Product Is The New Marketing

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Brands can’t hide any more. If you’re reading this Blog, you already knew that.

Last night Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon) was on Charlie Rose to discuss the latest iteration of the e-book reader, Kindle (you can watch the conversation right here). While reading Bob Lefsetz tonight, I came across this quote that Bezos said to Rose during the conversation:

"Before if you were making a product, the right business strategy was to put 70% of your attention, energy, and dollars into shouting about a product, and 30% into making a great product. So you could win with a mediocre product, if you were a good enough marketer. That is getting harder to do. The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies…the individual is empowered… The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. If I build a great product or service, my customers will tell each other."

"The individual is empowered" is code for Social Media.

This isn’t really about word of mouth marketing in as much as it is about the fact that customers don’t just tell one another about brands they love (and hate)… they tell everybody. This was the big deal about Blogs (in the early days), but that conversation is now everywhere. It’s on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and in places like Yelp! and beyond. Some brands even allow consumers to rate and review their products on their own websites (the good stuff and the bad stuff). All of this is becoming table stakes in the world of Marketing and Communications (meaning, the customer’s expect to be able to say and do whatever they want, wherever they want to). What’s left – as Bezos clearly states – is great products and services. A mediocre product with great Marketing is only going to create a lot of attention and conversation around the fact that the product is mediocre. Now, Marketing comes full circle to support the story of the brand and the products, and not just to oversell something mediocre.

Bezos makes it sound like this is the end of Marketing? … or is it just the beginning?


  1. Mitch this is ironic because of the Old Spice bruhahaha going on. I am an ROI guy. I rail against advertising that doesn’t sell and creatives who flaunt their peacock feathers doing fun creative advertising….that doesn’t sell.
    BUT I also defend creatives. All advertising can do is get someone to try a product or service. That is it. No matter the advertising if the product fails, customer service, or the backing company fails, no advertising can fix that.
    So with Old Spice there has been a lot of ROI talk. Has it been selling. And I have actually been defending W+K because unless people try it and like it, its not the campaign that fails its Old Spice that fails (I tried the body wash it sucks in my opinion).
    Brand have to focus on their product. I know great products sell themselves (see IPod/IPhone). And that should be every brand’s goal.

  2. By empowering the consumer, Social Media has made it easier for the good products and services to succeed and all too easy for the inferior ones to fail.
    In the past, you could subsidize a substandard product line or service offering with good marketing and strong advertising. As Jeff said, this is harder to do now… With so many ways for potential buyers to interact, it’s easier than ever before for consumers to cut through the “marketing fluff” and learn about products and technologies from communities of peers that they trust.
    Make a great product and social media may be the engine that delivers your customers. Cut some corners and social media may be your downfall. Remember, the power has shifted to the consumer and, in this brave new world, this makes them the winners. This is a good thing.

  3. Great products have always gotten the shout outs and the “OMG you’ve got to try, read, buy…” response.
    We just get to see it and measure it now with the online tools.
    People (consumers) have realized (remembered) that they have the power. They vote with the dollars, attention and loyalty.
    Social media makes it harder for crappy products to hide behind flashy ad campaigns.
    I wonder if Bezos will take his own advice and go to PDF or ePub format for the kindle in the future then?

  4. I have to disagree that this is a new concept. It was always the case that you developed a product with the help of consumers or at least that is my experience. If you attempted to market a product that was inferior you may have got intital purchase but you certainly did not get repeat purchase.

  5. Marketing must now be part of your initial product concept and creation. Not just a good idea anymore but a great idea with that “remarkable” factor.

  6. Agreed… and great creative just reinforces a great brand. I think the difference is that before Social Media and all of this sharing, very mediocre products did make the cut by over-promising through Marketing and consumer apathy.
    As for Old Spice, I am going to be having a live audio debate with Joseph Jaffe (author of Life After The 30-Second Spot, Join The Conversation and Flip The Funnel) about Old Spice today (July 30th, 2010) at 10 am (Eastern) right here:
    For those who can’t make the live show, it will be released as a Podcast episode of Six Pixels of Separation some time on Sunday. I hope you’ll listen and join in.

