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Thinking inside the box.

Marketing a service can be challenging because it is intangible.  (I learned this first hand when I led Marketing Communications at Aetna Healthcare.)

More service brands are tackling this challenge by literally thinking inside the box. 

I'm seeing a trend toward productizing intangible services – i.e., making the service look and feel like a packaged good you might find on a store shelf.

GM OnStar is the latest marketer to embrace this idea.  By placing a satellite-based service in a box, it now feels like something consumers can better comprehend, something you could imagine buying at Best Buy.

Perhaps GM is lifting a page from Progressive Insurance's playbook.  We all know Flo works in an "insurance store" filled with boxes of insurance products.  Again, seeing things in boxes = tangible = comprehensible.  Going even further in this direction, Progressive's new Snapshot is truly a tangible product – a monitoring device customers plug into their car to receive safe driving discounts.

Over the last few years, ING Direct has launched banking cafes in eight cities around the U.S. to help transform IRAs and CDs into a tangible brand experience.

Looking back, I suggest that Jyske Bank is the Rosetta Stone for this trend toward productizing intangible services.  Several years ago Denmark's second largest bank transformed its dusty banks into something akin to Apple Stores, complete with boxes of banking products displayed on shelves.  (See my earlier post on Jyske Bank.  It's a fascinating case study.)

These examples provide a perfect illustration of embracing design as a business strategy, not as an aesthetic process.