Francisco M. T. Bram

Francisco M. T. BramShare

Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons Companies
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Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

I love this question. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen inexperienced and experienced product marketers (including me) commit a variety of messaging capital “sins”.

Here is my list of the top 3 messaging capital “sins” to avoid:

1. Starting with the WHAT
This is perhaps the most common mistake marketers will make and also the one that will most negatively impact the stickiness of your message. Due to their close relation with product, product marketers will often develop a message around what the product is or what the product can do. This is what I call ‘product/feature-centric messaging’. This type of messaging tends to be more mechanical and spec-oriented and does not emotionally connect with the intended audience. Studies have shown that when it comes to purchasing and decision making, human beings more often use emotions rather than logic. This is why you need to start with the WHY. Why should the audience care about your product or brand? Why is your product or brand capable of solving their problems, fulfilling their wants and satisfying their needs? Companies that have a brand or product message that starts with the WHY are often rewarded with higher customer loyalty and can generate up to 5x times more revenue than their direct competitors. This is what I call Solution-centric or Customer-centric messaging. Here’s a great TEDx talk by Simon Sinek on why great leaders, great inventors and great brands always start with the WHY. 


2. The idea that “one size fits all”
I’ve seen it over and over again, when product marketers assume that everyone will understand their message, even if they have, indeed, started with the WHY. This happens because of one of two reasons. Reason number 1: “Assuming the market is homogeneous”. This assumption can leave out large sections of the intended target population. Assuming everyone behaves and feels the same will make your message generic and less memorable. Reason number 2: “Assuming everyone is your audience”. Often, product marketers driven by business objectives want to target the entire market assuming that everyone has a need for the solution they are trying to position. Regardless of the reason, one way to avoid these mistakes is to carefully develop a marketing research plan. This research should uncover insights about your target audiences, validate or discredit your assumptions and ideally, test your messaging and value propositions. The ultimate goal should be to understand that the market is heterogeneous in nature and that you should be building persona-based messages. 


3. Lost in translation
Global product marketers can be biased towards their local market. Often times, given the nature of where they are located or which market is the biggest, product marketers tend to craft messages around specific needs and wants that are not always relatable elsewhere. As I mentioned before, a good narrative is based on clear needs and wants that should have been uncovered through research. Assuming that the needs of one market are the same in another can be a catastrophic mistake. There are a lot of examples of successful companies that failed in specific markets because of this assumption. For example, one of the reasons Walmart failed in Germany, was because they had a belief that every western country has the same culture as theirs (USA). In America, it’s not uncommon for retail assistants to be chatty and friendly with the customers, and so Walmart decided to train its German employees with the same talk tracks as in America, and this, of course, did not go over well with Germans.

The problem with most US-based businesses is that once the message goes international, not enough thought is paid to how the intent will translate – literally or figuratively. There are several examples of campaigns that, when translated, produced humorous, and in some instances, catastrophic results. One of the most memorable ones is when Coors translated its campaign tagline, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it is a colloquial term for having diarrhea. Here’s a link to the 20 most epic lost in translation marketing mistakes. 

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

I believe in promoting a very collaborative environment where the best information is always shared and used to inform the different workstreams. At Uber we create one source of truth document, called the Marketing Brief. This brief can be shared with every stakeholder in the organization but is mostly used to inform the cross-functional work needed to launch a product or campaign. This Marketing Brief is used by our creative teams to help design the campaign, by our Growth marketing teams to plan for performance marketing, by our sales enablement teams to help develop a sales education plan, by product management, etc. 

The Marketing Brief contains the following sections:

1. Background context on the project 

2. Business opportunity

3. Business KPIs

4. Marketing KPIs

5. Key research or user insights

6. Product Messaging/Narrative

7. Value proposition (Reasons to Believe)

8. Comms and Channel strategy

9. Measurement plan

10. Deliverables

11. Timeline

12. Budget

13. Cross-functional team members

14. Useful resources or links

15. Review and signoffs 

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

Data insights is a critical component of what I like to call “Evidence-based Marketing”. I like to use 3 types of data insights: User Research, Market Research, and Customer Proof-Points.
I use User Research data to help guide the user/customer journey map. This data is critical to help you map out all possible touch points that your message will hit.

I then use market data (industry stats, market reports or surveys) to quantify and magnify the problem that your users or customers are experiencing. This data can either show evidence of a problem that needs fixing or of a trend that your customers need to be made aware of. Data will add credibility to your statements. For example, we can all agree that a statement like “Business travelers spend a lot of time at airports” is less meaningful and memorable than “Business travelers spend an average of 360 hours, the equivalent of 15 days per year at airports”.