  7. Avinash Kaushik (the analytics evangelist at Google and author of the business books, Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) likes to say, “don’t write cheques with Social Media that your website can’t cash.” I like to say, “don’t write cheques with advertising that your products/services can’t cash.”
    Stuff has to deliver.

  8. I think the issues Amazon has with opening up the formats is that they can’t control the quality and get the Digital Rights Management correct. So, if someone puts a poorly formated PDF on a Kindle, the concern might be that it creates a bad Kindle experience. I’d like to see them meet publishers and individuals half-way by creating an app where you can import whatever document you like and it shows you how the Kindle will display it. Maybe this way, the content creators will tweak their content to make it more amenable to the Kindle platform.
    Beyond that, I too would like to see a lot of these platforms open up a lot more. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to take my e-books anywhere and everywhere and not have them locked in to specific devices, apps or software platforms.

  9. The concept isn’t new. The execution is new. We’ve been talking about brilliant products for years (even long before Seth Godin’s amazing book, Purple Cow), the problem is that brands weren’t “living it.” I think what Bezos is saying (and I do agree) is that now, you don’t have a choice. You have to have a great product.
    As for creating a product with the help of consumers, I’m not too sure about that. Do you think that’s what Apple does? Do you think that’s what Starbucks did when it first came out with a $6 cup of coffee? Sometimes innovation happens simply because a business has a new perspective and the general populous doesn’t even know what they want/need.

  10. This is core to the concepts that Seth Godin talks about in Purple Cow (and yes, it’s been talked/written about long before Seth’s business book too): that great products have the marketing built into it.
    I’d love to know how many companies truly start with that framework in mind versus the, “let’s build something and figure out the marketing later” attitude? The answer to that question might sadden us all.

  11. I’ve heard similar things, “A great product gives you a shot at marketing”, and “A bad product can no longer hide”. Marketing efforts spent on a mediocre product are less likely to be effective as a result. So yes, creating a good product is more important now than ever.
    Yet a good product still benefits from good marketing. Loads of great products take much longer than they should to take off or never take off because in the crowded market place they can’t get a foot hold. The masses socializing online can’t tout your product if they don’t know it exists. Marketing has changed, certainly, but it has not died.

  12. It’s also interesting to note that there really has been a significant drop in products that are poor or even “just ok.” I do believe that because of this open transparency and new distribution/publishing platforms, the emperor now knows he has no clothes on. That has to do something to product innovation and development… and I think it has.

  13. What a great quote.
    If that doesn’t speak to the end of the TV-Industrial complex, nothing does.
    The list of great companies and brands that have emerged since the end of that era and employed similar tactics and strategy is one that all of us here can name off the top of our heads, never mind being serious fan-boys (and girls) of.

  14. We live in the most branded generation ever. This is a very important concept for all us (especially Marketers) to really embrace. People love brands and align themselves with brands because brands have been doing more and more to make that connection real and tangible. This puts me in the mood to re-read Kevin Roberts’ book, Lovemarks.

  15. The two are intertwined.
    You cannot just create a level 99 product and lessen your marketing efforts and vice versa, both sides can be affected.
    We cannot speak of air ban when we actually breathe it.
    Of course, any person is an alien in its own sense that may want different taste or product, but still, it needs to breathe.
    Resetting customer expectation counts.

  16. I love this concept. So much it’s one of the core ones in my book, which you’ll have soon by the way. It’s understandable that some businesses are resisting content creation and social media as a methodology for sales, leads and publicity. It was far easier in the past to write checks and wait/hope for consumers to come running into the store. Creating a “product” that is truly awesome is well, hard, and too many individuals and businesses don’t want to do it. Great thoughts here.

