This paper is aimed at exploring the innovative products in a medical field, - artificial upper and lower limbs. The report reveals the factors that increase the product value as well as the factors that inhibit the growth of these artificial devices. Merck & Co., Inc., a famous multinational corporation is taken as a sample company that, in particular, produces limb prosthetics. Nevertheless, the attention is paid to products' development and the ways in which innovation drives the improvements of goods' quality. It is identified that, despite being relevant in terms of time and socio-demographic peculiarities, the value of the product should be increased in order to meet the customers' demands. Specifically, the approaches of advancement should be directed towards enhancing the function and aesthetic value of the artificial limbs. Besides, it is detected that this product is currently at the introduction stage of its life circle and coming to the growing stage, which presumes increasing client base by implementing the effective positioning strategies. The artificial limbs are promoted through differentiation advantageous strategy by applying to product positioning. Moreover, the tendency towards repositioning (change from machinery biological image and functions) is clearly visible.
Merck & Co., Inc. is a multinational corporation (with the main office on the USA) that operates in a healthcare industry since 1899. Apart from own trading mark, this company also functions through subsidiaries, for instance, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., and affiliation organizations. It is known worldwide as the leader in providing a great number of healthcare products and services. In particular, striving to align its performance with the modern customers' demand, this corporation develops innovative products, such as limb prosthetics. As it is known, limb prosthetics have relatively short market history; therefore, this fact itself implies the novelty of these goods. Moreover, it is also appropriate to mention that the rapid development of technologies, population growth and the increased speed of life require constant moderation of limb prosthetics. Today, the scientists work in the two main directions. The first is to make human prosthetics more functional by combining bio- and machinery technologies. This approach is expected to allow a greater range of movements, which means decreased inconveniences connected with various amputation incapacities. Another important direction is enhancing an aesthetic value of this product by making it more similar to real human limbs. In this regard, one should point out that these two directions stem from the customers' needs. Thus, these characteristics define the product value and stipulate the implementation of competitive and positioning strategies.
Estimating the limb prosthetics in terms of competitive sustainability, it is possible to state that Merck & Co., Inc. as well as other companies that specialize at designing these artificial devices is expected to enjoy the benevolent macroenvironment. Consider the rationale, starting with the second half of the 20th century the rapid population growth predefined that more people would need certain type of limb prosthetics currently or in the near future. Besides, scientists point out that the plague of the 21st century contains such diseases as "atherosclerosis and diabetes". Taking into account that these health issues often lead to the amputations of limbs, one should comprehend that the demand for these artificial devices is growing. Apart from that, the increase of obesity stipulates the development of the above-mentioned illnesses. In addition, today, obesity is identified as a factor that contributes to the emergence of numerous other widespread diseases including cancer, which also often requires amputation of the affected parts of body.
Therefore, the target marketing segment is quite broad. In includes people who suffer from the above-described health issues as well as those who needs limb prosthetics because of different injuries, including birthing traumas. At the same time, it is detected that "1.5 million U.S. residents who are missing limbs, the artificial devices have functional and aesthetic drawbacks". This statistics suggests that limb prosthetics are expected to be improved in order to meet the needs of the contemporary and future customers. It implies that the competition between the producers of these artificial devices will continue to strengthen and, thus, to remain competitive a company should effectively elaborate and implement innovative techniques with the purpose to advance its product. This paper aimed to identify the factors that currently contribute to the value of limb prosthetics and detect the reasons that draw back the further increase of product value.
II. Literature and Synthesis
II.1. The Benefits and Value Derived by the Clients or Customers or Recipients
The value of limb prosthetics can be described applying to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This theory suggests that humans' motives are "based on two groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs". Maslow presumed that "each lower need must be met before moving to the next higher level". Thereafter, in a case when a deficiency remerges, a person will act to eliminate it. The purpose of this paragraph is to identify to what extent the discussed product satisfies human's needs as they are presented by Maslow. To begin with, it is appropriate to start with evaluating the product conformity to the inferior or deficiency needs.
