Product Marketing vs. Brand Marketing

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...

Attaching your Startup Brand to a Movement

I was reminded of a post written by Jason Calacanis a million years ago (OK, it was 2008) on getting PR for startups and one of the points he made was that startups should attach themselves to a movement.  His examples (unfortunately, in my opinion) revolved around movements that he started and allowed others to take advantage of.  In my experience with small companies, the opportunity isn’t so much around creating a movement as it is about being smart enough to recognize the trends or movements that your company is a part of. Doing this involves figuring out what your company stands for.  I know startups that answer the “What do you stand for?” question with vague platitudes like “We want to change the world!” without a concrete definition of how they plan on doing that.  I’ve heard companies that tell me they exist to make money for themselves or their shareholders or that they will “be the greatest software company in the world.”  These statements to me seem like an outcome of what they are doing rather than what they stand for.  Customers don’t care if you’re planning on getting rich or not.  If your mission can’t be expressed from a customer’s point of view, it doesn’t count. Etsy didn’t start the handmade movement but they are now a major part of it and it’s rare that folks talk about buying and selling handmade items without mentioning them.  Zappos is the poster child for a new kind of corporate culture that embraces employees as empowered human beings and is known almost as much for their corporate culture as...

The Broke Marketers Guide to Brand Tracking

I’ve had a lot of branding discussions this week that were spawned from my branding rant earlier.  One of the most frequent questions I get is “How do I measure branding?” and then “How much does it cost to do that?” At the bigger companies I have looked at there were two big pillars of activity going on: monitoring media mentions over time and brand tracking surveys.  But just because you don’t have the budget and market intelligence department of a bigger company, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking this stuff. Brand Tracking the Big Budget Way – The Brand Tracking Survey My experience is that large companies spend a lot of time and money doing brand tracking studies.  These tend to be very well architected surveys to measure awareness, consideration and preference of a brand vs. other folks in the space.  These surveys also get into brand attributes where your brand gets ranked against others for things like reliability, performance, ease of doing business with, etc.  The results from these surveys are hugely useful.  The only problem is that it took a squadron of Market Intelligence professions to get it, and more importantly interpret it.  There are outside agencies that can do this stuff for you too, but as you might imagine, this kind of work is time intensive and therefore not cheap and getting decent post-survey insight without a deep understanding of your space and customers is difficult. Customer Satisfaction surveys aren’t a lot better.  I’ve worked at companies that spent months of effort building and executing these surveys only to get questionable results.  One company I...