  17. “The individual is empowered” is code for Social Media.” I LOVE this statement. This is what I have been trying to get across to local businesses that I coach in Social Media. It’s no longer about having a corporate, unreachable face. It’s about being available & engaging… and having a product that’s worth standing behind. About building relationships with your customers and potential customers, who will then become your evangelizers.

  18. I don’t know if it’s as much about changing how you market (i.e. from broadcasting to publishing) in as much as it is about building that core marketing (why people will love it, talk about it and share it) into the actual innovation and production of the product.

  19. It’s easy to talk something up when you really love it and you know that others will really love it too. That goes for those who are marketing the product to the consumer on the street who will buy it. If the platforms and channels now exist to push that conversation everywhere (and hear/react to the other ones), brands would be ill-advised to ignore it. That’s where the gold lies.

  20. I have a Sony Reader, but all I currently use to read books is my iPhone/iPad by using the iBooks, Kindle and Kobo apps. Whoever has the digital version for the cheapest wins my heart and mind and business.

  21. Congrats Mitch, this was my point about why, “Life Is Marketing” is a failed meme.
    If you make it right, it negates then need for marketing.
    Again, marketing is the bastard child of capitalism and consumption.
    Cheers, glad your ears and eyes are open to the Rose.

  22. I think Marketing really tells the story and pulls all of the other stories (namely, word of mouth) together to create more cohesion (if done well). The point of the post was not that Marketing is dead, but rather that Marketing lives through all of the touch-points.

  23. Wow I’m diggin this blog more and more here Mitch, as the comments are always as informative as the articles themselves. What’s interesting about this new found ‘power of the people’ via social media is that there are still many companies trying to fight the tide of free speech and thwart any one or anything from discussing their product in a negative light– hence all the lawsuits stemming from YELP and other interactive/opinion sites. Eventually though, these same companies are going to have to face reality instead of denying the new world in which we live.

  24. I love the way they want this sort of content on their site (where they think they can control it), without really realizing that the conversation is everywhere. So let’s say they actually win a lawsuit against Yelp!, are they able to then sue the individuals who post reviews on their own personal spaces (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc…)?

  25. I think what is happening is that marketing—the message—has to be more intelligent now than it ever had to be before. But advertising will remain an important strategy for awareness as well as competitive marketing. Apple gets all the free publicity it wants because it’s proven its ability to innovate. But when it has to compete, it still needs to spend marketing dollars (as with the great I’m a Mac/I’m a PC ads I loved).
    With social media, people are getting smarter about what they’re buying. “Fool me once, shame on you…”
    I think marketing is enjoying a new beginning that, in my mind will be more fun and maybe just a little more meaningful.

  26. Agreed. I like to hope that we’re moving Marketing closer towards: “real interactions with real human beings.” Also, if the product is what it is and does what it does, I don’t mind something entertaining or thoughtful mixed into the messaging.

  27. we’ve only just begun…
    of course, the concept of ‘product as paramount’ isn’t new nor innovative. this isn’t the end of marketing. but with the game changer that social media presents in consumer interaction, the focus of brand-initiated marketing must also shift. we’ll be focusing less on grabbing consumer attention with a shoutout to product-level attributes, and more of a concentrated effort to build brand equity, brand awareness, and brand presence through ad efforts…fueling the brand community and conversation that will form around a product,

  28. Marketing is a hell of a lot more than advertizing. Marketing is part of the process of building the product in the first place. For a product to be truly great marketing has to be involved. Marketing is about building and fitting products into the wants and expectations of customers. The product caries language that helps build the mental image of it’s role to consumer.
    To simply equate “Marketing” to “Shouting” is naive.

  29. I used to watch the Super Bowl just for the advertising. Really thoughtful and clever ads can be very entertaining. The problem is that some are so entertaining I forget the sponsor. There’s one mobile phone ad running now where everything the person passes by morphs into a satellite dish. Love it, but I can’t remember if it’s T-Mobile, Verizon, ???

