Marketing As Product

There are countless blog posts, books and presentations that talk about ‘product as marketing.’ It’s a simple concept that goes something like, “if you build an amazing enough product or service, people will be attracted to it and marketing will take care of itself.” 

While it’s a simple concept, executing on it is incredibly difficult. A large majority of new products fail and the average life span of new products continues to decrease. For companies who are experiencing product success, business growth expectations are right on their tails.

Both scenarios present similar challenges. First, making a product or service that offers people an experience that adds value to their life. Second, increasing the number of people that engage with these experiences in order to meet business and stakeholder expectations.

Both challenges require different answers. First, the experience must be good enough to move the needle for someone in a way they’ve never experienced before. Second, the product must communicate why it exists, what it can do and how it can add value to people’s lives.

The best brands find answers to both questions. They don’t assume ‘product as marketing’ is the the only way to build a business. But they oftentimes start this way and evolve their approach to be more strategic over time. Airbnb and Slack are perfect examples of this. Started as small, product-focused organizations that used organic digital marketing tactics to initially grow product usage. Once they proved value to people, they began to invest in always-on marketing tactics I believe are setting the standard for how modern marketing should work.

Marketers have a lot to learn from brands that started with a product-first approach. Companies like Airbnb and Slack are human-centered and have built solutions that clearly address a human need. They have a strong vision for where they’re doing, a roadmap to get there and an agile approach that allows for constant iteration and improvement.

Marketers should approach marketing as if it were a product. Build experiences just outside the product that engage people based on the core human need the product is addressing. Confidently state why you’re in business, what you’re doing to help people and how the product accomplishes this. Make these engagements beautiful by investing in UX and design as much as you do for the actual product. By doing these things, you’ll blend marketing and product to the point where people don’t realize the difference. That’s marketing as product.