first in marketing audits
Products & Brands


Planning a healthy marketing mix begins with formulating an offering to meet the target customers’ needs and wants. The product becomes the first and most important element of the marketing mix. Your customer will assess the product offering through three basic elements: product features and quality, the service mix and quality, and the price appropriateness.

In planning a market or product offering, healthy marketing practice includes thinking through the five levels of the product:

  • First level: This encompasses the core benefit, or the fundamental benefit or service that the customer is really buying
  • Second level: This occurs when the marketer turns the core benefit into a basic product
  • Third level: The marketer prepares an expected product – a set of attributes that buyers expect and agree to when buying the product
  • Fourth level: The marketer prepares an augmented product, one that includes additional services and benefits that differentiates the organization from competitors
  • Fifth and final level: The marketer prepares a potential product which encompasses all the augmentations and transformations that the product might ultimately undergo

Since most companies sell more than one product or service, healthy marketing practice includes classifying product mix according to width, length, depth and consistency. These four dimensions are tools for developing a healthy product strategy and deciding which products to grow, maintain, harvest or divest.


Branding is the cornerstone of marketing. The brand identifies the seller or market and in that sense becomes more important than just its name, term, sign, symbol or design. Healthy marketing practice can create, maintain, protect and enhance brands. Unhealthy marketing treats a brand only as a name and misses the point of branding.

The challenge for attaining brand health is to develop a deep set of meaning for your brand. A brand can convey up to six levels of meanings. When your market can visualize all six dimensions of a brand, the brand is considered deep, while the unhealthy brand is considered shallow. The six levels of meaning include: attributes, benefits, value, culture, personality and user.

Given the six levels of a brand’s meaning, marketers must decide at which levels to deeply anchor the brand’s identity. A common unhealthy symptom in many organizations is to just promote the brand’s attribute only or just one of its benefits. Usually the buyer is not interested in the brand attributes as much as the benefits. Competitors can easily copy attributes. The healthiest and most enduring meaning of a brand is its values, culture and personality. These define the brand’s essence.

So how deep is your brand? And what does your organization stand for?

Unfortunately many companies have mismanaged their greatest asset – their brand – by not making an effort to manage the brand equity. Brands will vary in the amount of power and value that they have in the marketplace. Healthy marketing practice manages the brand equity appropriately according to its position in the marketplace.

At one extreme are brands that most people do not know. Then there are brands with a fairly high degree of brand awareness (measured by brand recall or recognition). Beyond this are brands with a high degree of brand acceptability, followed by brands that enjoy a high degree of brand preference, and finally, some command a high degree of brand loyalty. Healthy marketing-centric organizations carefully manage their brands so that the brand equity doesn’t depreciate.