This is another installment in our continuing series to breathe new life into brands. We start by flying right off a wave.
The brand goal: create high-performance customers
Yes, the goal of every brand is to create high-performance customers. Since your brand mission is to create the customers that will drive your business forward, the more active, high-performance customers you create, the farther your business can go. High-performance customers are just as important to your business as high performance employees. Strategically, they’re far more important to your brand than identity elements and media campaigns.
They add value back to the brand
Brands create high-performance customers so those customers can lead rich lives and add value back to the brand. We enable them, and they enable us. Together we ascend a delicious upward spiral, one that competitors can’t match. Creating high-performance customers thus becomes a strategic objective of the brand. The return value they contribute is the ultimate brand payoff.
In contrast, a brand that creates passive, low-performance customers is effectively creating a boat anchor for its business. Eventually, the business stops dead in the water, chained to a static base.
Defining “high-performance customer”
A high-performance customer is a customer who pushes the envelope of the product or service offered, and drives it to new applications and new uses. He or she is a customer who often creates new forms of meaning with the product or the brand, extending it and transforming it as they extend and transform themselves. This process can lead to a new brand context, or to an extended brand culture—and to additional levels of brand growth.
High-performance customers often interact with other customers and with the company, for feedback, tactical help and camaraderie. As they add new dimensions to the brand, they potentially create wider and/or deeper markets. Software mashups are a case in point, especially in the way those using Google maps have advanced the Google brand.
Brands can use high-performance customers to help build competitive advantage. When a brand creates high-performance customers, the product gets better faster through customer initiative and innovation. These initiatives can translate into competitive advantage, especially as they uncover new product uses, under-served markets, or specialized market segments. (See the history of mountain bikes.) High-performance customers can be a source of real-time market research.
What you want from most from high-performance customers is brand innovation, new brand concepts and applications that you can assess and build back into your brand as structured platforms and programs. These will come from the edge, not the boardroom. While a skateboard maker would certainly want a major presence at championship events, the real fuel for its brand is found at the street.
High-performance customers differentiate your brand
High-performance customers can also help differentiate a brand. They can create new brand contexts, from the ground up. That’s what designers in desktop publishing did initially for Apple. Apple now uses that platform as a creative driver for its brand initiatives in portable digital devices, such as the iPad. (Of course, a brand has to manage this process; it’s not a matter of brand laissez faire.)
Examples of high-performance customers
The best way to create high-performance customers is to help them create themselves. Give them the tools and the parts and the freedoms to create a free-flowing culture around your product or service. It will be their culture, not yours. Your brand is the catalyst and enabler. The goal is brand diversity, not brand homogeneity.