- Physiological: limb prosthetic serves to provide bodily comfort. It is expected that "at a minimum, a prosthesis should enable the user to perform daily activities (such as walking, eating, and dressing) independently and comfortably". Therefore, one can rightfully conclude that the value of these artificial devices covers psychological needs.
- Safety/security: limb prosthetic functions to protect a person from injuries and save from various environmental harassments. In particular, this product serves to make protective movements that, otherwise, would not be possible due to a person's incapacities. Consequently, this level of needs can be satisfied with artificial limbs.
- Belongingness and Love: limb prosthetics help handicapped people affiliate with their society, be loved and accepted. It goes without saying that the needs of this group cannot be completely addressed with this product; however, artificial devices, definitely, contribute to the fulfilment of these motives.
- Esteem: limb prosthetics are designed to assist handicapped individuals in accomplishing their achievement-oriented goals. For instance, it limits the negative implications of incapacities. As a result, people with special needs can "go skydiving, climb mountains, run marathons, complete triathlons, participate fully in sports, or return to demanding jobs or to active duty in the military". Given the plausible benefits of artificial limbs, one can rightfully suggest that the current innovative processes that are aimed at improving the functional aspect of limb prosthetics correlate with the satisfaction of this group of human's needs. That is why, Merck & Co., Inc. and other companies that specialize of the similar products complete to assure the soonest and most effective innovative approaches towards increasing the functional value of limb prosthetics.
The next groups of needs refer to the motives of self-evolvement.
- Cognitive: without a doubt, limb prosthetics function to assist a person's endeavour to fulfil cognitive needs. For instance, artificial limbs facilitate the process of exploring the world by increasing the range of available activities that a handicapped person can enjoy. Thus, it is possible to deduce that this product's value addresses one's cognitive needs.
- Aesthetic: the satisfaction of this group of needs is, probably, the most ambivalent since it has both considerable positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, prosthetics function to accomplish the aesthetic needs of "symmetry, order, and beauty". On the other hand, given the above-described issue of the currently existing aesthetic drawbacks of the artificial limbs, it is natural to conclude that these needs are presently only partially covered. Therefore, the firms that produce these artificial devices attempt to improve the aesthetic side of the products by making them more similar to real limbs.
- Self-actualization: the fulfilment of a customer's self-actualization needs by providing limb prosthetics refers not only to the quality of product, but also to the quality of service, including after sales services, and development of customers' community. In total, these approaches can help effectively meet the self-actualization motives of clients in the future. Nevertheless, currently, due to the introduction stage of a product, customers' self-actualization needs are only partially met.
- Self-transcendence: as was mentioned above, the satisfaction of the growth needs becomes more efficient when the product is at its maturity stage. These needs are mostly unmet because in the first place, the product should fully satisfy all lower groups of needs, which as was identified, still need improvement.
The next section aims at observing how the innovative design of artificial limbs addresses the functional and aesthetic values of these goods.
III. The Uniqueness of Design Elements
III. 1. Analysis of Design
Artificial limbs are designed to serve functional and aesthetic purposes that were in detailed described above. To cover the deficient and aesthetic needs of a customer, they the shape, colour and texture of these products are designed to be similar to real parts of body. The Amputee Coalition accentuates the importance of the resemblance between real limbs and artificial. The visual below displays the lifelike artificial hand.
Visual 1. A Lifelike Artificial Limb.
Observing its shape, colour and texture one can rightfully deduce that the design of the upper body limbs is satisfactory in terms of meeting customers' needs. The same is claimed to be with its functional aspect. Starting from artificial prosthetics that did not resemble a human hand at all, the innovative technologies allowed transforming the initially dissatisfactory image of this artificial device into psychologically comforting and functionally comfortable artificial limb. Undoubtedly, these changes are favourable for customers.
