Digital media has forced businesses to change. Dramatically. This is nothing new. What's interesting is that we're seeing two, distinct, breeds of business being born:
Product Focused. The product focused business is head down and sleeves rolled up in a constant state of evolving the product. From daily tinkers and iterations to massive updates and overhauls. All they're trying to do is put out the most interesting and relevant products into the marketplace.
Customer Focused. Or, as I like to call this type of organization: "train kept a rollin'." These are the organizations that started off with an entrepreneurial spirit, but are now simply in market: selling and marketing the same product. They shift and adjust their advertising but their core products have, fundamentally, stayed the same with slight updates to ensure market relevancy.
I think there is no greater illustration of this than the difference between Microsoft and Apple.
Years ago, Microsoft was the juggernaut that no one could topple. Between Windows and Office, they were (and in some areas still are) the dominant force in the technology industry. Apple was relegated to second-class-citizen status and paid little mind.
Then, something happened.
Microsoft seemed to get comfortable to the point of being complacent. They kept iterating on their big sellers and putting a fancy new face (albeit often an ugly face) on their core products and peddling it as the next big thing.
During that same time, Apple focused on their products, rather than their marketing.
Sure, they had some great marketing, but it wasn't the focus. They were concentrating on making their products better.
The differences in focus (product vs customer) are often what can make or break a brand - especially in this new digital world.
Google vs Yahoo
Another striking example of this product vs marketing thinking is Google vs Yahoo.
When Google came on the scene, very few people expected them to do anything great. Yahoo was king in the world of search and virtually no one expected that to change.
But, something funny happened. As Yahoo continued to bloat their product by adding more and more sections to their web "portal," Google zeroed in on making their product better. They focused on being the best in search. On keeping their homepage spartan because they wanted to direct people into the one thing they were there for - search.
By focusing on their product, Google built a platform that they could later expand into other services while continuing to improve the product that got them to where they were.
It needs to be both
Like most things with this shift to the social web, it's a matter of "both, and" rather than, "either or." Focusing exclusively on product at the expense of the customer will work no better than the reverse. It's a matter of balance.
That said, it's important to remember something else Mitch said in his article.
See, if you want to be a brand that is both product focused and customer focused (and yes, in this day and age, that is the ultimate goal), it can't be by leveraging marketing as thin veneer to the business.
That's the key.
Your product must drive your marketing, not the other way around.
Great marketing comes out of great products. The products that would probably be successful even without marketing because they're so great they basically market themselves.
With the world of social media and online communication being what it is, "good enough" is no longer good enough. You can't hide behind fancy ads and catch phrases. People see through that quickly and, worse, tell everyone else about it.
Marketing can no longer be a "polish" at the end of the process or the spin you put on something. That won't work. Marketing needs to be kept in mind and involved in the entire process from product development to shipping. Having a tasteful eye for how products are designed as well as how they are marketed is critically important and needs to be considered with any new product or update to an old one.
Brands no longer rest on their laurels because there is someone right behind them ready to jump ahead at the first stumble.