Four Ps

Anyone with a Business or Marketing degree has likely heard of the following framework from the illustrious marketing professor Philip Kotler.

Marketing is the combination of the 4Ps: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place.

While many can agree with it, when we think of Marketing in most companies and business circles, we tend to focus on a subset of one P: Promotion.

If you reacted to the previous sentence by thinking, “Yeah, that’s kind of true,” you may be interested in taking a few minutes to think if your Marketing team is doing everything it’s supposed to do in your company.

The most straightforward explanation of the role of Marketing and the difference between a Product Marketing Manager, a Product Manager, and an Engineering Lead was given to me at Google 15 years ago:

  • The Product Marketing Manager decides what unmet or underserved needs are addressed (e.g., the need for a fast and reliable way to move around).
  • The Product Manager decides how to address them (e.g., faster horses vs. cars – to paraphrase Henry Ford). 
  • The Engineering Lead decides how to build the product or features that address it (e.g., 4-wheel drive or front train traction).

Some may disagree with this definition, but illustrate the point because it marks a clear distinction between a Marketing-driven approach to business (often CPG) and a Product-driven approach (often Tech). Having worked in both types of companies, I’ve seen the issues with the scale tipping too much one way or the other. The pitfall from the former is always chasing trends based on what’s in demand (e.g., who needs another brand of spiked seltzer?). The latter instead leverages a cool new technology and tries to sell it to an audience who doesn’t see the value of it (e.g., Google Glass). 

As with many things in life, balance is the key to success. 

A friend of mine, an exceptional marketer now entrepreneur and investor, likes to say to the companies he works with, “Advertising can help you sell anything to everyone, but only one time.” To achieve long-term success, a company must develop a product that solves a perceived problem at a reasonable cost with a defensible differentiating proposition.

That’s why people are skeptical of the sustainability of the massive success of Liquid Death (if you are not, ask Unilever how they feel about their acquisition of the Dollar Shave Club). And that is why the Product Marketing Manager must remember the other 3 Ps in their job description to create sustainable businesses. Otherwise, when the hype cycle dies down, competition makes a move, or the interest rates increase, demand will disappear.

Similarly, too many times, companies have a biased view of their audience and overestimate the perceived value of their product. And that’s where the Product Marketing Manager is critical in representing the “voice of the customer.” You may not be concerned about it if your product flies off the (digital) shelf and you are growing triple digits. But when your category reaches maturity, or you are thinking about your next product iteration, the Product Marketing Manager plays a critical role in your company’s future by focusing on the right problem(s) to solve and avoiding the ones that are not worth pursuing. 

Capable companies can do many things, but in an environment where resources are limited and interest rates are high, the ability to focus on the right things to pursue will set them on a path to success. That’s where Marketing and the Product Marketing Manager play a critical role that is often overlooked.

Author: Paolo

Economist by education, marketer by profession, coffee roaster by hobby.