Building strong brands as a Product Manager

image Guest post by Janey Wong.

A recent blog post titled Fighting the Fast Followers reminded me of a great book I read a several years ago called Eating the Big Fish by Adam Morgan. Eating the Big Fish focuses on marketing communications and how to leverage advertising and other smart marketing tactics to build your brand so you can move from being #2 player to the #1 position for your category. I’ve only take a small fraction of Morgan’s ideas and insights from Eating the Big Fish to share some of my own take-outs from the book from a Product Management perspective.

The market is saturated

The unavoidable truth is there are more products out there for any given category than ever before and the market is increasingly competitive with both direct and indirect competitors fiercely launching products to win your target customers over. Companies that were not competing with you are now becoming a threat – whether that’s Barnes and Nobles’ NOOK versus Amazon’s Kindle, or Apple’s iPad that’s taking over the eReader space, the point is you have to know how to play the game – when the market is tough, the ‘Big Fish’ can afford to play tougher. And, that’s thanks to a strong brand.

Don’t learn the hard way

On 28 April 2010, the Financial Times published a special report on Global Brands. The front-page headline, “Big names prove worth in crisis” by John Gapper. Excerpts from the article include:

  • The underlying value of any brand – the premium commanded by products and services with strong reputations and identities – has not been eliminated by the crisis.
  • “Brands outperform in good times and when there is a recession they do go down, but they come out the other side with a sustainable advantage,” says Joanna Seddon, chief executive of MBO.
  • …well-established luxury goods brands such as Louis Vuitton have kept their value, even if they have not seen the kind of growth they might have hoped for. The value of the Louis Vuitton brand, at $19.8bn, is 2 per cent up on the previous year.
  • So, despite the shock that many experienced following the financial crisis, brands are playing their traditional role of giving companies some cushion against market pressures. They have proved their capacity to retain loyalty among consumers even through downturns.
  • Many brands will experience crises, or simply stagnate, in the coming year and have to claw their way back but the aftermath of the crisis has proven once again an old lesson. Brands may suffer, but they are hard to destroy altogether.

This doesn’t just highlight the fact that strong brands survive tough times, but it also shows that strong brands make a difference to their financial value.

Read the full article at www.ft.com – search for “Big names prove worth in crisis”. There are other interesting highlights in the article.

Here’s some endearment: it’s OK to not be #1

Morgan makes a good point, “We may not be number one, but you don’t want to be in last place. You can’t just be anywhere in the middle – you need to be a strong number 2 – and you can’t do that by being like a smaller version of the big fish.”

So how do we, as Product Managers, do things different from the market leader?

Well the first thing to remember is communicating a message is hard. We have to feel some sympathy for the MarComms team. With all the noise out there we’re not just competing against competitors, we’re also competing for the target market’s attention. And, the target audience probably doesn’t have the time or energy to be completely engaged or interacting with a brand or product. We need to find ways to grab the target markets attention.

The second thing to remember is the product is integral to the brand. You can create a zillion compelling marketing messages to attract people to your product, but if your product doesn’t live up to the message – that’s BIG miscommunication! And, your brand will suffer.

Do the Product Management thing a bit differently

Eating the Big Fish has some great ideas for how to craft your marketing message and activities to capture the target audience’s imagination and grow your brand. I took a few of these ideas and applied them to Product Management.

1. Be a leader in the problem-solving space

Eating the Big Fish Idea: Find ways to break conventions and preconceptions about your product and its category to reposition one’s identity and positioning. Re-frame the category to change the rules on how the customer views your product.

Dig deeper into the consumer’s world and not into the consumer’s preferences and desires to find new insights about what they want. More and more market research is now using ethnography to analyze the consumer’s environment to discover new market problems and product ideas.

I like how HSBC plays with this concept in their advertising – for example:

image

2. Develop temporary amnesia

Eating the Big Fish Idea: Reinvent key aspects of the product by forgetting what you know.

Forget what features your competitors’ products have. Forget what solutions your product offers. Forget what is currently in the marketplace and how the market perceives a solution to a need. Go back to the market problem and find ways to offer new solutions – the solution could be a product enhancement or modification, but even small changes can have a big impact.

image For example, 3M’s Littman Electronic Stethoscope 3200. It’s not just a stethoscope – it “listens to a patient’s heartbeat, captures the sound for later playback, lets you transmit sounds real-time to your PC, which can then be further analyzed, attached to medical records, or reviewed online with colleagues… The sound-amplifying 3M Littmann Electronic Stethoscope 3200 will not only be able to catch dangerous murmurs and heart defects but will also eliminate more than eight million unnecessary echocardiograms and cardiologist visits a year, saving some $9.4 billion (http://blog.sherweb.com/top-10-tech-invenitons-shaping-2010/).

3. Let your product do the talking

Eating the Big Fish Idea: Invite customers to navigate your brand. Create an emotion-based relationship. Be intense and highly intrusive about what your brand is so your product has to be noticed.

Strong brands demand your attention and so should your product…

image Should I say more?