  30. I agree with Greg Bogdan above, but I also think that this article & some of the comments mix the ideas of marketing and advertising. Marketing is not advertising.
    I’m a huge believer in non-fluff marketing, which starts with having a great product. As such, the battle of creating appeal and conquering hearts & minds *begins* with a good product.
    That said, we’d be silly not to recognize that business history is full of stories of great products dying, while “less good” products succeeded. In almost all cases marketing led the charge for how that balance was tipped.

  31. I’ve done countless Blog posts and articles on how advertising is but a subset of the Marketing world. We often use those words interchangeably (so thank you all for pointing it out). Marketing is about the Four P’s, but we still tend to really think about just the “promotion” one.

  32. I have seen on Twitter “YOU CAN MAKE $10,000 THE FIRST WEEK OF USING MY PRODUCT”. Well, if their product was that great, shouldn’t someone else shout out that testimony?

  33. That’s one of the things I appreciate most about this blog. πŸ™‚
    Btw, sorry, didn’t read Scott’s post, where he was making a similar point. Kind of you to comment on something that went along the same lines πŸ™‚

  34. Now more than ever the words of Peter drucker ring true: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

  35. It is fascinating see that when the private label strategy switched from price to product as the main driver, not only did it change the game, but it enabled the pricing structure to be more expensive (or equal to) the leading brands because people preferred them.

  36. Interesting how that quote doesn’t talk about what the customer wants, but rather knowing what they will want. This is key when you think about Steve Jobs/Apple, Tony Hseih/Zappos, Jeff Bezos/Amazon, Larry+Sergey/Google, Bill Gates/Microsoft, etc…

  37. Interesting post. Marketing is much broader than just the advertising/communications side of the house. What I’m seeing is a shift toward product marketing (where we are studying customer pains, looking at the alternatives in the market, and working on finding a good fit between products and markets that will love them). I’ve seen this reflected in the way marketing teams are being organized. At one point PR and Comms were at the head but more and more I’m seeing product marketing lead.

  38. Is the medium no longer the message and has the product and its brand promise replaced that old maxim? I’m not sure it’s either as social media has become a very powerful medium, that said, it can’t mask the in authenticity or lack of performance of any brand.
    Mitch, you mention recall as a top measure. It’s surely important because top-of-mind drives purchase intent. But I think top of heart connection is a measure all brands need to look first. We measure, eyeballs, reach and frequency, but it can take only one lasting and fantastic or not so impressive experience to have you hooked or turned off.
    It would be interesting if we could measure the endorphins when people first encounter brands or speak about them. I’m quite certain this is at the heart of the brand me down concept. We recall not only “our moms” and hold their choices in high regard. We’re holding on to the memories that that brand created and have become part of the brand DNA, as much as our own.
    Successful brands know their DNA, market it well and make sure they know how to entagle it with yours.

  39. There is a growing movement that does look at marketing and branding at this level. It’s called neuromarketing (do some online searches about it). Also, I said that branding recall is an important measurement when it comes to TV advertising metrics. I hope it didn’t sound like I meant to say that this is an important measurement in the overall marketing analytics? The truth is that it may be form some brands (but not all brands).

  40. Where does Jeff Bezos get his statistics? 70% marketing and 30% product? I don’t believe him. And since when did quality in and of itself outstrip the power of marketing? By that rationale, BETA should have beaten VHS. Sure, if a product is good (or bad) people will (may) tell their friends about it but surely that isn’t a new concept. What is new is the media landscape, technology and social networking that makes word of mouth spread farther faster. Even truth in advertising (authenticity if you prefer) is as old as the business itself. Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. Now we have to add good blogging, good tweeting, etc.

  41. Some might argue that Apple didn’t have the best MP3 player in market (features, etc…), so it’s more than just one thing. I think the point is still valid: if you don’t build something great that people will talk about, no Marketing is going to save it.

  42. More often than not, I still see product management and marketing not sitting at the same table (hardly in the same vicinity). Let’s see if some of this thinking doesn’t help that evolve to where both are sitting at the table working hard towards a common goal.

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