Product vs Marketing Messaging...huh?

Product vs Marketing.

In most industries, these two groups work very closely together to insure that the right offerings are hitting the market with the right branding, the right messaging, the right targeting, the right cadence, etc.

But, for some reason, this is not the case in the software world. Except for company-wide meetings, the people in these two departments hardly see each other - let alone work together to insure that customers are receiving the best possible experience.


For some reason, we software companies have forgotten the first P in the 4 P's of Marketing (hint- it's Product).

For some reason, we keep these groups separated as if their work has nothing to do with each other. Or better yet, as if we don't want their work to have anything to do with each other.

No where is this gap more confusing than when it comes to customer (or user) messaging.

Product Messaging vs Marketing Messaging - The Great Divide

For most software companies, messages delivered to the end user are divided up into two distinct buckets. They are either Product Messages or they are Marketing Messages.

Product Messages are messages (delivered via email, in-app or other channels like push, SMS, etc) that are tied to activity in, or generated by - the product.

These messages are typically relevant, personalized and automated. Transactional emails, notification emails, digests, in-app messaging, push, etc.

Marketing messages are generally - anything else. A Marketing message is any message that is not related to product usage. Basically, messaging that the Marketing team can create without any support/connection to the product team.

These messages are generic and delivered to an entire customer base or some segment of that base. Think product announcements, newsletters, etc.

All of these messages are not classified based on to whom they are delivered - because they all go to the same user base. They aren't organized based on their content, their design, effectiveness or the impact they have on customers.

These messages are classified based on the departments that own and manage them.

In fact, if you ask a marketer about any message that has ties to activity within the product - he/she will almost always say,

"Oh...those are product messages, we don't handle those. Someone on Product handles those."

And...if you ask that marketer is he/she has any insights into how many of those messages exist; how often they are sent; what they look like; or...how effective they are...they will hold strong:

"Oh no. Product might know, but we don't deal with those."

Same goes for Product. They have absolutely no idea what kind of messages Marketing is delivering; when; how; what they look like; etc.


If this seems odd to you, you aren't alone. I have always found this divide - this separation between types of messaging at a software company - very confusing. I specifically find it hard to believe that:

(a) Marketing is not involved with every essential piece of messaging that is delivered to a user; and

(b) Marketing seems to be ok with this.

Very strange.

What Would Don Draper Think About This?

As I think about this reality more, I can't help but wonder what a marketer, with no context of a modern software business, would think about this phenomenon.

More specifically, I wonder (as I do more often than I care to admit) - what would Don Draper think about this?

So...we decided to ask him. Below is how we imagine a conversation with Don on this topic of Product vs Marketing messaging would go:

What Does Don Draper Think About:
Product vs Marketing Messaging
To prep this conversation, I've given Don a little bit of background on how these messages are divided among Product & Marketing departments. Here's is how the conversation picked-up:
Help me understand. You're saying that these are all messages that are going out to customers?
ME Yes...sometimes via email, sometimes they are delivered in-app, sometimes via push, but they are all...
Are we still speaking English here?
ME Oh, right. You don't even know about email.

They are just different forms of distribution for messages. Like print ads, or radio spots, or direct mail, etc.
So...why isn't marketing involved with them?
ME For several reasons, but mostly because many of them are closely integrated with the product - so have traditionally been produced by the engineering team.
What does it matter who produces it?
ME --
The production is just how a message is executed.

Why does it matter if it's a print shop, or a tv production crew or an 'engineering team' producing the message?

The production is not what matters. The production is the execution of the message. But it's not the message.
ME Ok. So what you're saying is that...
Look. I don't know about all these technical things you are talking about, but I do know a couple of things.

First - your existing customers are your most precious asset. Forget your fancy technology, forget your fancy design, forget your fancy investors with their fancy suits. Your customers are what matters.

More specifically, the relationships you have your customers. If your customers love you and think about you all the time - well - how can someone compete against that?
ME Fair point. So you're saying that...
Second - these customer relationships - like with any relationship - are built, slowly. Over time.

Moment by moment.

Touch by touch.

Kiss by kiss.

It's a seduction. As marketers, this is what we do. We seduce. And really all we have to work with are these moments. These soft, subtle touches. Making these moments count - well - this is what we do. Making these moments count is the difference between a successful seduction and...waking up next to an empty whisky bottle.

So...if you're asking me what I think about someone else controlling these moments. What do you think? Why would I do that?

If what you're talking about are important touch points with your customers. Important pieces of an overall seduction - if that's what we're talking about - then that's marketing.

I don't know what else it would be.

Ok. Wow.

While Don may get a little over the top, but his point is a good one:

If it's messaging then, it's marketing. It's all marketing.

The details of how a message is produced should be secondary to the actual message - what it's promoting; what action it's triggering; the voice in which it's written; how it looks; how it interacts with all other messaging; and, most importantly, how it impacts the overall goal of keeping users engaged with a product & brand.


I don't know how we ended up where we are with this massive separation between Product and Marketing - especially on the messaging side.

The good news that this is changing. I talk to software makers and marketers every day and I am having more and more conversations about the intersection of these two practices - which is very encouraging.

Ashu Garg (partner at Foundation Capital and author of Decade of the CMO) had a great response to a question at a recent event. When asked about the the modern marketer's role in the context of a full lifecycle, he said:

"Today's marketer should be the orchestra leader for the entire customer experience. Pre and post sale. Every touch. There is no one who can do it as well."

And this is where we're going. And it's especially important on the messaging side.

If it's important touch with a customer - if it's a moment worth having - then it's marketing and it needs to be handled as such.

Product and Marketing teams need to understand this and come to the table. They need to work together to insure that every moment - every touch - is handled with the care it deserves. Because this is how great customer relationships are built. With care, attention...and cohesiveness.

(special thanks to Don Draper for letting us drop by and pretend to conduct this interview - it was...an experience )