Brand Management is dead?

I disagree with this post by Seth Godin:

Everything the organization does is to feed and grow and satisfy the tribe. […] Instead of looking for customers for your products, you seek out products (and services) for the tribe. Jerry Garcia understood this. Do you?

My main problem with this is it ignores the power that instant interconnectedness give us.  I”m perfectly willing to pull out a credit card for a product designed in France, made in Mongolia, and which I’ve never physically seen before as long as it fills a need and enough anonymous recommenders make me feel good about the purchase.  So while the anonymous recommenders may be the “tribe” in Godin’s parlance, it might also be correct to describe them as “brand evangelists” (Oh, I’ll always use!)

It sounds like what Seth wants is the perfect, Platonic ideal of a communitarian corporate womb, where comforting Steve Jobs types coddle him with products, ask his input, connect him with his tribe-mates, and NEVER EVER break the trust relationship.

Sorry people, it doesn’t exist.  Capitalism is tough, ruthless, scary, and unpredictable.  If not exactly subject to the Law of the Jungle, it’s pretty close.  Customers flee, corporations do stupid fucking things, governments intrude, and we are always on, all the time, to adjust to the new day ahead, where your tribe of yesterday may be dissolved before you take your first bite of your morning bagel.

(h/t Nathan Kaiser)

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2 Responses to “Brand Management is dead?”

  1. 1 seth godin January 31, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for risking

    missing from your analysis is the idea that feeding a customer is way cheaper than finding a new one.

    Jeff Bezos certainly understands that!

  2. 2 Anthony Stevens January 31, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Seth: you’re right that it’s cheaper to feed an existing customer, although we could argue about where those trends are going. The bigger problem with my post is that I was thinking in terms of being a careful consumer, not as a business owner or entrepreneur.

    I totally agree that as a businessperson, you should try your best to treat your customers “tribally” — and not just in a bullshit mission statement way, but ACTUALLY BELIEVE it, in all the ways that you mean. You’ll get tons of upside – repeat purchases, referrals, price premiums, good PR, viral exposure, etc.

    However, as a consumer, I would be foolish to think that the companies I deal with are going to hold up their end of the implied tribal contract. Some do, and they fill the pages of books like Purple Cow, Built to Last, and Reimagine! They’re the massive exceptions.

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