new concepts are necessary if service marketing is to succeed”. The assumption for the reader at this point is only to relay the fact she is speaking that new concepts for service marketing must divorce themselves from traditional methods of product marketing. However this is not clearly defined until a bit later in the article.
Shostack has obviously made a stance in this paper that the definition of “marketing” has only been applied and tested in the world of physical tangible products, and that service industries approach to marketing is seemingly lost in game of imaginary whack-a-mole. In which they are just pounding away at game table filled with empty holes where never a mole pops up to be whacked. She states that in a service business “many companies are confused about the applicability of product marketing” and that “more than one attempt to adopt product marketing [in a service business] has failed”.
She states “service industries have been slow to integrate marketing in to the mainstream of decision making and control because marketing offers no guidance, terminology, or practical rules that are clearly relevant to services”.
I will just pause here for a moment because we have now only gotten through the first page of the paper with bold statement after bold statement with little evidence so far to back them up.
A summary of the next few pages are that Shoshack seems fixated on the idea that marketing can only apply to tangible products, once even attempting to prove herself wrong by actually citing “Even the most thoughtful attempts to broaden the definition of “that which is marketed” away from product synonymity suffers from an underlying assumption of tangibility. Not long ago, Philip Kotler argued that that “values” were created by “object,” and drifted irredeemably into the classic product axioms.”
What I understand from her very pervasive stance on product and service marketing that in no way can either service nor product marketing be approached in the same way, and thus far no suggestion for service marketing has been defined as even existing.
So, perhaps now is a good time to bring things a little into context.
This paper was published in the Journal of Marketing in April of 1977.
That being said, basically the entire article, particularly the statement implying “It is wrong to imply that services are just like products except for intangibility. By such logic apples are just like oranges, except for their ‘apple-ness’. Intangibility is not a modifier; it is a state.” is full of outdated theories. My takeaway from this statement is that in either case of service or product marketing the human element is never taken into consideration, only the idea of something tangible.
To me service marketing involves humans, great product marketing involves great involvement with what humans need, and marketing does not have to result in anything tangible at all. The textbook definition of a service business is this: A commercial enterprise that provides work performed in an expert manner by an individual or team for the benefit of its customers. The typical service business provides intangible products, such as accounting, banking, consulting, cleaning, landscaping, education, insurance, treatment, and transportation services.
Marketing for both products and services in reality have vast similarities. They both rely on customer satisfaction, a system of communication, loyalty, and consistency in order to gain repeat business. You cannot turn to any media source in this day in age and not see marketing for service industries, which vastly mirrors that of product marketing. In a service business you actually DO have a takeaway. The promise of something “great”.
Whether it be something like Turbo-Tax that markets an easier life through step-by-step tax filing guidance that takes the guesswork and confusion out of the process. Leaving you stress free, and able to be playing catch in the yard with your little boy within 20 min or less. Or an investment firm like Charles Schwab, that markets a one-on-one personal connection to you and your finances. Promising to care so much about your situation, as if they were an extension of your immediate family you might just think about inviting to Thanksgiving dinner.
The connection I see between service and product marketing is the human connection. Seems as though since 1977 marketing and consulting firms have done a pretty good job at figuring that out. Great experiences are what keep the customers coming back for more. And yes, you can market a service similar to marketing a product, even cross pollenating the definitions of tangibility as not just being something you hold, but something you feel.