In Plain English: Brand, Product & Customer Marketing

So, do you create social media ads and stuff? If you work in marketing, chances are that you’ve heard this question at least once. Only to deliver your explanation, again, on how marketing is more than just creating Instagram posts and YouTube ads. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked in three types of marketing roles: brand, product and customer marketing. And in this post, I’ll describe what those mean – in plain english. Let’s go.


For starters, there’s a huge difference between what people do marketing and the marketing messages you see out in the open, in the real world. 

The latter is a consequence of the former. 

These marketing messages – in the form of Instagram Ads or billboards, for example – are just the tip of the iceberg. Weeks and months of strategic planning and analysis go behind those messages – and that’s also where marketers spend their time.

Brand Management:

Brand Managers are like general managers of a small business – where each brand is, in fact, its own business. Take the food company PepsiCo, for example. They’re a multi-million dollar international company, with dozens of brands. One of their brands is Tropicana. 

So, there’s an annual revenue number associated with Tropicana sales, and it’s the Brand Manager’s job to grow and protect that revenue stream for the parent company. 

As the general managers of a business, these Brand Managers are responsible for launching new products (such as new flavours or formats) and driving consumer demand, through advertising campaigns. 

Ok, so Brand Managers are like the general managers of Tropicana. They’re the reason why we have no pulp, extra pulp and some pulp. Got it. 

Image result for tropicana ads

Product Marketing: 

While brand management has been around for decades, product marketing is a much newer function. Unlike brand managers, Product Marketing Managers (known as PMMs) focus on their unique products, but share the same brand

Think about it. A company like PepsiCo has dozens of brands, like Lays, Gatorade and Tostitos. Brand people are needed to drive each brand’s strategy and long-term vision to dominate the shelves. But for a company like Spotify, they only have one brand. It’s Spotify. But they have lots of products, subscriptions and market offerings, such as Spotify Premium, Spotify for Artists, Spotify for Podcasters and so on. One brand, with many products. And that’s why they need PMMs.

Image result for spotify premium ad

PMMs are the missing link between engineering and sales teams. A lot of people describe PMMs as translators, translating highly technical, complex specifications into meaningful benefits for customers. Without the translators, engineers are missing a link that can communicate back to the sales team everything they need to successfully sell the product. 

Here’s an easy example. When the engineering teams at WhatsApp decided to give you read receipts, they don’t simply say “Checkmarks now turn blue when your messages are read.” That doesn’t speak to any of the value in that update. Instead, a PMM will take the time to craft the right message, and maybe they’ll say, “Rest easy and stay in the loop, knowing exactly when your message has been read.” Something like that.

They’ve translated that technical update into a benefit that is meaningful and relevant for you. And all of the work that goes into determining the messaging and the value for the customer is led by Product Marketers. 

Ok, so brand marketing is about managing a business. Product marketing is about translating technical specifications into meaningful benefits. What’s next?

Customer Marketing: 

In these big software companies, we also need a marketing function that is exclusively focused on customers. 

Most business-to-business (B2B) companies have renewing, subscription-based business models, and they need to keep customers happy. 

It’s not like selling a granola bar at the grocery store, where the purchasing experience ends at checkout, when the consumer buys the product. In the B2B software space, when the customer signs a contract, the journey is just beginning. Then, you need to impress them with your product, make it easy for them to use your technology, and convince them to try out everything else you have to offer.

Oh, and you want them to absolutely love you (and your products) so much that they write great reviews and tell all of their friends.

Customer Marketing Managers work across all of these areas. These marketers find opportunities to market to existing customers, develop ways to help keep their business and encourage them to become true brand advocates. 

Think about the last time you were asked to review an app online. Or, the last time you received a promotional email for the “premium” version of a service you already pay for. All of these activities and campaigns are run by customer marketing. 

So, in a nutshell: Brand Managers are like business owners for a specific brand. Product Marketers are experts at crafting messages for new products. And Customer Marketers generate happy, successful customers that ultimately bring in more business.


My two cents? Don’t feel like there is only ‘one’ type of marketing for you. There are tons out there – and this post only covers three. We haven’t even covered growth marketing, partnership marketing, loyalty or advertising – and many others. Until you’ve found a field that completely aligns with your strengths, keep exploring. 

Finally, if this blog was helpful, please let me know. Equally, if you have ideas on how to make it better, then definitely let me know. I haven’t given up my dream of becoming a full-time writer, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.



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