A couple of weeks ago I brought The Missus’ laptop to the Apple store for a tune-up and there it was: The Watch.
The Apple Watch is uselessly awesome. I know this. I’d like to think that I’m not so gullible as to buy the hype. But damn that’s a cool toy (not as cool as the Nintendo 3DS, incidentally, which is maximum rad and also includes a Donkey Kong game and a Clone Wars game). The Watch tells the time. Maybe even better than my Seiko. But that’s about it. Can’t get it too wet. Would worry about accidentally smacking it on something. I’d always know that I’m out of shape and don’t sleep enough. The controls look ungodly confusing (turn the dial upward for X, turn it downward for Y, press and hold for 5 seconds for Z). Right now I’m pretty sure I only use .000001% of my iPhone’s capabilities. Damn you Apple. You put the hook in and now I want the uselessly awesome.
It’s a really stupid story but I learned something from The Watch: Great companies think about creating rather than responding to their markets. They think about co-creation. They ask: Who do we want our customers to become?
I listen to plenty of business owners and teams asking themselves “Who do we want to become?” The answers usually include descriptions like “leader” “innovator” “industry leading” and “preferred.” Can’t disagree with any of these aspirations. But the other half of the identity (read: strategy) question is equally important. A company’s identity is co-created by its customers. A business defines itself as one thing but their customer may have an entirely different experience. This dissonance impedes loyalty. In the best cases the two aspirations harmonize and something magical happens. The ordinary becomes the extra-ordinary.
The warp and weft create something strong, lasting, resilient, and comfortable.
Harley-Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles. They sell freedom. They want their customers to become free. Apple doesn’t sell watches. They sell cool and smart. They want their customers to feel cool and to feel smart (or individual or tribe-esque). In the ever-famous ‘Year of the Farmer’ advertisement Dodge didn’t sell a truck. Dodge sold family, faith, hard-work, community. They wanted their customers to feel those morals and ethics. The best companies elevate the retail strategy to a transcendent place that most people either understand or aspire toward. There’s a transformative experience that happens when a company asks a simple question: Who do we want our customers to become?
I asked this question to a client recently. Answers flew. “Trust!” “Confidence!” “Comfortable!” “Secure!” “Safe!” Five minutes in to the conversation and the white board was full (a sure sign of progress…erm). The value is not in the answer but in the follow-up inquiry: “How does your company ensure that every point of company-to-consumer intersection accomplishes this becoming?”
Every company has two ways to impact their market. The first is internal-to-external. Define the company and then launch it in to the market. The second is external-to-internal. Integrate the consumer transformation in to the strategy. I’d like to think that somewhere in Cupertino a team of designers and engineers said to themselves, “We want Matt to look at our watches, feel a twang of desire, and see himself as the next-generation of mega-mobile-beat-you-to-it-integrated-life-on-the-go buyers…” If they did then it worked. Motivating people to buy your products starts with motivating them to see themselves as better because of your products.
Who do you want your customers to become?