Product marketing vs user acquisition: Rovio VP on the difference, and why it matters

By John Koetsier December 4, 2023

What’s the difference between a product marketing manager and a user acquisition manager?

product marketing vs user acquisition

When I was prepping for a recent podcast episode on this question, I had to think of Office Space: the 2 consultants who come in and ask a product manager the dreaded question: “what would you say you do here?” 

Fortunately, Rovio VP of marketing Luis de la Camara had the answers. Press play on this video and keep scrolling …

Product marketing managers have been around a long time in traditional companies, while user acquisition managers are a relatively new phenomenon in mobile specifically. The difference is a matter of focus, not a matter of different teams, Camara says. UA managers are front-line direct response operatives, critical for tactical growth, while product marketing managers are embedded with product teams and analyze higher-level market dynamics, critical for strategic growth.

User acquisition managers are growth commandos

User acquisition managers are growth commandos, essentially. They’re creative, but they’re also very analytical.

“User acquisition manager or performance marketing manager are sort of two ways to brand the same thing,” Camara says. “Basically, it’s really about performance, it’s mostly about direct response marketing. It’s really about trying to maximize your return on marketing investment in the most measurable way possible.”

Critical to this role: resilience.

One day you’re up. Next day you’re down. One day you’re a hero. Next you’re a zero. Being able to navigate the volatility of the demand-gen user acquisition jungle with a certain degree of calm is important: never too high, never too low, and always looking to the future.

“If you’ve worked with any UA manager, they’ll tell you that your campaigns can look amazing,” Camara says. “And the next day they’re really down in the pits, and then like the next day they’re back up. And there’s sort of this rollercoaster every day as you come in.”

Also critical: curiosity. Will this work? What if I change this parameter? What about this creative, or that call to action? Will this channel or partner unlock untapped potential users?

Product marketing managers are growth generals

Product marketing managers are a little different.

They tend to come in earlier than user acquisition managers, at least in the Rovio universe of “crafting joy.”

“We tend to have a product marketer embedded in the product team from basically day zero,” Camara says. “So from the moment of concept, they’re here helping the product team game team … thinking about looking at the market, analyzing the market, understanding sort of what opportunities there are, trying to understand once there’s a concept or a bunch of concepts that the team have, and then testing what we call marketability or product market fit.”

That’s higher-level and longer-term: deeply understanding both the product — in this case a game — and the market, including what people might want or need as well as current and potential competition, to see if there’s space for the new app.

A big part of that: crafting a unique value proposition to differentiate the game in a universe of millions. And then building a go-to-market strategy including channels, tentpole marketing partnerships or events or endorsements … and — of course — performance marketing from user acquisition pros.

Both are critical

Both are critical, and both work hand-in-glove, Camara says. Failure to properly define the market and understand the product is likely to result in wasted UA spend. Failure to efficiently drive user acquisition will result in a failed product.

“Both crafts are very important, and the way we look at it is that they need to be partners basically. So they’re kind of supporting each other.”

Ensuring that teams work together and not in silos is critical for Rovio, Camara says, to avoid the typical I’ll do my part, throw it over the cubicle wall, and now it’s your problem in traditional, deeply differentiated organizations. But it’s also critical to deeply understand the game or app or product. Which means, in the gaming world, work is play, and play is work.

“We have a philosophy that the closer you are to what the players are experiencing, the more impact you’re going to be able to have,” Camara says. “So if you think about a game — like a mobile free-to-play game — players of those games don’t differentiate [between] what’s marketing, what’s product, what’s the engineering side of things, what’s the game design side of things: they just see the game and the game experience.”

Organizational structure is critical for growth

That means you can’t set up a gaming studio organizational structure that allows marketing to complain the game is not good enough and engineering or product to complain that the marketing is not good enough.

Everyone is on the same team, even if they have slightly different responsibilities.

Product needs to care about marketing’s needs. Marketing needs to care about product’s needs.

“If you have this shared joint system, obviously the product team needs to care a lot about the marketing and they understand that one of the key ways for them to grow is for the marketing to perform better,” Camara says. “And so they’re going to be that much more motivated to proactively support marketing.”

And vice versa, of course: marketing thinking about the product and ways to improve user experience and therefore, ultimately, LTV.

Everyone needs to play

And: everyone needs to play the game.

“You need to care about the games that you work with, and you need to experience the product from the eyes of the player,” Camara says. “I think for me an absolutely fundamental piece of marketing of any marketer, and I would say the same goes with product folks is that you really have empathy for your customer.”

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