Successful Brands Focus on Users Not Buyers

According to an article from Harvard Business Review:

“What makes a brand successful in the digital age? A joint study by SAP, Siegel+Gale, and Shift Thinking suggests that digital brands don’t just do things differently; they also think differently. Where traditional brands focus on positioning their brands in the minds of their customers, digital brands focus on positioning their brands in the lives of their customers. Furthermore, they engage customers more as users than as buyers, shifting their investments from pre-purchase promotion and sales to post-purchase renewal and advocacy.”

The article also discusses the difference between legacy/traditional brands (customer-focused) and newcomer/digital branders (user-focused) and found a fundamental difference: legacy brands are brands that people “look up to” while digital brands “make people’s lives easier.” Examples included:

  •  Hilton/Marriott vs. Airbnb
  • Gillette vs. Dollar Shave Club
  • American Express/Visa vs. Venmo

Highly recommend reading the article as it goes on to examine the mindset shift that new, digital-savvy brands have been able to make in treating customers as users vs. buyers, and the success they’ve seen.

Why It’s Hot

At the highest level, looking at customers as continual users vs. one-time buyers is a core principle to be considering when designing the customer experience around your brand.

To be fair, there are certain industries that lend it self better to usage than others. For the pharmaceutical industry, this is a crucial mindset change that we need to help our clients understand if the industry is to evolve.

By thinking of physicians as people that use a specific drug to treat patients with a specific condition and patients that use the products to help treat illnesses, we can focus our efforts on optimization each instance of use around these treatments to be a positive one. This is crucial to the initial trial and ultimate habit formation that drives adoption and retention.