Want Free Marketing? Create Killer Products

Photo Credit: Jeff Sheldon

Before faster, better, cheaper became the ruling mantra, individuals and companies alike took pride and focused on building great products for their customers. Brands also relied on word of mouth to spread their name and build their reputation. Those days are long gone.

Modern brands find themselves in a rather unenviable place. On the one hand, investors and shareholders hold innovation hostage to profits. On the other, consumers demand quality and authenticity that seemingly doesn’t scale. A rock and a hard place, to say the least.

Consumers know the difference between innovation and incrementalism. Too often, brands release small iterations on their products wrapped in glossier packages and glitzier marketing campaigns. “New and improved”, “Re-formulated”, and “All-New” are all colloquialisms for “Nothing to see here”.

It’s no surprise that the safest strategy for truly doing new things is to completely spin up a new brand, an empty vessel to pour new ideas and sentiment into. A new product line affords a refreshing opportunity, but, sadly, we know that at heart often the only thing changing is the positioning, not the product itself.

P&G has always understood the value of a powerful story. Today, as one of the largest marketers in the world, it is well aware of the perils of the current brand. While P&G has found issue with the modern advertising pipeline, they also recognize that they need to change.

Last year, P&G announced a $10B cost cutting plan, with a new $2B part of the effort coming to light today. As AdAge reports:

Procter & Gamble Co. wants to cut a whopping $2 billion in marketing spending over five years, and for the first time is providing details on a broader $10 billion cost-cutting plan launched a year ago.
That marketing spending cut comes amid a fiscal third-quarter earnings report where the company missed on sales-growth expectations and lost market-share in developing markets despite hiking ad spending.
While the cost cuts were the biggest takeaway, P&G also outlined how it plans to become “irresistibly superior” in the eyes of consumers.
Source: AdAge, “P&G Will Cut $2 Billion in Marketing but Spend Some Back to Become ‘Irresistible’

The last line there, about making the brand “irresistibly superior” stood out. While dripping in agency speak, it has some potential once moved beyond the slogan. As noted:

“This is what will be required in a slow-growth environment in order to grow markets and market share,” he said. “When a consumer has an Irresistibly Superior experience with our products and packages, it raises their expectations for performance in the category. It makes it hard for them to go back to what they were using before.”
Here’s how it’s measured: Instead of tracking “weighted purchase intent” scores in surveys, P&G is now weighing a “a body of evidence” that “integrates technical tests, blind tests, [tracking call and online contacts], household panel tests, and in-market product reviews,” Moeller said. “It adds behavioral data, which is more reliable than attitudinal data, which is what we’ve historically used.”
Source: AdAge, “P&G Will Cut $2 Billion in Marketing but Spend Some Back to Become ‘Irresistible’

This is a wonderful starting point. As P&G is pointing out, there are 2 ways to know that their products are delivering:

  1. Make their products stand above the others
  2. Make their enthusiasm tangible

Both of these serve to give P&G an unique, unfair advantage when it comes to customer, employee, market and industry advocacy. If indeed this represents a re-dedication to building the best things for customers and their evolving needs, more power to it. If, however, this is another marketing campaign in disguise, well, ugh.

Turns out the elephant in the room is the product itself. Brands cannot continue to expect to see better returns on their marketing spend if their products do not tangibly improve in the eyes of their customers. Smart marketing may buy a little more time, but just a little. The hard work is still in front of us.

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Gregarious Narain is a serial entrepreneur and product strategist. A reformed designer and developer, he writes on his experiences as a founder, strategist, and father on the regular. Connect with him on LinkedIn or say hi on Twitter.