Creating Intangibles

Creating intangibles in an emerging market is -- by definition -- a creative marketing and a creative communications task. It is also a "steering" task, comparable to steering an ocean liner where feedback is limited and time is a critical variable. It requires the ability to think through what the customer needs are likely to be in the future, and to begin positioning the emerging product based on expected needs. Hence, it is both exhilerating and risky.

Often, the company's first attempts at bringing a new product to market will seem unsuccessful. Sales will not appear to increase. The messages will appear to be too early, the channels used to send messages inappropriate, or the intangible messages will be received but not correlated to a product.

Each of these apparent "failures" is, however, often a normal part of the process of learning that a potential customer goes through.

The process concept of learning is an vital one with regard to marketing planning. In most product markets characterized by some customer risk (in other words, most markets where the price is higher than a few dollars for a disposable commodity), customers will require three to twelve positive exposures to messages -- during the purchase cycle -- about a new product before they purchase. At the same time, we know that the same message reaches a saturation point after it has been noted three times. The way in which these two apparently contradictory findings - the need for up to twelve exposures and the saturation at three exposures - are fused helps explain the extraordinary power of word-of-mouth communication in an emerging business.

There are also some important caveats here. First, is there a purchase cycle? From the standpoint of perception, if there is no interest in purchasing, there is little chance that a message sent by mass communications channels will be received -- instead, it will merely be disInissed as clutter.

Second, is the message relevant? Even in situations where a customer is disposed toward purchase, if the messages are not on-point, they are likely to be discarded.

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