Finally, I like using customer success stories or proof points to support your statements around product benefits or solutions. For example, after partnering with Uber for Business, dealerships have seen an average increase of 10 points in customer satisfaction and 20% increase in revenue.

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

Great question. I believe in data-driven market insights as a foundation for your channel strategy. I always start the assumption that the market is heterogeneous, and therefore, requires a personalized communication strategy. For example, a recent marketing research project I was able to lead here at Uber, helped us understand the different business travel personas, their demographic information, their individual needs, pain points, wants and values and the channels they use to communicate and receive information. 

Armed with this information, we put a plan together with targeted keywords and value propositions tailored to each persona group and used their preferred communication channels. For group A, we relied heavily on CRM, for group B we focused on Events and Tradeshows and for group C we mostly used performance marketing channels such as online Ads, Social Media and Web.

Use surveys, focus groups or marketing research to help drive your channel strategy and activation. While at my previous company, in the field of healthcare, because of marketing research and focus groups, I was able to learn about a new channel that doctors were using to communicate with each other and learn about new products or clinical solutions. This new channel is called Doximity, you can think of it as the LinkedIn for Doctors, they have over 1M physicians registered in this platform, and you need to be a physician to sign-up. This completely changed our channel strategy. Initiatially we our assumption was that Doctors were actively looking for product information on Facebook or Twitter so instead we were planning a LinkedIn campaign which we ended-up changing after we learned about Doximity. 

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

I think you need to experiment and test your messages throughout the go-to-market planning phase, marketing research and development of your value proposition. We use multiple channels to test our messaging, Emails, In-App Messaging, Push Notifications, Text Messaging, Social Media, Performance Ads, Web, Customer Focus Groups and Sales Teams.

As mentioned in the other response, experimentation is a critical factor in the success of your story. Because the pace of change is accelerating, user needs and mental models today may greatly differ from just a few months ago. This will impact how successfully your message is being received. What worked a few months back may no longer work today. That’s why you should always be testing, measuring and experimenting.

I like to experiment messages already during the research phase through customer focus groups. The way I would conduct the experiment during this phase is by defining a series of hypotheses based on some internal assumptions or data points. For example, the assumption could be that when travelling for work, Gen Z. and Millennials enjoy spending an extra day for leisure. I would then test a few value propositions in customer focus groups that represent these two groups and measure its effectiveness.

Experimentation shouldn’t stop here. Once you have a good value proposition defined from your research, you now want to test different keywords and call-to-action (CTA). Basically A/B testing. 


You can do this by dividing your audience into 3 or more test and control groups. For example, let’s assume that your value proposition is that “a business traveler can earn points while travelling for work and redeem them for leisure”. You can now run an experiment and divide your audience into 3 groups. Group A (33%): “Earn more points when travelling for work - learn more”; Group B (33%): “Higher rewards, best perks - get started”; Group C (33%) this is the control group, you don’t target them with any messaging. The results should give you an indication of what worked and what didn’t for that particular channel.

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

Because Product Marketing can encompass a variety of different roles and responsibilities depending on your organizational structure and company size, I haven’t found a great location other than Sharebird (via AMAs) or HubSpot Blogs where people can actually share specific Product Marketing case studies. Nevertheless, Product Marketing is Marketing and a lot of my inspiration for the work that I’ve done can be derived from insightful books, leaders and conferences. These I would like to share with you:

Books I recommend: Blink and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell; The Purple Cow by Seth Godin; Start with WHY by Simon Sinek; Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini and Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.

TED Talks for marketing inspiration: How Great Leaders Inspire Action , Simon Sinek; How to Get Your Ideas to Spread , Seth Godin; Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce, Malcolm Gladwell; The Best Stats Yo u’ve Ever Seen, Hans Rosling; How to Speak so that People Want to Listen , Julian Treasure; The Power of Vulnerability , Rene Brown

Conferences for Marketing inspiration: SXSW ; INBOUND ; Festival of Marketing 

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

I find that the best way to get everyone aligned is to include them early in the marketing research and user insights phase. This will help set a baseline for what the narrative needs to be, removing already some of the personal assumptions other team members can bring to the discussion. 

The second thing I normally do is to test the narrative individually with multiple stakeholders, this allows everyone to provide unbiased feedback and feel 100% heard. 

