How do you distill the 'WHY' of your brand down into your product value propositions? Any frameworks or exercises to support this process across different market segments?
The biggest thing I see when companies develop a product, service or build a brand, is they get stuck on the “what” of the thing. What the product does? What the company does? This thing. And this thing. And this. And that’s great, but the bigger question is why? Savvy consumers/customers look past what a product does; they want to know what makes it authentic? What’s the backstory? Why should they believe in you? People are not just buying products; they are buying better versions of themselves and they want to know how it shapes their lives and their narrative.
Consumers don’t want to be sold; don’t talk at them hawking your brand message, they want something more in addition to the sales pitch. They want you to reach them on an emotional level. They want to know what’s in it for me? They want a story. Show them what your product or service will allow them to do, how it will enrich their lives.
I encourage every PMM to throw away the cookie-cutter framework that's something like: For [target customer description…]…our product is a [product category] that provides [compelling reason to buy]. Unlike [the product alternative], we have assembled [key features…]. Throw it out.
Instead you should always start by talking to the customer, but not to ask them what they love about the product etc (as valuable as this is), but to focus on what has changed in their world over the last few years and how those changes have made your services or product more valuable and a must-have.
- How has their world changed? What's the change?
- How is this change creating winners and losers
- What does the customer see as success -- where do they have to get to
- what's getting in their way? And, how are you getting them over those obstacles?
- what evidence do you have to prove that you can take them there?
For those of you familair with Andy Raskin, this is based on his framework, and I really like it. It's worked for me.
Most early to growth-stage tech companies have 1-2 products. For those companies, product marketing and brand have a significant overlap. Their product identity makes up most of their brand identity. For larger orgs we see more distinction between brand and product messaging where there are multiple products, services, and solutions in place.
Though my experience has mostly been in startups and growth companies, the approach I have seen work for my peers at larger companies is to start with a core brand architecture. There will be multiple stakeholders to convince and KPIs impacted with how you go to market. The best approach is the one that steers away from opinions and brings consensus on the frameworks you will use to execute. There will always be some art and some science with messaging. Agree on the science before you get into the art to avoid endless loops of group editing.
My favorite go-to framework is the by Donald Miller - It does a great job connecting the brand-level narrative to product-level story. This framework takes some creativity to apply to your own business model, but it is very effective. It is the same framework Pixar uses to model their best movie hits.
A few other frameworks to consider:
- Pick a simple message house framework like the .
- April Dunford shared simple and effective frameworks in her book Obviously awesome
In all cases, it's super important to cast the customer (not the product) as the hero of the story.
For me, there are few types of "Why's." There's the lowercase "why." And the uppercase "Why."
Lowercase "why" gets at communicating why a prospect should choose your offering over the competition. For that, I recommend the popular value pillars/differentiation method I mention in another question about corporate positioning/messaging.
The uppercase "Why" gets at why should this company exist in the world? How are you making a dent in the universe? How are you improving the world for the better? What gets you up in the morning to work on these opportunities versus a different company's? To me, this is a company's "Mission."
The uppercase "Why" is one of the most difficult jobs of a marketer because not every executive team (or even founder) thinks about work that way. So, you can't just ask them.
However, sometimes, your CEO (particularly a founder) already has this Why set and on repeat on stages, in investor presentations, with the media, etc. Just ask them!
To get around the tendency for some exec teams to not think about a Why, I try to lead a workshop in which we start writing down some potential ways we're improving the world for the better. We also look at other famous company's Why's including masters of the craft such as Apple, Patagonia, etc.
Call me old school but I think positioning statements do this VERY well. Here's an exercise I've used and seen success with in building alignment on the "Why" of a company or brand.
Create list of key stakeholders who have a say in your value prop (think like key sales leaders, product, marketing, etc)
Create a meeting for the entire group to get together and work through the value prop.
Assign homework in advance: everyone send you a completed version of the positioning statement for your company or product
Meet live to discuss the differences and align on each line of the positioning statement
In my experience, the biggest challenging behind creating a value prop is not writing words...it's getting clarity around the problem you're solving, the market, the competitive landscape, etc. Our job in PMM is to elevate this conversations to drive clarity. I like positioning statements to do this quickly. If you're not super familiar with positioning statements, I really like April Dunford's book called Obviously Awesome.