Last Updated: November 25, 2020
The video games industry, today worth tens of billions of dollars globally, nearly ceased to exist in the United States in the mid-1980s. After steadily climbing in the 70’s and early 80’s, games revenue dipped 97 percent by 1985. The resurgence of an industry that today includes highly successful companies like Blizzard, Microsoft, and Sony has been attributed to one company with one, great product: Nintendo.
After numerous false starts, technical problems, and an especially damaging fallout with potential distributor Atari, Nintendo finally brought its Nintendo Entertainment System to the United States in 1985. Despite the failing market, Nintendo was a huge hit in America and sold millions of consoles, games, and hardware to eager consumers.
The success of the NES can be attributed to the Nintendo Company’s confidence in its product and ability to inform customers about it. Game cartridge covers featured actual graphics from the game, and the hardware was intuitively designed, reflecting Nintendo’s respect for customers. Nintendo targeted specific groups of consumers, playtesting their product to smaller focus groups before attempting a nationwide product launch. By marketing its product aggressively to specific consumers, Nintendo brought an entire industry back from the brink of extinction.
What is product marketing?
Product marketing is a branch of marketing that focuses on finding the right customers for a particular product, and creating an appealing pitch to those customers (See also Niche Marketing). Product marketing uses a combination of research, design, and advertising to ensure a product’s success. It is not a specific marketing strategy, but an essential aspect of many strategies that maximize the potential of a specific product.
For example, despite industry challenges, Nintendo used a successful product marketing strategy to position themselves in the minds of American video game players. The company performed market research to first determine who their primary customers were, releasing the NES to New York City and gathering data about who purchased their product and why. With that information, Nintendo’s marketing team created the visual aesthetic and advertisements that would accompany the NES on its release throughout the United States.
Nintendo's Domination of the Industry
Nintendo led the charge for the entire video games industry in the 1980’s. Launching after the industry crashed, it transformed an anemic $100 million business into a $2.3 billion business in the space of just three years with the help of a legendary marketing campaign.
The American Video Games Industry in 1988
Who uses product marketing?
Whenever a company wants to inform potential customers about a new product or expand awareness of an existing product, they must determine who would want the product, how much they are willing to pay for it, and what consumers see as its best features. Product marketing allows companies to test new releases on a smaller audience before opening up to the public.
For example, if a small business owner wanted to bring a new soap based on an old family formula to market, she could determine the most effective marketing methods by first conducting research. She could offer the soap to different demographics, at different prices, and with different kinds of packaging in a small test market to find the combination that results in the best sales. With that information, the business owner can be more confident when she releases the soap to wider distribution.
Bold Colors, Great Placement
The Mars candy company famously passed up the opportunity to have its already beloved confection M&Ms appear in the hit movie E.T. The Extraterrestrial. The Hershey Corporation didn’t make the same mistake. They let director Steven Spielberg feature Reese’s Pieces in a memorable scene. The scene didn’t include any mention of the product’s name, but its distinctive color scheme and packaging was enough to connect with the all-ages audience. In the year after the release of the film, Hershey saw sales of Reese’s Pieces go up by 65%.
Product marketing is also effective when companies wish to rebrand existing products. For example, consider “bath pouf,” a lather-producing bath accessory that has primarily been marketed to women. Another potential demographic, adult males, were found to be less likely to buy bath poufs because of subjective things like “feminine-sounding” names and the use of bright colors.
By using dark or neutral colors, and referring to the same item by different names, a company producing bath poufs might appeal to the adult male demographic and increase sales.
Creating a product marketing plan
A product marketing campaign involves more than simple advertising, encompassing multiple steps from research to launch. Before embarking on campaigns, marketers must first understand the product offered, its key features, and the cost of production.
Questions to Ask in Product Marketing
- What are the product’s key features?
- Who is the product’s target demographic?
- How much will the product cost?
- How will customers see the product’s advertising materials?
Considering the previous example of a new line of soaps, a small business owner might first ask important questions about the soap’s qualities. What does it smell like? How does it feel? How much does it cost to make?
She can then conduct research about who would be interested in the soap and why. This could take the form of a small table or booth set up at a bath products business fair (See also Trade Show Marketing). The owner could create a standardized questionnaire she gives to each test participant asking about their experiences with the soap, while also taking notes about each participant’s reaction to the product.
By gathering this real-world information, the business owner has a foundation for the later stages of advertising that target specific potential customers and set the final price for the product. If our soap-maker finds that women between the ages of 19 and 40 had the most positive overall reaction to the product, she could target that demographic in advertising efforts. She could also determine what price would make the soap most profitable, maybe creating higher-priced “luxury” products alongside a lower-cost “bargain” line of soap.
With a target demographic, preferred features, and preferred price identified, a product is ready to be advertised and sold. The soap-maker can now design packaging, a brand name, and advertising materials, such as a product website and brochure that are meant to appeal to her target demographic. (See also Targeted Marketing)
Careers in product marketing
Because product marketing happens at so many different stages in the process from production to sale, there are a wide variety of careers that frequently use product marketing principles.
Market Research Analyst
What do they do?
Product Marketing Salaries
- Market Research Analyst
Top Earners: $65,000
- Product Designer
Top Earners: $96,000
Top Earners: $109,000
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
The questionnaires, demographic surveys, and price-setting of market research involve a technical, scientific approach to the data this research generates. Market research analysts use skills in critical thinking, computer science, and data modeling to turn the subjective information gathered by research into concrete, quantifiable data that help companies make vital decisions about a product.
Education and Skills
Market research analysts should have a bachelor’s degree or higher in marketing, business, computer science, statistical analysis, or math. It is very helpful to also have experience in other computer-related fields like systems administration and technical support.
What do they do?
It is very important to differentiate a product from its competitors, both in advertising and at the point of sale. A product designer is responsible for everything from the look and feel of a product, to its packaging and cost of production. A product designer must not only have a good eye for visual aesthetics, but also remain conscientious of how expensive each design decision will be.
Education and Skills
Product designers should have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in art, design, or marketing with a strong portfolio of work samples. Previous work in graphic design can prove artistic skill, though experience in manufacturing can also demonstrate an understanding of the production process at the most basic level, which many employers will find impressive.
What do they do?
Copywriters are involved in the advertising aspects of product marketing. They create the product name, write advertising materials like website text and commercial scripts to raise awareness about the product, and generally control the narrative of the product that each customer sees. This career requires strong written and verbal communications skills, and a good understanding of the product at every stage of production and sales.
Education and Skills
Copywriters should have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, English, communications, or psychology. As with designers, even inexperienced copywriters should have a portfolio of work samples to demonstrate skill and proficiency with the creative components of the job.
How can a marketing school help you succeed?
Our Recommended Schools
A marketing education program prepares tomorrow’s professionals for fast-paced work environments that require trained marketers to enact product launch campaigns.
Beginning course work at such a program includes:
- Marketing Strategy and Resource Allocation – Introduction to core marketing principles that help companies reach their customers effectively and keep costs low.
- Consumer Behavior – A survey of demographic science and purchasing attitudes that provides a foundation for smart test marketing and advertising.
- Market Research – Explores the skills and values most needed to apply market research data to long-term marketing plans.
Other classes will provide hands-on training with the latest software for design, database engineering, and customer relations. Advanced classes in marketing education programs focus on the principles of management for those who want to eventually pursue careers in senior administrative roles.
Regardless of a student’s ultimate specialty in the workplace, a marketing program provides valuable tools for understanding and applying strategies used at every stage of the product life cycle. If you’re interested in learning more about marketing education programs, request information from schools around the country.