4. Strike a (juxta)pose

Eating the Big Fish Idea: Make people re-evaluate the product. Put two things together that you wouldn’t expect to find together in a product.

When people think of “fast food” un-favorable associations like ‘unhealthy’ come to mind, but Subway has been able to change how the public perceives their food – let alone the types of available food in the fast food category. Market research shows that Subway is the brand that is “most trusted” as offering healthier food items than any other fast food joint – largely breaking the idea that fast food only offers unhealthy meal options.

image

5. Cordially invite the MarComms team

Eating the Big Fish Idea: Work closer with your Marcomms team at the beginning of the product development process to leverage advertising and publicity.

Why? Because I doubt many Product Managers do and having the MarComms team buy-in and on-board with your product could mean

  • More time to strategize the marketing and publicity for your product
  • Clearer and aligned product messaging between both teams
  • A side stash of advertising and publicity dollars
  • Creative input, which is nice to have if and when needed
  • Possible access to different ideas and customer insights, and
  • Building a strong brand together

Your product is a tangible representation of your brand to your customers, and the Marcomms team communicates your product and brand to your target customers. It just seems to make sense to work together to build a strong brand that will see your product further at launch and at top of consumers’ minds through tough times.

I’m at lost for an example here. Any Product Managers and Product Marketers out there with thoughts, suggestions, and experiences with working with a Marcomms team early on?

I’d like to thank Adam Morgan for his inspiration for this blog.

Janey Wong is a Product Marketing consultant.  Her expertise is in marketing strategy development and implementation, marketing communications, and product marketing.  She has worked for clients in the fashion, new media, entertainment, and not-for-profit sectors.


Interested in being a Guest Blogger on The Product Guy? Contact me.

From a Tasteful Experience at Joe’s to a Simperium of Modular Innovation

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_vcmeeting

On Starting Up…

http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/08/getting-meetings.html
To the unassuming go the meeting spoils from the VC pools.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://goodexperience.com/2010/08/the-trader-joes-custo.php
Revel in the reduced choice of Joe’s.

02_traderjoes
03_simperium

On Modular Innovation…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/24/simperium-launches-simple-data-syncing-platform/
Learn how simple it may soon be to extend the Accessibility of your Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Most Moderate of News: Bloomberg & NY1

clip_image001Accessibility is the measure of how many differently skilled/abled types of people (including individuals with disabilities) in varying locations (e.g. mobile web) can make use of a given product. There exist many, very thorough, guidelines for determining the degree to which a product adheres to accepted accessibility standards. However, many can be very complex and time-consuming, also requiring the study of a good deal of the underlying code — much of which goes against the goals of the ‘quick’ part of Quick-UX.

Quick-UX

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). In answering the question of Usability, "Should I use it?" the sub-category of Accessibility represents one of the more complex components.

Today, we will look at the remaining 2 of the 3 examples of products with Moderate Accessibility: a Quick-UX Accessibility value between 0.4 (inclusive) and 0.6.

Moderate Accessibility

For this set of products, I chose ones that either encouraged or required reading as the primary function of the product. A category that begs for a clear attention to the Accessibility needs of their varied user bases.

Example: Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s web product is geared towards the presenting of top headlines and news within a variety of categories.

00_bloomberg_homepage

The Bloomberg product is the highest scoring product within the set of products of Moderate Accessibility…

01_bloomberg_results

… receiving an Accessibility variable value of 0.596.

Should Do

Text Equivalents

  • As is common to many products, here too, it is equally important to provide ALT text in association with the image it is describing.
  • Replace all “Decorative Images” containing empty ALT attributes (e.g. ALT=””) with CSS-based solutions. Images that exist to contribute content to the page should contain a descriptive, non-empty, ALT attribute.

Example: NY1

Like Bloomberg, the NY1 product exists to present and make news convenient for its visitors.

00_ny1_homepage

NY1 revealed the following results from FAE…

01_ny1_results

And, with Accessibility variable value of 0.58, also earned its place within the level of Moderate Accessibility.

Should Do

Styling

  • As is common to many products, here too, it is equally important to provide ALT text in association with the image it is describing.
  • NY1 would be well served to use neither the <b> nor <i> elements. They are an indication of font-type and provide no contextual meaning. In these cases, the use of stylized header tags (<H#>) or <strong> or <em> would be better suited.
  • Separating the presentation from the functional layers is also important, not just to the development process, but also to Accessibility. The use of <font>, <center>, and other inline styling, like…

02_ny1_inline_style

… should be moved to the product’s CSS.

Quick & Usable

Over the next few weeks I will continue exploring the ins-and-outs of a variety of products, and walking through real-world examples of the Quick-UX evaluation of Accessibility

Comprehensive Accessibility [RoundHouse & FAE]
Nearly Comprehensive Accessibility [UseIt & Eboy]
Moderate Accessibility [Borders, Bloomberg & NY1]
Fair Accessibility [CNET & Drudge Report & NBC NY]
Poor Accessibility [GoodReads & Barnes and Noble]

Quick-UX Accessibility Summary, Charts & Data

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usefulness and Credibility components of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

From SXSW to Your Distributed Living Room

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_sxsw-pick

On Starting Up…

http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2010/08/sxsw.html
Look at the powerful techniques of social marketing being used by the SXSW Panel Picker.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2010/08/16/are-we-measuring-the-wrong-assumptions/
Learn to design via the right assumptions.