Thirdly, I present the complete narrative as a combination of everyone’s input. Individual members are less likely to challenge your work if it is presented as a combination of every stakeholder’s feedback. 

Finally, testing and experimentation. You can’t argue with facts, use your experimentation to refine your message, and then present those results to the team. You will get a lot less push back if your narrative is founded on research, feedback from internal stakeholder and experimentation data.

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

These are the top 3 best practices I recommend:

1. Include

Include the regional marketing leaders or regional general managers (depending on the size of your company) early in the development of the go-to-market strategy and team. These leaders are a great sounding board for the countries in the regions that they manage and can help you identify potential pitfalls and opportunities as you develop your marketing plans.

 
2. Research

I cannot stress this enough, marketing research is key to a successful narrative. Avoid using only market reports or industry stats to substantiate your narrative, as these are often US or Western society centric. Work with your regional teams to identify the core markets that would need research to inform your messaging. 


3. Test

Experimentation is critical to success. Think of products you likely use daily, your car, your phone, the elevator. It would be unthinkable that these would be released into the market without proper testing and validation. As a marketer, your message is your product, you need to test it and validate it before globally releasing it. A/B testing in certain markets for a specific period of time will go a long way to proving you have a robust narrative. Use your channels, whether these are online channels that are typical with B2C or sales teams that are typical with B2B.

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

It all depends on your intent, your market and your business operational setup. With regards to intent, you can use competitive information to inform your unique and differentiating features and solutions. This can certainly help you craft a more compelling narrative that uniquely stands out. I would however, never mention the competition in your broad narrative. I would use it only to inform what solutions you can focus on that will help you differentiate your product or brand.

If you do intend to mention your competition in your messaging, keep in mind that certain markets (like Healthcare for example) have stricter regulations around competitive benchmarking, and you need to have hard evidence to demonstrate your product or brand superiority.

Finally, if you are part of a B2B company, you are likely to have a sales team that needs marketing support, especially with their sales pitches and presentations. Here it’s very important to have a list of objection-handling messages to empower your sales team with closing those deals. These sales deals can become very competitive, and sometimes you need your sales team to be able to sell on the value of your products instead of competing on the price. 

Francisco M. T. Bram
Vice President of Marketing, Albertsons CompaniesFebruary 14

Experimentation is a critical factor in the success of your story. Because the pace of change is accelerating, user needs and mental models today may greatly differ from just a few months ago. This will impact how successfully your message is being received. What worked a few months back may no longer work today. That’s why you should always be testing, measuring and experimenting.

I like to experiment messages already during the research phase through customer focus groups. The way I would conduct the experiment during this phase is by defining a series of hypotheses based on some internal assumptions or data points. For example, the assumption could be that when travelling for work, Gen Z. and Millennials enjoy spending an extra day for leisure. I would then test a few value propositions in customer focus groups that represent these two groups and measure its effectiveness.

Experimentation shouldn’t stop here. Once you have a good value proposition defined from your research, you now want to test different keywords and call-to-action (CTA). Basically A/B testing.

You can do this by dividing your audience into 3 or more test and control groups. For example, let’s assume that your value proposition is that “a business traveler can earn points while travelling for work and redeem them for leisure”. You can now run an experiment and divide your audience into 3 groups. Group A (33%): “Earn more points when travelling for work - learn more”; Group B (33%): “Higher rewards, best perks - get started”; Group C (33%) this is the control group, you don’t target them with any messaging. The results should give you an indication of what worked and what didn’t for that particular channel.

This does not mean that your results can be easily translated to all channels. You will need to run simultaneous experiments on all channels. Never assume because one message drove higher engagement in one channel that it will have similar success in other channels.

I am personally guilty of making this assumption in the past. One time, after I received very positive results of an email experiment, I decided to use the same CTA for app push notifications. The results were negative, not only was I not able to replicate the success of the email experiment, but I ended observing significant churn because while these users might behave the same way and share the same values, the mindset when reading an email VS getting a push notification is entirely different. You want to be informed when you read emails and you want to be alerted when you get push notifications.

So, my recommendation is to never assume your message will fit all channels the same way. Experiment and test in all channels even if the channels have a similar function (e.g. Social Media) because the mindset of your users on Facebook will likely differ from their mindset on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Credentials & Highlights
Vice President of Marketing at Albertsons Companies
Top Product Marketing Mentor List
Lives In San Francisco, CA
Knows About Consumer Product Marketing, Product Launches, Solutions and Platform Product Marketin...more