Product Marketing Lessons From Google, Amazon, and Apple

— August 14, 2019

Is 2019 the year of the startup? Judging by the rise of several startups in the past few years, it might very well be. This doesn’t necessarily mean larger, more established enterprises are on the way out, though. In fact, both entities may have found a way to co-exist. In many cases, innovation mostly comes from startups while larger companies provide the funding and infrastructure that many new companies lack.

The online landscape has also helped in this regard; many companies, including giants like Google and Facebook started out with almost nothing and took advantage of the internet-based nature of their business model. Today, these two companies make up 74% of the total digital ad revenue, with marketers and agencies allocating 43% of their advertising budgets to them and Amazon.

Ultimately, the key is in knowing how to capture and grow your market in your respective niche. Below we get product marketing advice from the giants themselves: Google, Amazon, and Apple.

Apple: Big Risks Lead to Bigger Payoffs

Apple is a fan of striking while the iron is hot; this is why the iPod and iPhone are such iconic products. Apple believes in taking tech in their infancy and making them usable for consumers. Apple doesn’t concern itself with price wars but focuses on presenting a unique value proposition, which in turn, allows the company to set its own price—no matter how high.

The late Steve Jobs referred to an old Wayne Gretzky quote when asked about Apple’s approach to product marketing. According to him, “There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love, ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very beginning. And we always will.” Apple makes big bets, and it has worked for them because they find ways to integrate technological innovation with business innovation.

Amazon: Experiment, but Follow the “Two-pizza Team” Rule

In contrast to Apple’s strategy above, Amazon uses a different approach when it comes to investing in upcoming products. It’s all about culture; Amazon employs a culture that’s “experiment-friendly.” The key to making big ideas work is starting small. At Amazon, they follow the “two-pizza team” rule: new ideas should be executed by a team that can be fed with two pizzas. Internal testing was never a thing within the company’s walls; in fact, launching early was the priority—even if it means launching a minimally viable product.

This allows the company to recognize flaws in the original idea and act accordingly in a timely manner; if the launch is a success, then Amazon doubles down on the project and relaunches at scale. “I know examples where a random Amazon engineer mentions ‘Hey I read about an idea in a blog post, we should do that.’ The next thing he knows, the engineer is being asked to pitch it to the executive committee. Jeff Bezos decides on the spot,” says Eric Ries, entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup.

Apple: Don’t Listen to Your Customers; Make Them Listen to You

The reason why Apple is considered one of the greatest innovators of its time is because it’s always a few steps ahead, not just of its competitors but also its customers. Many of Apple’s products—the iMac, iPod, and iPhone—were products without a clear market. Apple decided that the market was ready for them and consumers bought them hook, line, and sinker. This is how a tech giant like Apple innovates: they look ahead and see what the customer needs before the customers even realize it.

Asking your customers what they want is a practice in futility, as they will only think of something “better and faster” than what they already have. The late Steve Jobs illustrated this best when he said, “It’s not the consumers’ job to figure out what they want.” Ask anybody in 2006 whether they wanted a full-touchscreen phone or not and they would’ve said no. This just goes to show how consumers need someone to show them what they really want—and how they want it.

Google: Innovation vs. Commoditization; Why Not Both?

Despite being railed as a monopoly by some, Google’s core business model is dependent on building communities. Many rely on Google when searching for content online, and maybe even offline. However, the company does not create any content and relies on the community to generate it for them. Meanwhile, they continue to get advertising revenue and use it to fund their next venture, together with the indirect revenue they get from community-generated content. Google also diversified its revenue stream, so it can afford to experiment with new markets without worrying about monetizing its efforts.

Apple, Amazon, and Google: Stay Mysterious

We all know how secretive tech giants can be when it comes to launching the “next big thing,” and this is what makes their launches and announcements all the more exciting. By keeping the details under wraps, consumers and pundits are left to speculate and look for news leaks and other available information. This aura of mystery keeps people talking and helps keep the brand on top-of-mind, at least until the next product launch.

For both established companies and startups, incorporating these strategies can help turn your product or brand into the next tech giant. Ultimately, it’s all about knowing your market and knowing them enough to know what they want even before they realize it. The final step is creating a product or service that will convince them of the utility and innovation your product brings. It’s not just a “faster horse,” so to speak; it’s a full-blown automobile.

One should also remember that innovation for innovation’s sake is a futile strategy, but its absence can make giants like Nokia and Kodak fall from grace.

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Author: Rotem Gal

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