Why Your Product Is Not What You Sell

Working as strategists at a content marketing company, it’s crucial for our team to stay up to date on the latest trends in the industry and advise our clients on how to stay ahead of the curve. Because of this, we are constantly doing research on what works and what doesn’t. 

From this research, we’ve noticed something. The fastest growing brands have something in common. The new generation of disruptors are thinking differently. Think about some of the fastest growing companies today, such as Facebook, Uber, WhatsApp and Amazon.

There’s one thing that these brands have in common: the status quo no longer applies to them. They’ve ignored existing business models in their marketplace, opting to build a new way of working instead. They think bigger and more creatively, act faster and more collaboratively. They lead with purpose, adding real value to people’s lives.

For these companies… their products are not what you think they are:

  • Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles.
  • Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content.
  • Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory.
  • And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.

It is incredibly easy to come out with the next thing… but if you focus on the thing you sell, you will inevitably be displaced. Bottom line: your product is not the thing you sell.

Let’s take a look at an example. At the height of its power in 1996, Kodak had over two-thirds of global market share. Its revenues reached nearly $16 billion and the company was worth over $31 billion. It was the fifth most valuable brand in the world.

A mere 16 years later in January 2012, Kodak entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy and its stock was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

So what went wrong? Many would say they didn’t embrace the digital age, but it’s not that they didn’t invest in new technology. Kodak actually invented the first digital camera in 1975. Kodak’s downfall stemmed from its focus on its product rather than the experience its product enabled.

Originally Kodak had it right. “Kodak Moments” was a genius marketing term coined for the memories people were only able to capture because of Kodak’s film. Their marketing and advertising highlighted this messaging, reminding consumers of all the wonderful memories they’d soon forget unless they brought along a camera filled with Kodak film to capture them. Then technology progressed, and while Kodak did initially embrace the digital age, the brand also worried about hurting its lucrative film business.

Ultimately Kodak had the nearsighted view that it was in the film business instead of the memories business and shifted its marketing messaging away from enabling experiences and toward the preaching the quality of its film. Had Kodak disassociated itself from its traditional strength of film and come to terms with the fact that its technology would be commoditised sooner or later, we would likely see a different Kodak today.

While Kodak may have lost sight of its purpose, there is a company in California doing a pretty damn good job. The word camera only appears twice on their website body. They talk about capturing and sharing experiences. The brand’s messaging is, “The world’s most versatile cameras are what we make. Enabling you to share your life through incredible photos and videos is what we do.” Of course everyone knows we’re talking about GoPro.

Your product is the value that you bring to the world. Knowledge, community, empowerment, inspiration, whatever it may be. Your product is simply the tool that enables you to deliver the customer experience. If you keep this idea in mind, you will not be displaced. As technologies and industries progress, you will embrace that change because it will be the best way for you to deliver your brand’s value and customer experience.

Liz Bedor

Liz Bedor is a content marketing strategist at NewsCred, based in New York City. With NewsCred, she’s helped enterprise brands including AXA, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Estée Lauder, IBM, Verizon, ADP and Office Depot conceptualize, implement and optimize their content marketing strategies. Prior to joining NewsCred, she worked in brand marketing and sales enablement for Salesforce.

2 thoughts on “Why Your Product Is Not What You Sell

  1. It’s very interesting how you put things into perspective by mentioning companies like Uber and Facebook. The experience a product enables is so important.

    1. Thanks Caroline. The best example might be Apple who does so very little advertising at all which is really surprising for a consumer technology product company. And when they do advertise, it’s really more about why you buy Apple (great design, everyone loves it, user experience.)

      I’m so glad you liked the article. This is such an important message!

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