Archive for August, 2008

“Dear Adobe” — a pipeline to the Adobe brand

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

NOTE: This post replaces a post of 8/25/08 in which I did a bang-up job of getting some key facts wrong. Many thanks to Richard Dudley for the correction. I have deleted that 8/25/08 post.

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Dear Adobe is a new site established by Adobe users to tell Adobe what its customers need. In effect, it’s a pipeline to the Adobe brand. The site is an example of how customers can proactively collaborate to add value back to a business.

A brand’s customers are its greatest competitive weapon

A brand’s customers are often its greatest competitive weapon. Having sharp customers who care about Adobe products is extremely valuable to Adobe. Such customers can help Adobe maintain a competitive edge, especially as it now confronts Microsoft in major markets.

It’s always better to get wake up calls from customers rather than competitors.

Currently more heat than light

In its newly-born state, Dear Adobe is mostly a torrent of pent-up vents and rants. It’s more heat than light, as might be expected. Its founders say that changes are underway to add more structure. For starters, there’s a Top 50 List. (A few days ago I think this was a Top 25 list.)

Structure is vital, because you cannot build a brand out of pet peeves. Pet peeves are local and personal; brands are strategic and global. The task within Adobe is to sift and winnow these customer voices to glean strategic truths. (Ideally, there would be more brand, fewer features.)

The brand question: what is holding our customers back?

Where might Adobe start in making brand sense out of the Dear Adobe comments? The first question every brand should ask is, “What is holding our customers back?” It’s the brand’s job to advance customers to where they’re going. This is often beyond what products alone can provide. When customers feel unduly burdened by certain products, it’s usually a sign that the brand (a collaboration of company and customers) is not keeping pace with product development.

A brand never wants to be caught between a user and his/her productivity. That can be a sign that disruption is near.

A positive response from Adobe

The founders of Dear Adobe received feedback from Adobe within 48 hours and consider Adobe’s response “very positive.” I would guess that most of the comments on Dear Adobe are not new to Adobe. The company has a long history of extensive usability and user workflow studies, and deep user groups. What may be new is the dynamic range of the comments and their raw intensity, in an aggregated format.

Some additional thoughts on the content and context of Dear Adobe can be found on John Nack’s Photoshop-related blog here. (John is a Photoshop product manager but his blog posts are his own—not official Adobe viewpoints.) Don’t miss the 100+ comments to his Dear Adobe post. Clearly, Dear Adobe has struck a chord.

Dear Adobe is not a suggestion box

It’s in Adobe’s interest not to treat Dear Adobe as a “suggestion box.” That would diminish its potential value. From a brand perspective, Dear Adobe is a collaborative innovation platform. It should be treated as such. Customers contribute more value when they’re treated as proactive brand partners instead of being treated as “purchasers” who may come up with “suggestions.”

The brand imperative

Dell has initiated a customer pipeline site of its own, which it structures and manages to optimize information flow: http://www.dellideastorm.com/. Eventually, Adobe may decide to opt for something similar if its current efforts (plus what it gains from Dear Adobe) don’t yield the results it needs. For Adobe, Dell and others, the brand imperative is to team with customers in new product and process innovations. They’ll be on the same page with customers because they’ll be writing it together.

Photo: midiman — Flickr
Hat Tip: Daring Fireball
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Strong brands lead the customer: Honda

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Honda (a very strong brand) provides an excellent example of one of my favorite brand maxims: Strong brands lead the customer; weak brands chase the dollar.

Honda’s brand leadership

Honda’s brand leadership is the subject of a recent New York Times article, Honda stays true to efficient driving.

During the glory days of big pickups and sport utility vehicles, one automaker steadfastly refused to join the party.

Despite the huge profits that its competitors were minting by making larger vehicles, Honda Motor never veered from its mission of building fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly cars like its Accord sedan.

“I remember being at the Tokyo Motor Show in the mid-1990s and talking about the environment,” said Ben Knight, head of engineering at Honda’s North American division. “The reaction was there’s no return on that.”

But in today’s fuel-conscious automotive market, Honda is reaping the rewards for its commitment.

No major automaker in America is doing better than Honda, whose sales are up 3 percent for the first seven months of this year in a market that has fallen 11 percent. …

Strong brands have a vision of how the world is evolving, and what customers need (and will need) to keep pace. And strong brands lead by example.

Behind every brand is a philosophy of value

We can also observe that behind every brand is a philosophy of value. This may be implicit, or highly articulated, or simply latent, in need of elucidation. But it’s there.

“Honda is a philosophy-driven company,” said Tetsuo Iwamura, president of Honda North America. “Even when the large S.U.V.’s and trucks were big sellers, they did not fit with our philosophy.”

At its heart, a brand philosophy is a customer philosophy. The brand is the enabler.

The value of brand leadership

Brand leadership is the ability of a brand to lead customers to a qualitatively better life. It means that a brand aims to do what’s right for customers. Over time, brand leadership builds brand trust—a critical foundation for market leadership.

Brand leadership and brand vision

A key element of brand leadership is brand vision: the ability to see your company’s future through your customer’s eyes. This sets in motion a long-term strategy for the brand—case in point: Honda.

Brand leadership and brand identity

A brand that leads builds its identity through its actions, as Honda has done, and is doing. The result is an enduring identity that can itself become a customer platform for wider social and environmental initiatives. When brand context becomes social context, the identity has arrived.

Photo: E — Flickr
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Google’s education brand gathers steam

Monday, August 25th, 2008

If you want to change the game in a market, one of the best ways is to use your brand to change the customer. Your brand can raise the customer to a whole new level, far above the status quo, and far beyond the reach of competing technologies or practices.

Take a look at what’s happening this summer at the Google Teacher Academy.

Going to school will mean “going to Google”

Google is on its way to becoming a dominant brand of education. As we’ve said previously, in the near future a student may “attend” Harvard or Yale or Michigan State, but that student will likely spend most of their time “in” various Google applications.

Going to school will mean “going to Google.”

When you are the “enabler,” your brand has arrived

Another way of looking at Google’s strategy is to consider how Google’s sets of online applications are becoming a standard “enabler” of learning. Being an “enabler” is the highest form of brand. It means that the value that you deliver is precisely what your customers need to get ahead.

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Potential brand interfaces for the future

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Brands are interfaces to new ways of being and doing, and brand builders always keep an eye out for new advances in interface technology.

Here are 10 futuristic user interfaces for your consideration. These are for the emerging age of brands where brands will be personal, portable and persistent. Of course, they’re not specifically intended for brands. It’s up to brand builders to seize their potential.

Brand interfaces that intensify user participation

For my money, I always look for interfaces that deepen and intensify user participation, where a (creative) brand can be an enabler of new forms of experience, expression and insight.

The above image is from the future of internet search series at petitinvention, a good source of visionary interfaces.

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