02_measure-design
03_remote

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/cloud/2010/08/how-the-cloud-changes-tv-and-w.php
Hang out in your distributed living room of Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Bordering on Mediocrity

clip_image001Accessibility is the measure of how many differently skilled/abled types of people (including individuals with disabilities) in varying locations (e.g. mobile web) can make use of a given product. There exist many, very thorough, guidelines for determining the degree to which a product adheres to accepted accessibility standards. However, many can be very complex and time-consuming, also requiring the study of a good deal of the underlying code — much of which goes against the goals of the ‘quick’ part of Quick-UX.

Quick-UX

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). In answering the question of Usability, "Should I use it?" the sub-category of Accessibility represents one of the more complex components.

Today, we will look at the first of 3 examples of products with Moderate Accessibility a Quick-UX Accessibility value between 0.4 (inclusive) and 0.6.

Moderate Accessibility

For this set of products, I chose ones that either encouraged or required reading as the primary function of the product. This is a category that begs for a clear attention to the Accessibility needs of their varied user bases.

Example: Borders

Here we look at Borders’ online product, a marketplace for the selling of books, music, movies, etc.

00_borders_homepage

Borders’ received the following results from FAE…

01_borders_results

…resulting in an Accessibility variable value of 0.428, Moderate Accessibility.

Should Do

Navigation & Orientation

  • Web pages should have only 1 title element, unlike that found, for example on some of the Borders’ pages.

02_borders_title

  • Make sure that when using <H#> tags on a page, there is always at least one <H1>. Since the <H1> tag is generally the page title, it is strongly discouraged to exceed the use of more than two (and penalized by FAE).
  • Insert text content, not merely an image with an ALT attribute, into the page headings like this one…

<h2><img src="/wcsstore/ConsumerDirectStorefrontAssetStore/images/content/logo_print.gif" alt="Borders logo" border="0" /></h2>

  • List elements should be clearly incorporated into that of the overall page hierarchy for clarity and navigation. Each list element that is part of the navigation region of the page should be preceded with an <H#> element.

03_borders_list

  • Each area element should have a redundant text link with matching href.
  • When it comes to images, it is always important to provide the image ALT or TITLE text – especially for those who cannot see it/them.

Quick & Usable

Over the next few weeks I will continue exploring the ins-and-outs of a variety of products, and walking through real-world examples of the Quick-UX evaluation of Accessibility

Comprehensive Accessibility [RoundHouse & FAE]
Nearly Comprehensive Accessibility [UseIt & Eboy]
Moderate Accessibility [Borders, Bloomberg & NY1]
Fair Accessibility [CNET & Drudge Report & NBC NY]
Poor Accessibility [GoodReads & Barnes and Noble]

Quick-UX Accessibility Summary, Charts & Data

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usefulness and Credibility components of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

From the True Value of an Internet to a Fluther of Q&A

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_intern

On Starting Up…

http://www.businessinsider.com/5-reasons-why-your-interns-are-better-at-social-media-than-you-are-2010-8
Leverage the power of the Intern to improve your social media engagement.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://woorkup.com/2010/08/09/best-practices-to-design-a-perfect-html-navigation-bar/
Achieving perfection in the navigation bar.

02_navigation
03_fluther

On Modular Innovation…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/09/federated-fluther-lets-third-parties-integrate-qa-with-a-few-lines-of-code/
A Fluther of Q&A within Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Getting Great Products, Fashionably Fantastic Market Publique & More to Come in September!

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb752
balsamiq_logo2_thumb263333
sunshine_suites_logo
RymaLogoHighRes257_thumb5222

A big thank you to everyone who made it to our latest roundtable meet-up of The Product Group, as well as to our sponsors, Balsamiq Studios, Sunshine Suites, and Ryma Technology Solutions.

IMG_0127 Over the course of the night a few of the highlights were…

 

Featured Product: Market Publique
exploring the product, exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from the importance of selling to establishing and tracking key metrics
(thanks to the Market Publique team: Jonathan Berger, Pamela Castillo)

What makes a product great?
from user happiness and usability to community and context

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategies, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering.

IMG_0132 If you are a Product Person who would like to have your product or methodology featured at an upcoming meetup of The Product Group, contact me.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone at our next meetup …

  Thursday, September 2nd @ 7PM
@ Pace (163 William Street, 2nd Floor, NYC)
RSVP Now!

And, stay tuned for more announcements about September’s Featured Product, ALOT.

If you would like to attend our next meet-up, RSVP today or visit our group webpage at…

http://meetup.com/TheProductGroup

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. Interested in becoming a sponsor or host of The Product Group? contact me.