20 Product iPhone Creator, Tony Fadell on Marketing Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs, What is Truly Great Product Marketing, How The Best Product Teams Do PostMortems and Product Reviews & Is Product Art or Science, Data or Gut

Summary Notes


In this insightful conversation, Tony Fadell, renowned as the "father of the iPod" and founder of Nest, joins the host to discuss his journey in the tech industry and the wisdom he imparts in his book, "Build." They delve into the intricacies of product development, exploring the balance between art and science, data and opinion, and the significance of customer experience. Tony shares candid anecdotes, including the iPod's evolution and the missteps with products like the iPod Hi-Fi, emphasizing the importance of constraints and learning from failures. Scott Belsky's contributions and the role of product marketing in aligning with customer needs are also highlighted. The discussion concludes with Tony's initiative, the Build Climate Fund, which supports climate crisis startups, demonstrating his commitment to mentorship and environmental impact.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Tony Fadell

  • Tony Fadell is recognized as a leading product thinker and has been instrumental in creating influential products such as the iPhone, iPod, and Nest thermostat.
  • He is known as the "father of the iPod."
  • Tony's work led to Nest's acquisition by Google for $3.2 billion.
  • He has recently released a book titled "Build," which is highly recommended by the host, Harry.
  • Scott Belsky contributed to the episode with insightful questions.

So I have to be honest, I think there are a few podcast episodes that really stand the test of time. However, I have no doubt that this 20 product is one of them. With a friend and industry OG in the one and only Tony Fadel.

This quote introduces Tony Fadell, highlighting his significance in the industry and foreshadowing the valuable insights he will provide in the episode.

Tony Fadell's Journey into Startups

  • Tony has been passionate about technology since childhood, starting with analog tools and progressing to computers and programming at an early age.
  • His journey included writing software, creating hardware, experiencing both successes and failures, and learning from them.
  • Tony's path took him to Silicon Valley, where he worked on ambitious projects like General Magic, which attempted to create a product similar to the iPhone 15 years before its actual release.
  • He emphasizes the importance of both successes and failures in his book, "Build."

It's a very simple summarize my life. Let's see. I've been a geek since birth, well, not birth, but almost birth geek with analog tools and hammers and nails and all that stuff, like two or three, and then wound up having a tool called a computer when I was about ten years old, something like that, and fell in love with writing my first programs.

Tony Fadell describes his lifelong passion for technology and how it shaped his career, leading to significant contributions to the tech industry.

The Nature of Product Development

  • Tony discusses the balance between art and science in product development.
  • He argues that great products come from a combination of insights, opinions, and sometimes limited data since the product may not have existed before.
  • Product development involves storytelling and communication, regardless of whether the product is for consumers or businesses.
  • The process is a blend of art, science, and the ability to effectively communicate the product's value.

In fact, in the book, there's a chapter called data versus opinion. And really what it's about is when are certain decisions opinion based decisions? You'll never get the data to be able to make a decision, and you need an opinion just to follow through.

This quote emphasizes the interplay between data and opinion in making product decisions, particularly when data is insufficient or unavailable.

The Role of Data and Opinion Over Time

  • Tony asserts that as product versions evolve, better data is obtained from paying customers, which informs refinements and new features.
  • However, new product directions often require opinion-based decisions again.
  • He warns against relying solely on opinion, as it can lead to failure, and stresses the importance of learning from past mistakes.
  • A balance between data and opinion is necessary, and hubris in one's opinion can be detrimental to success.

No, I wouldn't say that. I think as you go through successive versions, you get better and better data from people who are actually paying for whatever it is you're doing.

Tony Fadell clarifies that while gut and opinion are important, data becomes increasingly valuable as a product matures and receives customer feedback.

Balancing Customer Emotion and Data

  • Tony shares a story from his time at Phillips, where data suggested sticking with grayscale screens for handheld devices, but the market favored color screens due to their emotional appeal.
  • Despite the data, customer emotions and desires led to the success of color screens, illustrating the importance of understanding both practical and emotional customer needs.

All the data told me, don't go to a color screen, it's going to wreck your battery life. It's going to do all of these things. It's going to make the device bigger, more expensive, heavier. The battery life is going to be horrible. There's so many downsides with going to color. Don't go to color. Stay black and white.

Tony Fadell recounts an instance where data was contrary to what the market eventually desired, highlighting the complexity of product decisions.

Customer Insights vs. Customer Actions

  • Tony discusses the challenge of relying on customer insights, as customers may not always accurately predict their behavior in real purchasing situations.
  • He emphasizes the difference between what customers say they want and what they actually choose, often influenced by immediate emotional reactions.

