How great brands change the game

How do great brands change the game? One thing is certain: they don’t start with the game. They understand, perhaps intuitively, that the current game has reached its limits. The rules constrain the players—both the customer, and the brand. Stick to those rules and you’ll be bound to the same few moves, on the same hard bench, in the same small park, for a long time to come.

To change the game, change the customer

Great brands change the game by changing the customer. They redefine the customer and the customer’s world, elevating the customer to a completely new context. In this new context the old game suddenly becomes irrelevant, along with all the companies, products and brands wedded to it. It isn’t the new brand that spells the difference as much as it’s the new customer that the brand creates. He or she is delighted to leave the old game behind.

If you want to really change the game, you can liberate the customer.

Great brands create a new form of customer

The genius in building a great brand is to look beyond a given category, product lines and competing brands. Instead, you want to focus on where customers are headed, and how you can lead them there. Great brands leave their competitors in the dust by creating a new form of customer—one who can’t imagine what the old game was for. This means a new customer with a new identity, a new world view, new horizons, new tools and new expectations, with new freedoms to match.

It starts with brand vision

Creating a new form of customer begins with brand vision, the ability to see the world through customer eyes. In reality, the brand vision that counts is not about the brand, or the company. It’s about the customer. More explicitly, it’s about the newly empowered customers the brand can create, and who will carry the brand forward. They’ll make demands that other brands can’t meet. The more freedoms these new customers have, the larger and the more vibrant the game space becomes. If the freedoms come from you, chances are the game space will be yours.

A new customer platform

To change the customer, a brand also needs a new customer platform, the structure of resources, tools, and capabilities that the customer relies on to succeed. Microsoft created a new customer platform around the digital desktop in the 1980’s and 1990’s, flattening hierarchies and totally transforming the way business works. Apple and Google are now offering new customer platforms with tantalizing freedoms that make the Microsoft desktop as attractive as a game cast in stone.

The “brand game” is not about brands

Yes, the “brand game” is not about brand symbols, icons and flashy campaigns. It’s about using brand vision, imagination and innovation to create the customers who will take your business to the next level. The stronger your customers, the stronger your brand—and the more moves open to you.

Think of it as company potential X customer potential. That makes the playing field a supremely large space, indeed.