marketing the intangibles

Four problems created by intangibility for the marketers

In various ways, the marketing of the intangibles differs from that of the tangibles. While there is some degree of intangibility related to the tangible products also, there are some distinct challenges related to marketing of intangible products. Marketing’s concern is to find and retain customers. However, the degree of product intangibility can still affect the process of customer acquisition. While the tangible products can be tried or tested in advance, it is not so with the intangible products. This causes problems related to reliability. Customers generally refer to the tangible aspects of such services for evaluation. The problems arising out of intangibility for the marketers can be of four types. They are:

  • Abstractness: Since abstract ideas are not related to concrete realities or real objects or events, marketers find it challenging to connect their services to such ideas. In this regard, the marketers can use the ‘service consumption episode’ strategy to overcome the problem. This strategy is based on showing evidence of satisfaction derived from the service or customers experiencing the product or service. For example an airlines company shows ads of people using its services or an insurance company shows customers benefiting from its policies in its ads.
  • Generality: This is another problem associated with the marketing of the intangible products or services. Generality refers to the items belonging to a specific class of products where it is difficult to distinguish them from the other competing products or services in the same class. Performance documentation is the process through which this problem can be overcome. It is the strategy of citing past statistics to convince the consumers. Many times companies cite the number of customers it has handled satisfactorily in the past year or six months. For example, an insurance company in its online ad shows ‘more than 10 million satisfied customers’.
  • Non searchability: This is a common problem with the intangible products since it is difficult to touch or test these products before buying them. These products cannot be searched or investigated before they are purchased. Consumption documentation or customer testimonials are a great way to overcome the problem of non searchability. For example, companies show customers praising their services in their ads.
  •  Mental impalpability: Mental impalpability arises when a particular class of services are too complex to imagine what it really feels like. The customers cannot imagine what it would be like to experience them. For example ads of premium travel show a customer/air traveler seated satisfactorily enjoying the convenience of the posh interiors of a plane.

These were the four major problems that can arise out of intangibility. There are different strategies to overcome each of them. From customer testimonials to sales statistics, a wide variety of strategies can be used to convince customers of quality.