The marketing mix is traditionally defined through the ‘four Ps’ of price, place, promotion and product. All are important but one P is often more important than all the others: product. Get the product right and the other three Ps automatically become more effective too. To succeed and stand out as great, brands and products need to deliver the following three things.
A compelling product story
We all like stories; our brains are wired to understand the world as a narrative. We like to feel that we are part of a bigger story – or a community.
A story can deliver a brand’s ethos and a community’s shared culture or convictions can define the brand. We live in a society where brands are not just competing with other brands for our attention; they are in competition with films, music and TV through a world of entertainment and experience.
Does your product have a story that encourages people to become involved with your brand and to promote it on your behalf?
Great products are more than a collection of features and attributes, they comprise a story that informs consumers about their make-up and what they stand for.
Instagram is not just a photo app – it is a way to share moments with friends. Ikea is not just a furniture retailer – it stands for democratising good design and making it accessible to everyone.
The best stories go beyond commercial imperative to provide a motivating narrative for employees and customers alike. The story is brought to life through the actions of the brand –through everything it says and does.
Amazon also has a great story. It is a retailer, selling stuff at a margin like any other retailer, but its story is about transforming the way we
shop by bringing the products we buy and the lives we live closer and closer together.
Recent publicity about drone-delivered parcels, and the use of big data to predict what consumers are going to buy before they even know it themselves, all add to this story, and help us imagine where Amazon’s narrative might be leading.
The right content
We believe products should be designed for the ‘zero moment of truth’. That moment when we first encounter a product, which we then go on to buy, is no longer likely to occur in front of a shelf in a shop or in a showroom on the high street.
According to Jim Lecinski, author of ebook Winning the Zero Moment of Truth: “A zero moment of truth is an office manager at her desk comparing laser printer prices. It’s a winter sports fan in a ski store pulling out a mobile phone to look at video reviews of the latest snowboards. It’s that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service you’re thinking about trying or buying.”
For brands to succeed in this changed landscape, the physical product and its packaging are no longer enough to engage consumers. Design needs to go beyond the core product to provide an integrated package of elements that blurs product and promotion.
The product needs the right mixture of content to thrive in the cross-platform and cross-media ecosystem of search, discovery, review, comparison and recommendation within which the moment of truth now occurs.
The content needs to be locatable, ensuring that all imagery, information and metatags connected with your product can be found by search engines and can also roam free to be picked up by retail sites, aggregators, reviewers, bloggers or pinners on Pinterest.
You need to consider whether your product is redefining the brand terms in its category or occupying a specialist niche so that consumers can search for your keywords rather than generic words in the category.
The content needs to be available on multiple devices – phones, laptops and tablets – and to combine consistent messaging about the product with platform-specific features.
Clearly the product needs to sell. Good salespeople find out what customers need, explain how the product can meet these needs and overcome any barriers or issues that people may have with the product.
Your brand could provide short product videos, presentations or FAQs to explain, demonstrate and persuade, helping consumers to find the right content for their particular stage in the decision-making journey.
The content should both enhance your story and engage customers. The content mix around your product needs to bring the brand story to life and show what the brand can mean to its users as well as what it does. It needs to draw people towards the product by attracting their interest.
A shareable experience
A friend recently bought their first Apple product and we had a conversation lasting several minutes – about the box. Just the box. They really liked the box.
Meanwhile, the small company CD Baby – which sells and distributes music to consumers and retailers – became a much bigger and well-known company on the back of its now infamously tongue-in-cheek order confirmation email: “Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilised, contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.”
Welcoming customers to your brand with an experience that goes beyond their expectations inspires conversation and creates loyalty. Conversation means brand advocacy. It means customers amplifying your marketing spend by doing some of your promotion for you by retelling your brand story.
The more the product experience encourages this, the more it happens. Does the product come with an in-built mechanic that encourages customers to review it or share the experience with friends? Does the purchase journey include a follow-up stage that adds to the experience of obtaining the product and encourages feedback or sharing?
Brand and product design is no longer about designing a static object that sits on its own on a shelf waiting to be bought.
It is about designing an ecosystem of content and experiences integrated around a motivating brand story.
If you can get all of these elements right, product will become the key driver within the traditional four Ps of marketing.