In the world of today, customers come first. If you’re ever in doubt about this statement just take a look at this graphic taken from The Brand Flip by strategy legend himself, Marty Neumeier.
The old brand formula resembled that of a factory. The company creates the brand through products, design and advertisement, the brand attracts customers, and the customers supported the company.
The new model, as shown above, is still relatively similar to the old one but with a key difference. Instead of creating the brand first, the company creates customers through products and social media, the customers build the brand through repeat purchase and advocacy, and the customer-built brand sustains the company through tribalism and loyalty. The main thing which becomes apparent in this model is that a brand is formed by the meaning a customer takes from it. Remember, a brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.
While before a lot of companies could sustain themselves by being product-focused i.e create a product, drive it into peoples lives through advertising and crazy distribution techniques and then simply let the customer get on with it. Customers didn’t have a lot of choice in how they interacted with the product other than whether they chose to purchase it.
Today’s consumers want a much higher level of autonomy when interacting with brands. They no longer buy a product or brands. They join them. They want to have a say in what happens and when it happens, they want to feel part of a community that they care about. that someone is listening and through their actions of sharing, promoting and volunteering ideas they are now the part of the machine that matters most.
The age of community-centric, customer-first brands is upon us and it’s adapt or die out there.