Unlike artificial upper limb, the lower limbs are considered to be less advanced both in aesthetic and functional terms. The visual number 2 provides a vivid example of the difference in the level of technological achievements between upper and lower artificial limbs.
Visual 2. A Leg Prosthetics.
The difference stems from the fact that it is more difficult to create greatly functional and aesthetical lower limbs. Nonetheless, scientists currently work at increasing the functional value artificial legs. In particular, to make it possible for the brain to control artificial device, scientists strive to connect the prosthetics elements with the human's neurons with the purpose. In general, the uniqueness of both upper and lower limbs is obvious, as well as the technological progress that underlines these novelties. Nonetheless, it is clear that Merck & Co., Inc. and other firms should continue working at eliminating the detected aesthetic and functional drawbacks.
III. 2. The Product Lifecycle
The product is at the introduction stage. It is characterised with the considerable expenditure; whereas, the client base, and respectfully profits, remain low. Consider the statistics, it is identified that currently "in the United States, slightly fewer than 0.5% of people have an amputation". Nevertheless, according to the reasons that were discussed in previous sections, the client base is expected to grow in the near future. To increase the changes for successful development, the firms apply to brand positioning that is subordinated to certain competitive strategy.
IV. Brand Appeal in Relation to Competitors in Contemporary Markets
IV.1. Brand Positioning
The artificial limbs are promoted through product positioning, that is, all items are positioned separately. This approach complies with the introduction stage of the product life circle. Nonetheless, it is necessary to clarify coming to the growth stage, Merck & Co., Inc. and other companies consider repositioning. The identity of these artificial devices is being changed with the aim to demonstrate customers the increased value of products. In particular, the approach to make prosthetics look lifelike shifts product core essence from machinery technologies to biotechnologies. The same can be observed with scientists' endeavour to connect artificial lower limbs with human's brain.
IV.2. Competitive Strategy
The product is developed applying to the differentiation competitive advantage. Firstly, the present stage of the product life circle presumes the scarcity of clients, which does not allow using a low-cost strategy, even though it can be considered in the future when the market expands. Secondly, the great necessity of individual approach towards providing the goods suitable for a concrete client and combined with meeting his/her psychological needs, including the appropriateness of the excessive after-sales service, suggests the use of differentiation strategy.
Merck & Co., Inc. is a multinational corporation that maintains leading position in the global medical industry. It provides a number of medical goods and services, an important part of which is artificial limb. To meet customers' needs, this company and its competitors strive to enhance the product value by making these artificial devices more similar to the biological limbs. In this regard, it is necessary to clarify that, meanwhile, the novelty and topicality of the discussed products are obvious, they need certain improvements. Specifically, the artificial limbs are identified to have functional and aesthetic drawbacks, which are supposed to be eliminated to completely fulfil customers' deficiency and growth needs. Currently, the product is at its introduction stage and moves to the growth stage. Despite the today's moderate client base, it is expected to expand rapidly because of such social phenomena as population growth, aging society and the increased range of health issues (obesity, cancer, diabetes and others) that lead to amputations. Therefore, artificial limbs are currently sold applying to product positioning with the visible shift towards repositioning (changing image from machinery to biological) that is aimed to better address the customers' needs. Besides, the high level of customers' involvement in the process of sales and related services in the conditions of the limited client base indicates the appropriateness of the differentiation strategy.
The module "Marketing Design and Innovation" provides important insights that can be implemented to increase the value of products and services and, as a result, improve company's sustainability. The contemporary world is known for economic and social globalization, market liberalization, and consolidation of businesses and emergence of larger number of multinational corporations. Besides, the today's macro environment is quite challenging. Specifically, there is a considerable political instability and lack of unity between the world communities. In addition, the modern companies experience considerable pressure from the environmental factors. The scarcity of resources and enhanced level of pollution predefine the increase of the economic costs of climate change. Under such conditions, it is critically important to consider the necessary to invent the new approaches that will meet the demands of the today's and future macro economic environment. What is more, the customers' preferences are noticed to be quite changeable and, in many case, unpredictable. Presumably, it is stipulated by the rapid economic and social changes that a contemporary person has to endure. Therefore, it is appropriate to state that the module "Marketing Design and Innovation", firstly, assists in better understanding of the above-mentioned processes. Secondly, arms me with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that should be helpful in addressing the corresponding issues. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the main insights that were obtained during the course.
