A great product will sell for a while, but a great story from a competitor can pull the rug out from underneath it, leaving the base unstable. On the flip side, a great story can drive initial sales, but a poor product will always be revealed and sales will inevitably fall off a cliff.
If you look at some of the best brands in the world today, you see these concepts proven true. Take Google for a start. Google is one of those companies that people love to cite as an example of a brand that “doesn’t need advertising” — but it does advertise. The company runs ads online, builds commercials for TV and exposes its brand through paid and earned channels all over the place. It markets itself in many ways, always consistent with its story and benefits.
Shinola is a brand I love right now. I find its balance between product and story fascinating. At a surface level, the Shinola story is one of “Made in America, Made in Detroit." There is little consistency in the product list — bicycles, watches, turntables and professional portfolios — but the consistency is in the story of the products themselves. It has a very high-end product set, with a story rooted in the American dream.
Apple is another brand that people love to mention as an example. Apple creates beautiful products, but it also has one of the greatest stories of the last 50 years. It embraces the story almost as much as its own products, if not even a little more. Apple recognizes that you can’t succeed with just a product or a story; you need both.
A great marketer delivers both sides of this coin to a company. On one side of things, you have product marketers, who can understand what their consumers want and help craft materials that sell products. You also have brand marketers who can understand insights into what motivates their customers at an emotional level and how they can tap into that to generate interest. Interest and demand are actually two different things for a consumer, and both are necessary to deliver sales. Interest by itself is not enough. I may be interested in a trip to the moon or buying a Ferrari, but I have no internal demand to buy either one.
Shinola has to convince me that its watches are better quality than a Swiss watch, or at least as good, while tying me to an American brand. It’s a story that should work at a surface level, but you have to go further to make it stick.
Marketing is not rocket science, but strong marketers are always looking to perfect their craft at both product development and storytelling. If you are great at only one side of the coin, your experience can only be applied to a subset of brands in the market. At least, that’s my two cents!