When Your Core Product May Not be Enough – Revisiting the 4 P’s

By Gary Beemer

Everyone that has taken a basic marketing class in college was no doubt taught the 4 P’s of the marketing mix. Product has always been at the apex of the mix because it’s hard to come up with pricing, placement and promotional strategies and tactics without knowing something about the product. But is having a great product enough, and what if your core product changes from week-to-week and your marketing team has nothing to do with whether it gets better or worse?

Take any professional athletic team as an example. The product is the game, and traditionally the value of the product is determined by wins and losses. If you lose more than you win, your product is considered poor. If you win more than you lose, then your product is good. If you win often enough to go to post-season play, then you have an even better product. If you win a national championship, then your product is the best possible. Common sense dictates that our goal as marketers is to provide the best product possible to help us achieve our goals and maintain competitive advantage.

But what if you are the CMO of a major sports team – say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and you can’t always count on wins to define your product value? What goes through your mind when the local paper starts with the following headline: “The Bucs are without a win at home because they are a bad team?” Do you roll up the gridiron and hope for a better product next season?

Management, coaches and players are responsible for wins and losses on the field. In a sense, they are like any service business whose reputation is made or broken by the performance of their human managers and workers. Unlike most service business employees, professional athletes must contend with bone crushing tackles and collisions that may result in injuries that can turn winning into losing overnight, thus changing the value of the core product. Marketing doesn’t choose coaches or players and can’t influence on-field performance, but it is charged with filling stadium seats and suites – regardless of win/loss records.

So how has the Bucs Marketing Team succeeded in this turbulent environment? By creating a much larger portfolio of interconnected experiences – see below – that enhance, and at times, eclipse the core product on the field.

1. Create a game day experience that is larger than the game itself.
2. Rebrand the experience as family friendly by openly courting women and kids by continually updating and adding on-site amenities and experiences that cater to them.
3. Lower the price of tickets for children not as a discount, but as an investment in making each game a “family” experience that develops brand loyalty in current and future generations.
4. Make the experience analogous to planning an exciting family vacation.
5. Successfully compete with home TV’s and sound systems by installing 31,000 square feet of video surface with 360-degree immersive video and sound.
6. Provide exclusive benefits like simultaneous triple screen replays that can only be seen at the stadium.
7. Create a Bucs smart phone application that allows fans to actively engage with the facility and surroundings during the game in the form of selfies, narratives and virtual reality gaming.

So how does this help mere mortal marketers with our products, services and ideas? By forcing us to revisit the importance of our core product in the marketing mix, and to realize that customers today not only buy our products, but the overall experience they have with our business.