This module taught me to assess the situation/environment with the aim to identify current reasons of failure or lack of profitability as well as anticipating plausible issues applying to the broader picture. It explained that problems might stem from the company's micro or macro environment. For instance, Porter's five forces analysis and PESTLE analysis seem to be quite effective approaches towards identifying the risks, issues, benefits and ways of reducing the first and enhancing the second. In addition, I realize the importance of learning humans' behavior in sociological and psychological terms because most factors of success and failure are connected directly or indirectly to people's performance. In this regard, it is also important to understand that a company should be viewed inseparably from the community in which it operates. More than that, the risks and perspectives of a business should be assessed considering the global economic trends.
The knowledge revealed in this module educates that innovation can be implemented as the change of the workflow processes (organizational change). Besides, it can be utilized to achieve better results (the change of product that is typically conducted to add value to goods or services). In this regard, it is necessary to mention that knowledge about the differentiation and low-cost competitive strategies is important because it helps understanding the conditions under which a concrete strategy should be utilized. Moreover, the construction of a brand image should be aligned to the completive strategies. To succeed with these tasks, one should consider elaborating and implementing innovations that can help addressing the rivalry and enhancing company's sustainability. Again, as in the case with the organizational change, the innovations in products and branding require thorough knowledge of people's behaviors. Nevertheless, whereas, the first kind of change refers more to the employees, products branding and positing are more about customers and communities.
These, and other important insights that were obtained during the course "Marketing Design and Innovation" were quite helpful while working at the task one. Specifically, the idea that innovative technologies are closely related to the modern demands makes me consider exploring the innovation that is currently only being introduced to the market, but given the sociological and demographic factors, is expected to become popular in the near future. The importance of the artificial limbs can hardly be overestimated, and taking into account that life expectancy of people is supposed to grow in the 21st century, this medical innovation deserves much attention. Firstly, it explicitly displays the interdependence between rapidly changing customers' needs and technological development. Secondly, it is a perspective area for employment and investment. Thirdly, it is an interesting topic the exploration of which broadened up my mind. Fourthly, it complies with my emphasis that the innovations of all types, in the first place, are related to human's psychology and social processes. Identifying the difficulties connected with the task 1 I can point to the fact that this direction is still new and, thus, for me is quite unusual. Nevertheless, the core essence of innovation is to be new and unusual; the important factor of successful competition is to be capable of benefiting from the unknown and unexplored. The challenges connected with learning this course are centered on the idea that I learnt several steps but still experience difficulty in 'running' through the course material back and forth.
Summing up the above-mentioned, it is possible to state that the module "Marketing Design and Innovation" provides important knowledge regarding identification, assessment and problem-solving techniques. To be more precise, these goals are supposed to be accomplished by applying to innovative design and technologies in terms of organizational change as well as in terms of the product/service advancement. It goes without saying that organizational changes suggest knowing the psychology of employees. Similarly, the innovative approaches aimed at increasing the value of products and services should take into account the psychology of clients and communities in which business operate. Therefore, it is necessary to study and monitor the corresponding processes. The consistency in this task is quite important because the changing customers' preferences and environment's demands require constant attention. Only in this case it is possible to generate the timely relevant ideas that can be used to cover the customers' needs and, thus, would serve to increase company's sustainability. In a word, the knowledge of this course will be useful for developing appropriate decisions during the workflow. Besides, it is a good basis for further professional and personal improvement.