Product Versioning and Cultural Branding
On Product Versioning
Product versioning is a widespread practice among manufacturers of deliberately removing certain product functionalities so that a new product can be introduced into the market. An example of product versioning is Apple’s removal of iPhone features in creating and unveiling iPod Touch.
According to a study in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, backlash is to be expected from product versioning, most especially when the ensuing new product has inferior quality or has fewer features. Product versioning can also lead to a class action lawsuit, as in the case of Verizon having to pay a settlement fee of more than $10 million when it disabled Bluetooth in its Motorola v710.
The researchers uncovered that hostile reactions from consumers can be avoided by not making the “versioned” product too similar to the existing product and by explaining to consumers that the practice is a common one. Also, offering information regarding the production method can help diminish the backlash.
On Cultural Branding
Cultural branding is a marketing campaign that results in the creation of a culturally symbolic brand and product. Examples are Budweiser denoting an American brand and Sony indicating a Japanese one.
According to the results of the study that appeared in the June 2011 online issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, when culturally symbolic products are extended, they will still sell if they are in line with the culture they are originally identified with.
The researchers say that a barbecue sauce from Budweiser is more likely to be a successful product than a cappuccino maker sporting the Sony brand. The Japanese culture associated with Sony is not closely intertwined with cappuccino, so a Sony-branded cappuccino-maker does not look appealing.
This only applies to brands and products that have become culturally symbolic. In short, when a marketer branches out into another product carrying a culturally symbolic brand, the new product must possess the same cultural symbolism. Otherwise, consumers may not buy it.