The Best Marketing is a Better Product


I was about 90% through a project for a product launch, and so far everything had gone according to plan.

My client was very happy, and in conversation heaped praise on my work and the overall creative process.

Then I heard a sentence that gave me pause: “what’s great about you, is that you understand your work is at fault if the product doesn’t do well”.

At that point I hit the breaks. I then carefully explained that no amount of marketing, can make a bad product into a great product.

(Not too say that my client had a ‘bad’ product, I use that example just to illustrate the point)

Graphic design and marketing is just one aspect of bringing a product to market. 50 years ago, it was perhaps the most important thing.

Back when the difference between soda brands, could boil down to how memorable their print ads were.

Back then advertising created a sort-of one-way traffic, preaching to the choir. And advertising worked.

Big, sexy, clever advertising. When a single billboard could change the fortunes of a whole company.

Before Yelp and Amazon, Facebook and TripAdvisor. Before YouTubers and Mumsnet, Rotten Tomatoes and Skype.

And now advertising doesn’t work that way any more. And marketing has to change – even if many still cling on those MadMen glory days.

The market has spoken

The best marketing now is about trust, engagement, social proof, value.

No longer the realm of account executives and media planners, now the market can speak to you directly via the internet.

Every time you boost a Facebook post, sell an item on Etsy or create a t-shirt brand on Shopify.

In this context, the value of the product itself is what sells – not the packaging. It’s the conversation around the product that matters.

Design, marketing and aesthetics all make a difference, but only if they add measurable value to a product, or help tell a story.

For example, Apple’s beautifully sparse packaging reflects their brand values, how they feel about their customers, and the prestige of its products.

But if that first iPod didn’t live up to its promise, the market would have told us so – very quickly.

As there’s really no tricking audiences anymore. Flashy ads and presentation might get you noticed in the short term, but a weak product will eventually earn you the wrong kind of attention.

That’s why the best marketing is a better product. And why brand is built on content and context.

If you have great content – exceptional content that genuinely creates value, the market will eventually come to you.

Of course marketing is still required to get the content seen, but in this scenario marketing supports the product or content – not the other way round.

Invest to stand out

As a result of the conversation outlined at the start of this post, these days I tend to turn down more jobs than I take on.

This typically happens, when I see someone wanting to use graphic design to solve a business problem.

Or when expectations can’t meet the reality of the market.

In these cases, I say take the money you would have spent on a new website, logo, press ad, video, or merchandise.

And re-invest it in improving the product. Whether you make music or milkshakes, the best marketing is a better product.

So take a course, write better songs, hire good people, make better things – figure out what your audience really wants.

Make value a product in itself, and your audience with reward you with attention and appreciation.

– Greg Bunbury

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