Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Baking Marketing into Products

One of the things I’ve been saying for a while now is that there’s a big opportunity for marketing agencies to enter the product development cycle earlier. The end goal would be to bake the marketing right into the product. To me it’s a very design-centric way of approaching business where you declare that all touch-points create the overall brand experience and therefore each must live up to the same high standards.

The few companies who do a good job with this are the usual suspects: Apple, Google, Jet Blue to name three. Each has a very unique identity, but more importantly they all realize that something like packaging can play just as large a role in your opinion as the actual product. What they do, then, is build things that make it impossible to separate the marketing from the product.

And that, I believe, should be the goal.

It seems that Jeff Hicks, CEO of Crispin+Porter agrees with me. He was quoted in a DM News article saying, “We think the future of advertising is great products that have marketing embedded in them.”

Preach on Jeff. When you embed marketing into the product not only do you give the customer something better, but you also save yourself money on advertising. That’s because great experiences are contagious and contagious marketing leads to viral results.

It’s actually funny what a simple idea all of this is. Hicks is quoted as saying it’s the role of the agency to create “content so valuable and useful that [consumers] wouldn’t want to live without it.” Like the engagement debate, much of it is common sense. With that said, though, sometimes it is the most simple that is the most difficult to implement, which brings me to a question: How will companies handle this in the way they’re currently structured?

Part of baking marketing into products is about collaboration. Design, engineering, marketing and sales need to be working together to achieve lofty status like the companies I listed. Problem is at the moment, most organizations are not structured to handle that kind of collaboration. Silos do a pretty good job at stopping that.

While this doesn’t answer the question, one cause of this is digital technology. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “In an analog world, silos were mostly okay, information couldn’t really move across disciplines anyway. But in a digital world, where all information is made up of the same ones and zeros, those walls don’t work so well.” (For those playing along at home, this is also a hint about some of my thoughts to the ambiguity question.)

Bottom line is the industry is poised to redefine itself and maybe the opportunity is even bigger than just products: Could agencies also build capability for general change management and restructuring?

October 31, 2006