You can't always just trust what the customer says, because what happens is our framing of it. We're asking the questions, oh, well, if you bought it, it would be like this, this and this. And then here's the cons. Like, we gave them the review, so to speak, but they don't get that when they're in the store.

This quote explains the discrepancy between customer-stated preferences and their actual purchasing decisions, highlighting the limitations of customer surveys and interviews.

The Impact of Brand and Experience on Product Decisions

  • Tony shares an example from Nest, where a custom-designed screwdriver was included in the thermostat package as a marketing tool and a sign of brand care.
  • Despite the data suggesting its removal to save costs, Tony's opinion was to keep it for its intangible brand value and the positive long-term marketing effect it had on customers.

Every single time we would have a new rev of the product. Do we have to keep the screwdriver in the box? Do we have to keep the it cost us XYZ amount of money. I'm like, we need it in there.

Tony Fadell illustrates a case where his opinion on maintaining a brand element in the product packaging overruled data-driven arguments for cost reduction.

Trade-off Between Product Experience and Business Rationale

  • Tony argues that investing in customer experience and brand can lead to long-term success, even if it means accepting less attractive unit economics in the short term.
  • He believes that financial logic alone cannot drive the creation of new products and that sometimes opinions must lead to innovation.
  • The discussion extends to the broader context of environmental considerations, where customer desires and brand values may justify higher costs.

Because you're not going to have a great business if you don't have great customers who love your brand.

This quote encapsulates the philosophy that customer satisfaction and brand loyalty are paramount to business success, even if it requires higher costs for certain product features.

Vision for Sustainable Products

  • Understanding the broader needs of individual and collective customers is vital for long-term business success.
  • Sustainable materials, though initially more expensive, may become cheaper and attract new customers.
  • It is important to consider the environmental impact and customer acquisition when choosing product materials.
  • Leaders must have imagination and look beyond immediate financial metrics to see the potential for improved margins and customer satisfaction.

"You got to have a bigger vision of what the needs are of the individual customer as well as the collective customer and go, wait a second, maybe this would be better for the planet overall, and I'll get these new customers that wouldn't consider our product because we're doing something smart here for the environment."

This quote emphasizes the necessity of having a larger vision that includes the environmental impact of products and how this can attract new customers and benefit the planet.

"It takes imagination, it takes leaders who really see the bigger picture than just the numbers."

Leadership requires creativity and the ability to see beyond immediate profit and loss, considering the long-term benefits and opportunities that sustainable practices can bring.

Customer First Mile Experience

  • The first mile experience is crucial and often overlooked compared to the last mile.
  • A great first mile experience can be a moment of delight and set the tone for the customer's relationship with the product and brand.
  • It's important to remove friction and create a positive step-by-step experience for the customer.

"What about once that package is on the doorstep or that software download is happening, what are the next steps after that to where they have this amazing product experience?"

Tony Fadell emphasizes the importance of considering the customer's journey beyond just receiving the product, focusing on the entire experience from unboxing to first use.

"Each experience and customer touch point should build positively on the last one and all the way till the first experience of the product should be even better, right? It should be stellar."

The goal is to create a continuously improving experience for the customer, with each touchpoint building on the last to culminate in an exceptional first experience with the product.

The Devil in the Default

  • The default experience is what most customers will encounter, and it should be simple and pain-free.
  • Relying on defaults can be problematic if they are not aligned with the customer's needs and expectations.
  • Product reviews and marketing often focus on technical details that the majority of customers do not care about.

"The default is 98% of the time. Everybody just wants a simple, easy experience."

Tony Fadell argues that most customers prefer a straightforward experience, and products should be designed with this in mind to avoid unnecessary complexity.

"Why are we giving them more pain in the first mile experience, when you think you've solved their pain just beyond the first mile experience, it just makes no sense to me."

The quote highlights the folly of creating a negative initial experience for customers, especially when the product is meant to solve a problem, not create new ones.

Product Reviews and Team Alignment

  • Product reviews should ensure everyone understands who the target customer is and the type of experience the product aims to deliver.
  • It's important to prioritize one primary customer path to focus on during product development.
  • Teams need to collaborate and consider removing or adding steps in the customer journey to improve the overall experience.

"So you pick that primary path and you optimize everything around it."

Tony Fadell stresses the importance of choosing a primary customer path and tailoring the product experience around it to avoid trying to please everyone and pleasing no one.

"How are they going to think about thinking like they might think and put your role playing out of like, why did this come up on the screen? I don't understand."

The ability to empathize with the customer and question every step of the process from their perspective is crucial for creating an intuitive and satisfying product experience.

