Upgrading or Expanding an Existing Product for Your Marketing Strategy

By Jeanette McMurtry

Upgrading an existing product might fit nicely into your marketing strategy. Some products are so perfect that they fit naturally with their customers, and you should just leave them alone — for example, the original formula for Coca‐Cola or another food that has a taste and effect that transcends generations. Instead of changing your winning formula, if you’re not losing sales or discovering flaws with what you’re selling, find ways to expand it.

After learning from its failed new formula launch, Coca‐Cola updated its original formula by adding Vanilla Coke, Black Cherry Coke, Lime Coke, and Orange Coke and of course the greatest success, Diet Coke. All but Diet Coke fizzled out and now lay in the Coca‐Cola product failure graveyard, but they did generate revenue for a time.

How expensive is your upgrade or expansion, and how long will it take to pay off? If a change represents a strong potential profit for even a short period of time, it may be worthwhile. Just weigh the costs and payoff ratio, and make sure your new product is relevant to consumers’ needs and attitudes to avoid creating a graveyard of your own. When an update is no longer cool or selling, cut your losses and move on. Don’t make the mistake of hanging on to a product for nostalgia or hopes it will come back. You stand to lose more than you gain if you do.

You’re competing on a changing playing field. Your competitors are trying hard to make their products better, and you have to do the same. Always seek insights into how to improve your product. Always look for early indicators of improvements your competitors plan to make, and be prepared to go one step further in your response. And always go to your marketing oracle — the customer — for insights into how you can improve your product.

Following are two tests that a product must pass to remain viable. If your product doesn’t pass, you need to improve or alter it somehow.

Passing the differentiation test

Your product must pass a differentiation test by being better than its competition on certain criteria due to inherent design features or added service components. Or it needs to be equally as good but offer a great overall value that you can sustain over time. Don’t change prices as your point of differentiation, higher or lower, unless you’ll be able to keep it up indefinitely.

Restaurants that raise prices without changing the menu or adding something new to really add a difference worth paying for don’t usually fare well. On the flip side, if you lower your prices to gain more sales, you need to be able to keep it up or suffer bigger losses if you have to raise them back.

Passing the champion test

Champions are those customers who really love your product, who insist on buying it over others, and who tell their friends or associates to do the same. Champions are great to have, but they’re also rather rare.

The championship test is tougher to pass than the differentiation test. Many products lack champions. But when a product does secure them, that product is more likely to live a long and profitable life. Generating champions who are so passionate about your product that they evangelize about it without being asked and pass their passion on to the next generations in their families should be your constant goal as you manage the life cycle of your product.

Products with champions get great word of mouth, and their sales and market shares grow with little cost and efforts on the brand’s part as a result. Even better, champions faithfully repurchase the products they rave about. And this repeat business provides your company with high‐profit sales, compared with the higher costs associated with finding new customers. Always stay in touch with your champions, invite them to provide feedback, reward them, and listen to them. If they like something, chances are others will, too.

Branding across channels

Make sure your have consistent branding across all channels you use. Whether you’re marketing through your blog, a YouTube video or channel, outdoor advertising, brochures, events, or other means, you need to present the same values and persona for your brand. Evaluate your brand identity to make sure it’s presented consistently and that it appears everywhere possible. Stick with your color palette, fonts, and so on to avoid confusion and weaken the instant brand recognition you’re trying to build.

Your brand name and logo don’t have to be the most beautiful, sophisticated, or clever to be successful. In fact, many top brands are strikingly simple. What sets them apart from other brands is that they’re recognizable and known, which in turn gives them value and helps them sell products. Rolling your brand out consistently and strongly is even more important than perfecting your logo design. Choose something that’s clear and simple, reflects your values and persona, and then stick to it no matter what.