A Mannequin for Selecting Merchandise to Promote


Some merchandise face comparatively much less competitors and garner higher revenue margins.

Fashions and analogies assist us take into consideration our firms and the markets we serve. Usually these fashions construct upon earlier work.

For instance, in 1998 Joseph Pine and James Gilmore — the founders of a consultancy known as Strategic Horizons — described an expertise economic system. For Pine and Gilmore, experiences represented a fourth class of merchandise.

Product Levels

If we use the time period “product” broadly to explain what an organization sells no matter its tangibility, we will think about a number of levels or layers. In keeping with Pine and Gilmore, these levels symbolize a development of financial worth whereby merchandise develop into more and more differentiated and premium.

Graph with X and Y axes showing the five stages

Pine and Gilmore describe 5 levels of financial worth for product choices: (1) commodities, (2) manufactured items, (3) companies, (4) experiences, and (5) transformations.

1. Commodities. Commodities are the uncooked supplies and important agricultural items that all of us use. In concept, commodities are interchangeable and differentiated on worth alone.

That is true even for an costly commodity akin to gold. Whether or not it’s from a mine in Uzbekistan or the US, gold is gold.

Thus, an organization might face vital competitors and have comparatively small revenue margins if its product providing is a commodity,

2. Manufactured items. Commodities may be mixed to create manufactured items with comparatively extra worth than the underlying uncooked supplies.

To make the purpose, Pine and Gilmore described the distinction between making a birthday cake and shopping for a cake combine.

“As a vestige of the agrarian economic system, moms made birthday muffins from scratch, mixing farm commodities (flour, sugar, butter, and eggs) that collectively price mere dimes. Because the goods-based industrial economic system superior, mothers paid a greenback or two to Betty Crocker for premixed substances.”

Manufactured items can develop into commoditized, however basically, merchandise which are manufactured ought to face comparatively much less competitors than a commodity and will take pleasure in higher revenue margins.

3. Companies. The subsequent product layer is a service, combining manufactured items and human capital. Companies may be custom-made or scalable.

A service ought to face comparatively much less competitors than a item for consumption or commodity whereas producing higher revenue margins.

4. Experiences. A product is an expertise when its worth is enhanced by the partaking of it.

A bag of espresso beans is a commodity. Prompt espresso is a item for consumption. Espresso at Starbucks is a service. A tasting with a espresso skilled who describes the harvesting, roasting, and brewing in dramatic element is an expertise.

Product choices which are experiences ought to have comparatively excessive revenue margins and low competitors.

5. Transformations. In February 2022, Pine and Gilmore — together with Lance Bettencourt of Texas Christian College and David W. Norton of Stone Mantel, a consultancy — added a fifth product stage to their mannequin, describing it because the transformation or “new you” economic system, in an article for the Harvard Enterprise Evaluate.

“Enterprises ought to acknowledge the financial alternative provided by the transformation enterprise, through which they accomplice with customers to enhance some basic side of their lives — to realize a ‘new you,’” the authors wrote.

Noom could possibly be an instance of this type of enterprise. The corporate supplies a mixture of companies and experiences that in the end result in a buyer’s transformation — happier and more healthy.

In comparison with every product stage earlier than it, a change ought to generate comparatively higher revenue margins and aggressive circumstances.

Screenshot of the Noom home page

Noom is an app, a group, a construction for private progress, and a enterprise. It trades on the transformational outcomes it produces for its buyer benefactors.


Established firms and start-ups can apply the mannequin of financial values throughout 5 product varieties.

In every case, a enterprise could establish its merchandise relative to the mannequin, perceive a number of the inherent challenges with that place, and add insights for decision-making.

An organization that wishes to promote a commodity ought to perceive that it might face vital competitors and comparatively low-profit margins. The enterprise might actually achieve success, supplied it understands the aggressive and pricing setting through which it operates.


Bear in mind, too, that Pine, Gilmore, Bettencourt, and Norton describe an idea, not a rule.

Commoditization is feasible at any stage.

Take into account, for instance, the semiconductor business. Corporations that manufacture reminiscence chips for computer systems, smartphones, and different gadgets have agreed to a set of business requirements. All DRAM chips have equivalent inputs and outputs and related efficiency. So whereas these reminiscence chips are extraordinarily sophisticated to fabricate, they’re priced like commodities.

Companies would possibly wish to keep away from practices that commoditize their current merchandise and people additional up the worth chain.


Lastly, it’s price mentioning that differentiation is feasible at any stage. It may be a operate of high quality and purity or the results of combining merchandise from numerous levels.

Don’t ignore a possibility as a result of it’s at an earlier stage, slightly use Pine and Gilmore’s mannequin to assist vet the probability of success.


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