What Ice Cream Sundaes and Starbucks’ Via Have in Common

How to Extend Your Product Offering

How to extend your productDid you know that ice cream sundaes were created to get around blue laws forbidding the consumption of fizzy drinks on Sundays?

Looking to extend your product offering?  Ice cream sundaes, a soda-less ice cream soda, provide a great case study.

Further, the name “sundae” was modified to quell concerns about using the name of the Sabbath.

From a marketing perspective, the ice cream sundae shows how one proprietor changed his product offering to meet his customers’ desires within the constraints imposed by local government. Since then, sundae options have continued to proliferate.

Like the proprietor with his calorie-laden treat, Starbucks has extended their offering to meet their market’s needs and/or constraints when they introduced Via, an instant coffee.

This may be difficult to believe of Starbucks, the company that transformed Americans’ take-away cup of joe from something bought at a local deli or 7/11 to a daily luxury, but they knew what they were doing.

When Starbucks first extended their product line to an instant version, many people wondered what they were doing to their brand. Yet, as Via is poised to become a $100 million dollar brand, its creation seems like a no-brainer.

Starbucks already had expanded  inline extensions (whole beans, bottled drinks and ice cream), cross sold related food in their retail stores (baked goods, breakfast and sandwiches), entered the hospitality business (hotels, airlines and others), and offered other products (music in terms of CD compilations and refillable cash cards).

5 Areas to extend your product offering

To look for your firm’s next ice cream sundae or Via instant coffee, check these 5 areas  for opportunities to extend your product offering.

Don’t forget to analyze what your competition is doing!

  1. Other product formats. Can your product be offered in different ways that can be used by customers or unserved markets?
  2. Related products. Are there other options that you can give your customers to enhance their experience and/or improve their lives?
  3. Current market’s needs. Are there products that you can offer your customers that you aren’t currently fulfilling?
  4. Unserved segments. Are there markets who can use your product that you’re not serving? How can you reach them? Do your products need to be adapted? To this end, create a marketing persona.
  5. Locations. Are there other places where your product isn’t currently offered? Among the places to consider are physical locations, social media, distributors.

From a practical perspective, use these questions to brainstorming sessions within your organization. These meetings yield the best results when a broad cross section of employees is present because this brings in different perspectives.

Assess the marketing 4s for additional product extension ideas

Further when developing a new product, you should test its various components in small markets to ensure that consumers accept it. Among the factors to test are:

  1. Product. What new functions and/or needs are you meeting? Does it serve new uses or markets? Is the packaging different?
  2. Price.  How is the product priced compared to your existing offering? How is it priced compared to its near substitutes and/or competitors? How does the price relate to its perceived value to customers?
  3. Promotion. Does the new product leverage your existing advertising and marketing? Can you use your existing products to let potential customers sample it? Have you included a social media component to your marketing?
  4. Place. Where is your product sold? Are there non-traditional locations where you can spotlight your product?

While you may not be able to introduce a revenue generating product of Via’s magnitude, but continually thinking about how to expand your offering to serve more of your customers’ needs and extending your products to new audience segments, will increase your bottom line.

How have you extended your product offering and what were the results?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com/photo/food-restaurant-summer-nuts-2424/

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