The cost for not being or not staying loyal

Why do we even about our ? We can always find new ones or simply extend to new markets. In that case, we will even make more money than before!” said Jimmy excited with his new theory.

“You will make more money in the long or short term?” asked Sarah with a warm smile on her face.


“Not really, you are most likely to lose more money in the long term, but in the end, yes — you will make more money in the short term. So for you to better understand my point, I have a story” said Sarah and poured some tea into both cups. She sipped and continued.

It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy — Charlie Munger

How Porsche Lost Its Identity

“A couple of decades ago, Porsche was one of the most wanted and dreamt sports car in the US. You could not pass nearby one and not notice that it was a Porsche. And most of us couldn’t afford one. So all you could do is catch one with your eyes when the traffic light was red.

One day, the management team of Porsche gathered and were discussing how Americans loved driving SUVs. The management saw an opportunity for Porsche, and they decided to extend their product range and make their own branded SUVs. They thought it would be a brilliant idea. “Can you imagine a Porsche SUV? I would be amazing” one of them said. And the new addition to their line will bring them more money and brand loyalty. Well, at least, that’s what they thought about it. Meanwhile, I thought it was a bad idea.

At that time, I was living in the Palo Alto right near where Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and other CEO’s lived. So one day I was walking with my dog and passed near a neighbour who was washing and cleaning his Porsche outside. I also noticed he had another one in the garage. You could say he was a diehard fan of the company. And I asked him what he thought about the fact that Porsche is going to make SUV’s now. What do you think he replied?”

“He was excited I suppose. He now can buy a third Porsche, but now it will be an SUV. Actually, that was a smart move from their side. Nobody thought — at that time — about making an SUV with such a great brand name behind” said Jimmy.

“Those are good thoughts. But who are they in the long term then? Are they a sports company or a money grabbing machine?” asked Sarah.

“Hmm…” Jimmy stopped for a couple of second to analyse what he just heard and continued “So what did the man tell you?”

“He spat on the street and said that if Porsche is going to make SUVs, he’s going to sell his cars and buy an Audi” and both Sarah and Jimmy started laughing.

Then after a brief moment, she continued “That’s why it’s important to know who are you, what is your vision, who is your customer, and not betray yourself and them. And now, many years later why would you buy a Porsche SUV when there is a Mercedes? Or a BMW? Or a Ford? Or a Range Rover Sport? Or an Audi? Or a Bentley even? Or from any other car company on the that makes SUVs?”

“Ah! Now I get it. That’s what you meant yesterday when you told me about having a product vision.

“Yes, it is important to have one Jimmy. But we don’t learn our lessons and we betray ourselves for short term gains.”

It’s important to remember that a challenge for any authentic brand as it grows — and I observed this with Timberland — is when fans of the brand zealously adopt the products. If a brand moves away from its core essence and starts to pander to consumers with trendy fashion stuff, those fans will quickly abandon the brand — Stanley Hainsworth, Former VP of Creative at Nike & Starbucks

Everything comes at a cost

“The man washing his car was a core customer and a true believer in the company. He loved and admired it so much that he owned two Porches. Meanwhile, the company did not care about him. They wanted more money, new markets and bigger market cap.

And from one side you can understand their thinking and actions. They had investors on their head who required growth. But on the other side, at what cost did they grow the company? For a short-term gain, they paid the long-term price — customer’s loyalty. That’s why it’s important to stay loyal to whom you serve because if you do, they will bring you more money than your short-term gains” said Sarah.

“It easier said than done,” replied Jimmy with a cynical voice.

“Loyalty comes at a significant price from both sides. Your customers give you their support, money, energy and attention. You, as a company, must exceed their expectations. You help them fulfil needs they did not know they had. You help your customers to become better at something with your products. You help them fill certain parts of their lives with meaning.

And both sides have to work for that relationship. If one side does not want to work then why the other party should even care about you in the first place?”

“You got me there.”

Know your story

“So what shall we do then? Let’s say we will not be greedy and want to stay loyal to our core customers” said Jimmy.

“Every brand has a story, why not stay loyal to it? Whether it’s the founder’s or the brand’s reasons for being. And many amazing brands never get a chance to tell their story. For example, Microsoft is one of them. It’s one of those conglomerates that shoots in all directions without knowing whom it aims for. Who are they? A software company? Hardware company? For example, if there is a better alternative to one of Microsoft’s laptops, would you trade it?

“Every month companies come to the market with something slimmer, better looking and with a better performance. And all run Windows. Why wouldn’t I?”

“That’s what I thought. That’s happening because there’s nothing that can hold you back. Why would you stay loyal to Microsoft? Bill Gate’s story is a powerful one, but somehow it does not resonate with Microsoft at all. They failed at connecting it with their customers and their mission. The rest of the story is known to everyone.”

She sipped from her cup of tea, paused for a second to gather her and thoughts and continued “And to lose touch with whom you are is a normal process. Why? Because companies grow, expand, gain more and more competitors and their story or core mission gets dirty with the noise that’s on the market. Now you may ask yourself, what does a story about Porsche and Microsoft have to do with the responsibility of being a designer? Well…” she paused “Everything.”

Designers are the bridge between the customer and the brand. We must know what is the vision of the company we work for and who is our core customer. We must figure out how to give them stuff they actually need without deviating from the main story. Designers keep the balance between customers and brands.

To sum up my thoughts

We, designers, can make a difference if we know how to ask the right questions and not shoot in all directions. And not follow orders blindly, whether it’s from our customers, competitors, the market, or somebody who is in charge of a project.

How can we make sure that we don’t deviate? It’s all about reconnecting with your true spirit “Oh yes, we are a coffee company” and stay loyal to that. We can have an impact if we know what consequences small actions will have.

And this happens not only in the offline world but in the tech world too. We forget why we create products in the first place. Consumers don’t need another “x-product”. If you go to ProductHunt, one of many graveyards for thousands of products, you will see that there is no deficit in products or “innovative” ideas. Yet, there is a deficit in authenticity, staying true to your loyal customers, whom you serve, what they need and not want.

Being a designer is also about being a good citizen. What does it mean? It means caring about what’s going on and taking a role. Designers have the unique opportunity to have a different role than an average person who doesn’t have access to production and manufacturing, the same way a designer does. So there is more opportunity and more responsibility. The reality of being in the world and caring about the world is ultimately in our own self-interest — Milton Glaser

Before you go an design that new UI, add that new feature or work on that new product release, ask yourself: “Do our core customers really need that? It will bring money in the short term, but what happens in the long run? Will they still trust and love us?” said Sarah

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