Friday, August 10, 2012

The product and the brand

As someone who has spent the better part of the last 15 years at the intersection between product development and marketing, I've too often witnessed the tension between the R&D teams and the marketing teams.

To many on the product side, branding is a veneer that's applied after the product is developed. To many on the marketing side products are just another asset in service of the brand.

In actuality, brands provide context for the product and their features, and products are the living, breathing manifestation of the brand.

Think about it. Every new car from Hyundai to BMW has pretty much the same standard feature list: power windows, ABS brakes, power steering, climate control, entertainment system, etc. Yet no one would argue that a Hyundai and BMW are the same car.

The difference?

The brand.

BMW is about quality, performance and a focus on driving. As such the features are developed and tuned to deliver on this promise, with fat, sticky tires, speed sensitive steering and more.

Hyundai is about affordable transportation for people who care more about the destination than the trip. Thus the materials are cheaper, the suspension a little softer, the engine a little less powerful.

The best companies know that marketing and product development aren't separate disciplines, but symbiotic activities that must work together to create a strong brand.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Genius? I think not.

It seems the geniuses in Cupertino have finally figured it out and pulled the "genius" ads like this one...

The problem with these ads?

It's not that they feature an overly perky, self-described genius. It's not that they depict Apple customers as bumbling idiots. Both of which are cardinal sins.

The real problem is they completely undermine Apple's brand promise.

Since its earliest days, Apple has always been about taking computers out of the hands of geniuses and putting them in the hands of the people.

Until the people in Marketing at Apple realize that, they'll continue to make mistakes like this.

Hopefully this same blindness won't affect the people developing their products.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quality is not strategy

The problem with the word quality is that most people use it as a substitute for strategy.

Quality is the result of meeting or exceeding the expectations of your customers on the attributes they happy to pay for.

This means you have to identify your customer base, figure out what's important to them and then find out what it's worth before you can deliver quality. Thus strategy defines quality.

McDonald's provides quality in the form of convenience and price at the expense of freshness. Five Guys provides quality in the form of freshness at the expense of convenience and price.

Apple provides quality by focusing on hardware design and the ease of use of their proprietary ecosystems. Samsung provides quality by focusing on functional features like screen size and processor speed while providing access to a choice of third party ecosystems.

Quality is not a product attribute. It is the result of a successful strategy.