Invest in customers, not just your brand

Invest in customers, not just your brand

It's not just about advertising and promoting harder – it's about going one better, Michael Schrage writes in the HBR.

To appreciate how broken most contemporary models of advertising and promotion have become, listen to Jeff Bezos complain about how Amazon's core values are misunderstood. "One of the early examples...was customer reviews," he recalls. "One [critic] wrote to me and said, 'You don't understand your business. You make money when you sell things. Why do you allow these negative customer reviews?' And when I read that letter, I thought, we don't make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions."

Exactly. The overwhelming majority of advertising/promotion/marketing/branding investments and expenditures most organizations make today are more about "selling things" than "helping customers." What do you think customers find more appealing? Amazon invests accordingly. Customers aren't idiots; they know when they're being sold. They're both smart and wired enough to seek out — and appreciate — quality assistance.

Consider Amazon's recommendation engines. They're "membrains" interfacing advice and influence: advisory in recommending reasonable and relevant options, influential by basing those options on the choices of people with comparable interests. Bezos' recommenders are predicated — and dedicated — to the proposition that providing meaningful contexts for customers makes purchasing decisions easier, safer and better.

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