Don’t muddle the is/does.


I’m a brand and marketing planner and one thing I often come across, especially with new ground-breaking products, is mishandling of the is/does. 

The “is” is a description of the product. Levy’s are jeans.  MySpace is a social network. Hoegaarden is beer. With a new invention, the “is” is very important. To those who are first-to-market falls the definition of the product and product category. They are responsible for the “is.” The education associated with defining the “is” can be costly, but if the product is indeed a breakthrough, the press and word of mouth will help.
The “does” is where marketers often have trouble. The does, is typically framed more in terms of user benefit. Coke is a cola soft drink, but what it does is provide refreshment. Marketers tend to muddle the does, because they are sellers. They can’t stop selling so they pile them on.  
Another problem in new product marketing occurs when marketers don’t explain the “is” and go straight to the “does.” Oy. 
For mature products, the fight is always the “does.” Tide Extra Strength makes your clothes brighter. Everyone knows what Tide is, so it’s a “does” story. But if the reason Tide makes the clothes brighter is because of a new, breakthrough additive then you are back to the “is” again.   See why this is difficult?
Here’s a question: When launching the iPhone, what did Apple think their product was? I finally figured it out.