Product Marketing and Messaging

  • Product marketing should be involved from the beginning of product development to ensure alignment with customer needs.
  • Bold and confident messaging resonates more with customers than bland, neutral marketing.
  • Differentiation in marketing is key to attracting the right customer segment.

"The best marketing is just truth telling. As long as the product meets the expectations you set for it."

Steve Jobs' philosophy, as recounted by Tony Fadell, emphasizes honesty in marketing and ensuring the product delivers on its promises.

"If you don't believe it, why should anybody else?"

Tony Fadell argues that belief in a product's value is essential for effective marketing, and without confidence, the messaging will fail to inspire customers.

Qualities of Great Product Marketers

  • Great product marketers must understand how to communicate with different customer segments and internal departments.
  • They should be skilled in articulating the product's value and aligning it with the needs of both the company and the consumer.

"These product marketers, the best ones, know how to speak the languages of all these different disciplines to make sure that they're hearing what it means, why we're doing this product, and what it means for finance, what it means for customer support, what it means to the various target customers."

Tony Fadell describes the best product marketers as those who can effectively communicate the product's purpose and benefits across various disciplines within the company and to the customer.

Role of Product Marketing

  • Product marketing is pivotal in understanding customer segments and technology deliverability.
  • It serves as the voice of the customer, integrating feedback to create a coherent story for both customer and business.
  • The extent of technicality in product marketing varies based on the product; more technical for tech products and more consumer marketing-driven for consumer products.
  • Product marketers must communicate effectively with various teams, earn their trust, and respect without direct authority.

"Product marketing is the voice of the customer. First and foremost, they are the voice of the customer who then puts together all of the things that they hear around to make a story that works for the customer and works for the business."

This quote emphasizes the role of product marketing as a customer advocate, synthesizing customer feedback and business needs into a marketable story.

Hiring Product Marketers

  • Engineering-led founders often struggle to hire effective product marketers due to their marketing prowess.
  • Evaluating potential hires involves understanding their customer empathy, analytical skills regarding product experiences, and the ability to discern essential product features and evolutions.
  • Product marketing is less about creative branding and more about core messaging and storytelling.

"Messaging is the core things for why it is the way it is. It may turn into different words and visuals and videos and stuff like that, but product marketing is all about the messaging, of putting all of these pieces together and making into one cohesive story."

This quote clarifies that product marketing is fundamentally about crafting the core message that informs all creative and branding efforts.

Messaging vs. Creative and Branding

  • Messaging involves stating the functional benefits and features of a product.
  • Creative and branding are about bringing the product's message to life through various forms, such as videos or social media, contextualizing it for the customer.

"One thing is stating what it does, the other one is showing what it does and putting it in your context."

This quote distinguishes between simply stating product benefits (messaging) and demonstrating them in a relatable context (creative and branding).

Responding to Failed Product Marketing

  • If product marketing fails to resonate, it's vital to revisit and adhere to a sound process from the beginning, not just as an afterthought.
  • Learning from the iPod's evolution, which initially targeted a small market and later expanded to a broader audience, shows the importance of adaptability and market understanding.

"The iPod was a critical success, but it didn't really turn into a successful business till the third generation."

This quote illustrates the importance of persistence and market adaptation in product marketing, using the iPod's gradual success as an example.

Learning from Product Flops

  • Product flops provide valuable lessons, differentiating between product success versus business failure.
  • A product can be well-received critically, yet fail commercially due to lack of support from sales and marketing.
  • Overshooting with a product, as with the iPod Hi-Fi, can lead to failure if it doesn't meet market expectations or is overdesigned.

"You need to have really good constraints to avoid these kinds of product nightmares."

The quote highlights the importance of having constraints and focus during product development to prevent over-engineering and ensure market fit.

Enforcing Constraints and Urgency

  • Imposing deadlines and milestone-based funding can enforce constraints and urgency, preventing complacency due to abundant resources.
  • Leaders must balance risk-taking with reasonable constraints to maintain innovation without jeopardizing the project.

"I don't like to be swimming in money. I don't like any team swimming in money."

This quote from Tony Fadell suggests that too much funding can remove the necessary constraints that drive creativity and urgency in product development.

Managing Team Arrogance and Morale

  • Leadership plays a crucial role in managing team dynamics post-success or failure.
  • Leaders should set stretch goals and manage risk to prevent arrogance and maintain motivation.
  • Staying ahead of competition and self-improvement are key to avoiding complacency.

"Great leader always has to be looking behind his back going, oh, wait a second, there's competition coming because if we're successful, the competition will be coming."

Tony Fadell indicates that a leader must be vigilant about competition and continuously push the team to innovate to stay ahead.

