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Brand Marketing is Dead, Long Live Feature Marketing

If you Google “Brand Marketing v.s Feature Marketing” you’ll find over 500,000,000 search results representing a long-time debate on which is better and for what.

Most articles will probably not lead you to a definitive answer (I can state that after reading many of them); instead, we’d frequently get a detailed description of what each type of marketing is all about, its pros and cons, and what are the best ways to apply it.

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I believe that the era of brand marketing is gone, and in this article, I would share some arguments as to why I think we’ve entered the “Feature Marketing” era and why it should be an integral part of any go to market strategy. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

A little background

Brand marketing is about increasing “brand equity” utilizing tactics to make a stronger brand image. The main idea is to consider marketing spend as an investment toward building up the brand’s value and how it’s perceived by consumers. This investment will pay dividends later on in business growth. However, most of this growth is unattributed and hard to measure.

If you look at Forbes world’s most valuable brand list, you’d recognize iconic brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, and others these brands have been investing in their marketing heavily over the years.

Typical brand marketing activities are to position your brand favorably in relation to a good cause or a trending topic – Economy, sports, sustainability, scholarships, great financial results, etc.

If we look up Apple’s newsroom, 3 of the top 5 items are about brand-related topics, but only two are related to new features.

Feature marketing is all about providing additional value to customers with an intent to drive interest towards your products and provide existing customers with a good reason to upgrade or buy other products you may have in the market.

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So why do I believe feature marketing wins?

The pendulum was already leaning towards feature marketing for a few years, but the last few months made it a clear winner, here are some reasons why:

  • During COVID-19’s first panic days, consumers emptied store shelves, and within a few days, most branded products were in shortage. This got most consumers to take whatever was available and to look more into functionality and availability rather than the brand or manufacturer.
  • The pandemic led to dramatic shifts in consumer tastes across multiple categories and industries. These changes forced product managers to evolve a more agile approach and develop & launch new features. For example, security is now top of mind for remote meetings and remote workers.
  • Customers expect more innovative products and faster iterations. According to a study conducted by Salesforce, 56% of customers actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies and 63% of customers expect brands to provide new products/services more frequently than ever before.
  • Marketing, during challenging times, focuses more on organic lead generation rather than on pure brute force advertising. Innovation and new capabilities are easy attention grabbers that lend themselves well to additional market content creation – you can blog, announce (PR) & update your website all for one new feature.
  • The media and press are more interested in hard news that will get the customer’s attention and eyeballs vs. general brand messages on their support for a certain goal.
  • eCommerce and D2C are on the rise these days, and they often rely on ad hoc promotion of features/functions.

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Zoom Video Communications, the rising star from the recent crisis, excels in feature marketing. When looking at their latest media coverage, the top 2 stories are feature-related:

  1. How to change your Zoom background like everyone else is doing
  2. Zoom Tips and tricks: 13 hidden features to try

This is cool proof that Media prefers feature stories vs. brand stories as a catchier type of content for customers.

Conclusion & Recommendations

2020 saw several forces magically aligned and customers, as well as the press, are mainly interested in feature stories rather than the old brand marketing:

  • Brand loyalty suffered a great blow following a supply shortage and item availability issues. Customers saw that there are other good non branded products out there at a much lower cost.
  • The Media is fighting for eyeballs during difficult times and need better engaging stories.
  • eCommerce and D2C are on the rise and relies on striking new features to show/sell value online

This is how feature marketing has overthrown brand marketing to become the new queen. Brands must focus on innovation and provide value to their customers on account of anything else; First, it can be measured and attributed, and it will better serve them for the short term, as well as build their online brand equity for the long term.

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