**People with great ideas (and average ones, too) are in love with the ideas themselves. Because we’re human, we become irrationally seduced by the potential of our own solutions.** This infatuation blinds us to what matters most, to the thing that gives an idea the best chance to fly. Being in love with the idea is what made the Segway falter. It’s also what made the BlackBerry fall into the abyss and made Kodak flounder after decades of domination.
Of course you’ve got to believe in the product, service, or solution you’re creating. **But what you need more than a love of your product is love for your customers**. You have to care about them to want to make something for them. And you have to understand them to care about them.
Understanding of the customer is why Apple’s packaging feels like a gift. It’s the reason Instagram became unstoppable and how Lululemon amassed a cult following. When you innovate and build your business from a place of empathy and a desire to create difference for your customers, those values bubble up into everything you do.
What do you think?
In 2009, RIM was the fastest-growing company in the world. Today its share of the smartphone market is just 2% and the BlackBerry is facing obsolescence. The company (renamed as BlackBerry Ltd. in 2013) had identified, occupied and dominated a product niche by developing a phone that could email. It was perfectly positioned to stay top of mind for years to come.
I think where they came unstuck was, in believing that their job as innovators **was to change how people felt about their product, instead of wondering how smartphones might shape culture beyond giving people the ability to check email on the go**. In the end, BlackBerry didn’t lose out because of Apple and Google; they lost out by failing to understand how their brand would enable connection going forward.
The trouble with positioning is that it doesn’t take into account that business is symbiotic, that the relationship between brand and customer really is interdependent. That’s because positioning is less about considering what people value and more about telling people what to believe. It’s not enough to be first to market or top of mind. **The brands that we care about don’t just make innovative products; they shape our culture and make us feel like better versions of ourselves. They take into account what we believe, how we act and who we might want to become.** Which is very different from riding the wave of first-mover advantage.
Brands big and small connect people through a culture that’s bigger than themselves—through provenance, adventure, sustainability, entrepreneurship, self-expression, conscious consumption, sisterhood and real food, to name a few movements.
Tell me, what beliefs are you connecting your customers to?
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