If you watched much television in the early 2000s, you may remember Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign, which featured a stuffy suit-wearing John Hodgman as a PC and a young, laid-back Justin Long as a Mac.
Over 66 commercials, this Effie Award–winning campaign positioned Apple as the coolest computer product on the market—and the most functional, educating potential customers on the Mac’s many features, from its movie-editing capabilities to its magnetic power cord.
This memorable and highly effective ad campaign is a winning example of product marketing.
What is product marketing?
Product marketing can be defined as the process of bringing products to market. But that can entail a lot or a little. Where does product marketing begin and end? There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Some companies have product marketers laser-focused on launching new products. But others expand the scope of product marketing to inform and guide product development, as well as the ongoing sales strategy years after a product’s debut.
To take a broader view, think of product marketing as the intersection between products and the market. The demands of the market will inform which products are made and how they are presented to potential customers in every marketing campaign. In this sense, product marketing can encompass every aspect of developing, launching, and selling a product.
What do product marketers do?
Because the definition of product marketing can vary, it follows that the roles of product marketers can be quite different depending on their industry and their company. Product marketing can be a responsibility shared across several different people and departments or it can be a role held by a product marketing manager. There could even be a dedicated product marketing team. Some of the key responsibilities of product marketers include:
- Conducting and analyzing market research
- Assisting in product development
- Determining the positioning and messaging for new products
- Developing and executing multichannel product launches
- Measuring product and campaign success via customer feedback and key performance indicators
Product marketing vs. brand marketing
Product marketing is different from other types of marketing in that it focuses exclusively on the product and is based on the belief that the product that best serves the market will always win out, regardless of other influences. In other words, that a great product can make the market.
Brand marketing, on the other hand, is based on the belief that those other influences determine what wins. This could mean that a brand’s established emotional connection with a customer will sway them more than the details of the product. Sometimes, especially at smaller companies, marketing managers will be responsible for both product marketing and brand marketing, and marketing campaigns may include elements of both.
Product marketing vs. product management
Product management is all about creating the product and ensuring that it functions optimally for customers. Product marketing, on the other hand, is more about positioning the product on the market and communicating its benefits to a target audience. Without product marketers, product managers wouldn’t have the ideas for new products or the feedback to improve existing products. And without product managers, product marketers wouldn’t have a functioning product to sell to customers. These symbiotic roles are usually performed by different people who work collaboratively.
Product marketing roles and responsibilities
Product marketing is involved in every step of developing a product, bringing it to market, and promoting the product once it’s been released.
1. Market research
Those involved in product development need to look at their work through a product marketing lens from the very beginning. This includes market research. To determine whether a product idea is worth the investment, it can be helpful to try to answer questions like the following:
- How many people are interested in this type of product? Is that number growing?
- How much, on average, are people willing to pay for this type of product?
- Why are people interested in this type of product? What do they want out of it?
- Who will be your competitors in this field? What are they doing? And how can you make your product better or different?
- Of the people interested in this type of product, who could be served better by something new, and how?
2. Product development
Product marketers share their learnings from research with product developers and consult along the development process to make sure the product will meet consumer needs.
3. Positioning and messaging
As the product development stage nears its end, product marketers get to work on positioning and messaging: how the company will tell the world about the product. Product positioning is typically determined by answering some version of these questions:
- Who is the target audience for this product?
- What does this product do?
- What customer need is this product solving?
- Why should customers use this product? Why will they love it?
- How is this product different from its competition?
4. Product launch
A product launch is a dynamic and multichannel endeavor. Product marketers are in charge of making the launch plan, which includes:
- A detailed schedule
- Specific messaging to be rolled out across the company’s website, social media, email, and blog
- A paid advertising plan, which could include digital ads and IRL (out-of-home) ads like billboards
- PR efforts, which could include reaching out to magazine editors to let them know about the product
A product marketer’s job doesn’t end when the product hits the market. They will monitor sales and engagement to learn which channels and messages are the most effective, and make decisions about turning down underperforming strategies and turning up winning ones.
For example, you might test different product positioning in a series of ads. If a clear winner emerges, a product marketer might replace the underperforming ad creative with the most effective messaging.
Product marketers will also solicit and analyze customer feedback, and integrate your new product into your ongoing multichannel marketing plan.
Measuring the impact of product marketing
Product marketers are accountable to many different metrics, including:
- Sales. Obvious and valuable, sales are often one of the first metrics product marketers will look at to determine the success of a campaign.
- Product usage. Is your product living up to its promises? Understanding how and why people use your product can illuminate critical information. If your product is an app, product usage is easy to track. Companies that sell physical goods can obtain some of this data with surveys and product reviews.
- Market share. A growing market share, calculated by dividing a company’s sales by the industry’s total sales, is a great indication that your business’s success is keeping up with or exceeding the market.