Competition's Influence on Product Strategy

  • Competition should not dictate product strategy, especially once a company is established in the market.
  • Understanding competition is more crucial when entering a market but should not override original product vision and innovation.

"Should competition drive product strategy? No, absolutely not."

Tony Fadell asserts that competition should not be the driving force behind product strategy, emphasizing the importance of innovation and originality.

Understanding Market Needs and Differentiating Products

  • Discusses the importance of knowing the basic feature set required to compete in a market.
  • Emphasizes differentiation rather than imitation of competitors.
  • Highlights the risks of constantly tracking competitors and the need for a clear differentiation strategy.
  • Suggests that competition should inform but not drive product decisions.
  • Stresses the importance of having a unique value proposition and maintaining focus on it.

"What the table stakes are, the minimum feature sets. You need to have to kind of play so that you're not just giving them a new differentiated thing and all these other things that you don't have. There are basic things that they're like, we don't have that. Everyone has that. It depends if you're first to market versus you're coming into a market, but competition should inform, but it should not drive."

This quote emphasizes the need for a product to meet certain industry standards (table stakes) to be competitive, while also cautioning against letting competition dictate product strategy.

Conducting Effective Post Mortems

  • Outlines the components of a good post mortem, including what was done right and wrong.
  • Differentiates between macro and micro issues, with macro being external factors like a pandemic.
  • Stresses the importance of assessing failures to learn and improve for future projects.
  • Highlights the need to face failures directly and use them as learning experiences.
  • Mentions iterative development and learning from previous versions, using the iPhone as an example.

"Well, first you got to show what you did right. What did you get wrong? And was this a macro issue or was this a micro issue?"

This quote explains the key elements of a post mortem, focusing on identifying successes, failures, and their context.

The Concept of Pre Mortems

  • Discusses the limited use of pre mortems in product development.
  • Advocates for the use of a mock press release to identify and manage risks.
  • Suggests maintaining a list of top risks and reviewing them regularly with the team.
  • Encourages transparency about risks and challenges to ensure they are addressed.
  • Uses the mock press release as a guide to ensure product integrity and avoid feature creep.

"I don't spend too much time on pre mortems. We spent a lot of time on that press release, the mock press release."

This quote indicates a preference for focusing on a mock press release as a tool for risk management over traditional pre mortems.

Integrating Product Marketing with Product Development

  • Stresses the importance of product marketing being involved in all meetings.
  • Highlights the role of product management in building relationships and trust across teams.
  • Emphasizes the informal leadership role of product managers in gathering insights and addressing issues.

"Well, they come to all the meetings first and foremost."

This quote signifies the importance of including product marketing in all relevant meetings to ensure alignment and communication between marketing and product development.

Common Mistakes in Hiring Product Teams

  • Notes that founders often start as the product managers.
  • Warns against founders continuing to act as product managers as the company grows.
  • Advises hiring dedicated product managers to serve as the voice of the customer.
  • Emphasizes the need for founders to focus on leadership rather than hands-on product management.
  • Advocates for creating a separate product marketing team with a distinct role from other departments.

"Well, first, founders typically are the product managers."

This quote addresses the tendency of founders to take on product management roles and the need to delegate as the company expands.

Goals for Writing a Book

  • Shares the purpose behind writing the book "Build" as providing mentorship and advice.
  • Describes the book as a compilation of lessons learned from 30 years in Silicon Valley.
  • Expresses a desire to give back and mentor others, inspired by his own mentors.
  • Announces the creation of the Build Climate Fund to invest in climate crisis solutions.

"Build is really a set of lessons. It's an advice encyclopedia, mentorship in a box."

This quote explains the intent behind the book "Build," which is to offer mentorship and practical advice to readers.

Personal Impact of Products and Experiences

  • Reflects on early impactful products like the Atari 2600, Apple II, and Sony Walkman.
  • Discusses recent impressive product experiences, specifically the Nothing ear (1) earbuds.
  • Highlights the importance of meeting and exceeding customer expectations for a successful product experience.

"The nothing ear ones. So nothing, the brand, the ear ones, they say, okay, yes. Full disclosure, I'm an investor."

This quote shares a recent product experience that impressed the speaker, while also disclosing his investment in the company.

Supporting Climate Initiatives

  • Announces the Build Climate Fund, dedicated to investing in companies addressing the climate crisis.
  • Commits to matching proceeds to the fund and ensuring it is evergreen, with profits reinvested in climate solutions.

"We are starting a climate fund. It's called Build Climate Fund."

This quote introduces the Build Climate Fund as an initiative to support startups focused on the climate crisis.

What others are sharing

Go To Library

Want to Deciphr in private?
- It's completely free

Deciphr Now
Footer background
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon

© 2024 Deciphr

Terms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy