No Product? No Branding
Let’s reveal the connections. Because there are of course connections between brand and product work. Branding concerns the image of a product or of a company, which is meant to build a successful relationship with clients and potential customers. Of course, it is a feature of a competitive market with many product alternatives. After all, if you have dozens of alternatives at similar prices, why should you bet on one particular product?
Brand Management is mostly associated with superficial elements: marketing components like messaging, packaging or distribution. For instance, a company that relies on environmental themes should discard plastic bags! Equally, a media outlet that focuses on children’s entertainment will not associate itself with violent or inappropriate content. Thus, both physical and intellectual components of the firm’s image matter for the Brand Manager.
Good Product Managers think about branding a lot.
Those who join established companies are very careful. These are established corporations, with a long history of relationships with their public. Developing “off-brand” features and products would be these PMs worst nightmare. As a result, from the way the website looks and feels, to the copy used in the calls-to-action, product people ensure that every single element is reinforced together.
Similarly, for those joining a startup or launching their own, branding can mean a great deal:
- First of all, beginnings are difficult. You will need to attract attention to your product to attract talent and investment.
- Secondly, there are often several small teams competing on the same niche. Being the first is not necessarily what you need for success. Actually, having the most powerful brand can be the ultimate push that shifts the balance in your favor.
- Finally, establishing a brand soon can help you maintain a coherent vision in times of stress. Your brand will remind you of your product goals and help you stay on track.
The Missing Digital Equation: Function + Attachment
Now that it is clear that Brand and Product Management are different, it is important to underline why this is. After all, all of the digital leaders today invest a lot of time and resources into becoming recognized brands. Both cannot be so disconnected from each other; right?
Well, Brand Managers are missing a very important formula that defines the “branding” element behind Product Management:
Branding in Product Management = Function + Attachment
- Function. Whether you believe that you are “solving problems”, helping users complete tasks or aiding companies to save costs; you are definitely fulfilling some sort of action. Again, this can be defined in many ways. Do not be restrictive: some products are almost useless, specifically meant to waste your time. This “function”, at the same time, refers to the way you structure your product so it receives inputs. Brand Managers are not so concerned with either two elements (tasks and inputs), because their overall goal is to move the company’s image towards a position of privilege among the intended audience.
- Attachment. This falls closer to the Brand Manager’s remit, but is not exactly the same. Branding implies developing feelings from recognition and familiarity, all the way to love. But, for Product Managers, attachment is not just part of an outreach strategy: it is inscribed in what they add to the product. From login pages to remote management apps, User Experience is designed to appeal to target users and educate them so they can behave in expected ways. Many times, user loyalty is the most valued metric for PMs, and “traditional” branding is a big part of it. But it’s not enough!