Death to PMF
Why Product-Market Fit is a tiny piece of the puzzle.
Product-Market Fit is a tiny piece of the puzzle.
Yet it's what every startup is chasing.
Here's what they should be using:
The 5 Fits Framework
Product and Market are only 2 of the 5 Fits.
Just like you need Product-Market Fit, you need all the others to fit together to build a truly remarkable startup.
Let's dive into each.
People's perception of your company.
Patagonia: Explorer (and sustainability)
Liquid Death: Jester.
The perceived identity has to match the reality.
Here are Carl Jung's 12 archetypes you can also apply to brands:
WHERE you advertise/market/sell your product.
Twitter is a channel. A newsletter (like this one) is a channel. As are:
Other socials like LinkedIn & YouTube.
Ads on socials
Content marketing / SEO
Every channel has its own demographics—LinkedIn is more business focused and Instagram is more physical product focused.
And costs—ads cost $$$. Going on a podcast is free. Content costs time.
HOW (and how much) you charge
This is the most complex to discuss.
How you make money (see below)
How much you charge
And how you scale pricing
Freemium (free tier but with the ability to upgrade for more features)
Ex: Grammarly, Twitter
Ex: Spotify, Netflix
Direct sales (buy and get)
Ex: Tesla, Nike
Ex: Affiliate deals. Marketplaces (Airbnb).
Credits (similar to direct sales but
Then within each, you might scale up pricing based on:
Ex: Amazon AWS
And you might charge $1 or you might charge $1,000,000,000.
You can't expect to sell a kid's toy for $100k. But you can sell a luxury car for $100k.
WHO you're selling to.
Rich people craving novelty
B2B Enterprise software companies
Early-stage DTC founders
Women who like yoga
People who live in rainy climates
Each is more active on different channels. They resonate with different messages/branding. They’re willing and able to spend different amounts. And they have different problems they’re trying to solve.
Lastly, WHAT you're actually selling them.
Is it something they want?
Does it solve a painful problem for them?
Does the value it provides exceed the cost of buying it?
Is it a pleasure to use?
Let’s dive into some examples to illustrate the importance of the 5 fits.
Let's use these 3 Brands:
Liquid Death. Canned water. Heavy metal-themed branding.
Disney. Family-friendly movies, theme parks, and more.
Aston Martin. Expensive, luxury cars.
Channel: Disney can't advertise on any "adult" channel. Liquid Death can.
Product: Aston Martin can't sell a princess movie. Disney can.
Market: Aston Martin can't sell to children. Disney can.
Model: Liquid Death can't charge $200,000 for... well, anything. Aston Martin can.
The identity of the brand limits what it can and cannot do. It has to fit.
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Now for a deeper example using Liquid Death:
(Exclusively for my paid subscribers <3)
Liquid Death (Brand) sells canned water with crazy designs (Product).
They needed to stand out to compete with titans Nestle, Disana, Evian, Fiji, etc—all of which are plain branding and plastic bottles.
An unexpected brand helps them stand out in a saturated and homogeneous industry.
The funny part is: it’s actually a worse product in some ways. Once you open a can, you can’t reseal it. So you can’t really use it on the go.
BUT it’s a water that looks like a beer or energy drink. So it leverages the anti-alcohol trend. Someone who doesn’t drink could easily have a can of Liquid Death in their hand and fit in by looking like they’re drinking a beer.
Because their product is just water, they can't charge $100 per can.
They need to charge similar amounts to what other companies charge for a hand-held container of water.
They’re also decently limited to HOW they can sell it. They sell a physical product. They can do “direct sells” (buy and get) and through subscriptions on Amazon.
They scale pricing by selling packs of 12 on Amazon/Direct. Or by selling in bulk to retailers.
And by letting people buy subscriptions on Amazon.
Because their product is inexpensive, they can't sell on expensive channels.
For example, they can't pay for LinkedIn Ads (where you can easily pay $50 for a click) to sell 12 packs.
They CAN do content and social media marketing with videos. Hence the 500k Instagram and 727k TikTok followers.
They’re experts at creating viral content. Like their campaign about using recycled water bottles as injections for plastic surgery:
They're targeting the anti-establishment crowd. People who are tired of polished corporate America. And who care about the environment—given that Aluminum is nearly 100% recyclable, and most plastic recycling goes into the landfill.
Their mantra "Death to Plastic" aligns them with eco-friendly shoppers.
Rich or poor. Their brand, their product, their model, and channel all fit to find these people and make them their water of choice.
Death to the obsession of PMF.
You need your Brand, Product, Channel, Model, and Market to all fit together to be truly successful. Product-Market Fit is a tiny piece of the puzzle.
A brand with My Little Pony aesthetics can't sell $50k/yr B2B SaaS products to college kids using Facebook.
It also can’t sell luxury cars. Legal services. Or caskets.
But it can sell kids’ toys for $20 via YouTube ads on kids’ videos.
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