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Is Product the New Marketing?

By Jake Sorofman | April 19, 2016 | 1 Comment

Marketing a product that customers don’t particular want or like can be a real slog. It’s an unpleasant experience. But when the inverse is true, marketing becomes a pleasure.

In fact, it makes you look like a total genius!

Why? Because great products market themselves.

When your value proposition, use cases and features are all in perfect harmony with a high-value need, customers take notice. You’ve won their minds. When the user experience doesn’t just fulfill these use cases, but does so with artful simplicity and deep respect for the user, you’ve won their hearts, too.

And when you win the hearts of your customers, something very powerful happens: they fall in love. And when they fall in love, not only do they want more of what you’ve got, they can’t stop talking about you.

It’s a funny way to think about a relationship with a product. We’ve debated the idea here at Gartner (yes, really), which was first introduced by my insightful colleague Augie Ray in his (also insightful) research note “How to Align Customer Experience with Marketing Channel Operations” (subscription required).

Frankly, some analysts are turned off by the conceit, which maybe they feel cheapens the sentiment from something heartfelt and rare to something more superficial and perhaps common.

Do customers really feel love for great products?

Call me unsentimental, but I believe they do. Any dictionary will tell you that love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. I’d argue that this is precisely what occurs when you’ve satisfied your customers’ needs in ways that demonstrates that you really care.

Take software, for example. There was a time when vendors could get away with horrifically unintuitive user experiences reminiscent of the green-screen hell of old-school enterprise software or those proprietary gate-agent terminals relying on terminally inscrutable, hyperactively exercised keystrokes.

But no longer. Customers have abundant choice and their standards are impossibly high. They’ve seen what good looks like—and that better be you.

Because, if it isn’t, marketing your product is going to be a real slog. Think of it as a headwind. But if you’re customers have a deep affection for your products, if they’ve submitted to the seductive call and given their hearts to your brand, you’ve got yourself a very powerful marketing advantage: Nothing short of love.

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1 Comment

  • Really love this post (and all your posts). Products become the pinnacle of marketing success when they give birth to irrational customer attitudes such as “I can’t live without this product. ” Obviously such buyers won’t go flinging to their deaths if the product they can’t live without goes away, but these customer types characterize the greatest brand advocate of all: the evangelist. It’s also interesting to note; when products market themselves they are often characterized by the “less is more” movement … built upon Clay Christensen’s advice, “design your product for the job to be done and nothing more.” As tempted as we are to build feature rich products, excess features can often backfire (hence, terms like bloatware emerge). “Push a button and a car shows up” represents the tag line of a company I “can’t live without.”

    PS. Hope you’ll join the maverick research class this year.