There are a bit too many words in the marketing field that begin with the word “product”—“product class,” “product line,” “product mix,” and a few others. Understandably, they can create confusion for the non-business person, who then, resorts to throwing around these words loosely and interchangeably.
I’m not being a snob when I say this, but my inner editor will simply, not permit me that sort of a freewheeling approach to language.
Besides, at the time I was dabbling in marketing theories, it was important for me to gain an understanding of these terms. To that effect, I’d created this simple chart.
A “product class” (or a product category) is a group or range of remotely related products that may serve as substitutes for each other because they fulfill the same need. A narrow product category for modes of transport would include cars, pickups, vans, motorcycles. A broad set would have aircraft, ship, hovercraft, and spacecraft.
A “product line” is a group of closely related products that are made by the same company. The “depth” of the product line refers to the number of different products offered in a single product line.
Take the luxury carmaker BMW. It offers these product lines: 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, Z (driven by Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in “GoldenEye (1995)) as well as the X line. The 3 Series, in turn, has a range of sedans, coupes, convertibles, station wagons. All of the product lines offered by a firm make up its “product mix.”
In the case of BMW, BMW is its only “brand,” unlike in the case of FritoLay, which has many distinct brands.