Most early-stage startups don’t do what I would call brand marketing simply because they don’t yet have an established brand in the marketplace.  The natural place for them to start is with product marketing.  As a company becomes more well-known in the marketplace and starts to expand to multiple offerings, generally there is a person or a group that concerns themselves with branding.

Brand Marketing focus areas:

  • brand messaging and image – developing the “brand story” and the messaging around that.  This generally consists of articulating the “brand promise” and the image of what the brand means to customers.
  • brand consistency – making sure the logo, trademarks, branding elements (fonts, colors, etc.) were used consistently across product lines and across multiple marketing and communications tactics and channels.
  • brand awareness and tracking – brand marketers engage in tactics the make the market aware of the brand and track changes in how the brand is perceived by the market.

Product Marketing focus areas:

  • Segments and prospect definition – this is my high level bucket for everything related to understanding the market that the product is a fit for and how you can identify the people in that market.
  • Product messaging, positioning and value proposition – this the is the language you use to describe the unique value that the product delivers to the segments that you are targeting.  This includes positioning against alternatives and addressing objections.
  • Customer acquisition, marketing and sales funnels – product marketing needs to be an expert on how prospects move through the process from not knowing about a product, to awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase and retention.  Making sure that the flow of customers through this pipeline is optimized is also the domain of product marketing.
  • Product introduction and managing the adoption curve – This is sort of included in the above point but important enough to call out, particularly where we are talking about new products.  Product marketing needs to figure out how the product will be first introduced into market and how it will move from early adopters to more mainstream users.

I see growing companies naturally transition to doing more brand marketing over time.  Interestingly, I’ve also seen larger companies which have traditionally been deep on the branding side suddenly see the need for product marketing.  This would apply to service or retail companies looking at introducing something that looks more like a product.  For example a service or retail company that wants to sell its data or content as a product or a retail company that is introducing smart phone application would benefit from some product marketing working alongside their brand folks.

What do you folks think?  Does that line up with what you’ve seen?

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