I finally got to meet Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak. He was one of the speakers at a Ford Motor Company meet-up for social media thought-leaders. Steve did not disappoint. He immediately went into explaining those early days working with Steve Jobs that resulted in Apple.
The big surprise was in how Wozniak described their design focus during these formative days. Their imagination was not captured by the technology but rather by the social impacts this technology could achieve. Steve literally cusped his head with both hands in an act of wonder as he recounted their vision that two guys in a garage could enhance human communications and decision making.
Wozniak described what became Apple’s business strategy as winning “social” revenues. Their vision was to win customers by making life easier, more productive and fun. They would grow revenues providing social solutions we now take for granted like email, spreadsheets and word processing. This remains a radical strategy in an industry still describing their products in terms of screen size or touch technology.
2013: We are all weird
Seth Godin’s presentation connected the dots for me to Wozniak’s concept of “social” revenues. Seth presented two bell curves. The first was a bell curve with the symmetrical shape where a majority is located in the “normal” or middle section of the curve. Before the Internet and social media that is where most Americans wanted to be. Consumer consensus was achieved by major corporations’ mass advertising their branded products broadcasted through CBS, NBC and ABC.
Seth’s second bell curve was almost flat where the majority of people were outside the “norm” or in Seth’s words were “weird.” That is our digital and connected world. Our postings, our friends, our likes now define us as Tea Party or Green or Fashionista. We are individuals linked together by LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. We all post and therefore we are viewed. Collectively we seek in me, on me and around me solutions with the key word being me. For big corporations investing in mass marketing that makes the majority of us weird.
The business ramifications are disruptive. Mass advertising is now something we stream pass. Brands are dead. Trained by mass marketers like Walmart we view most products as a commodity. No longer do we see quality differences between branded hamburgers, soap or gasoline and their private-label competitors. Today’s dollar menu promotion or coupon offering is the only differentiation for these commodity products and suppliers.
Trust is the brand
Trust has filled the branding void in our commodity economy. Social media is the trust channel. As much as companies try to create certifications documenting trust we trust them less. Authenticity created through transparency is the certification process in social media. We find authenticity, transparency and trust through our collective experiences. We trust each other in deciding what to buy and who to buy from.
Ford’s EVP Jim Farley made the business case for trust. Trust creates “pricing power.” With trust a company or product is no longer a commodity that can only compete on price. A business focused on winning the customer’s trust is the path to realizing Wozniak’s vision for growing social revenues.
13 keys to winning customers in 2013
Ford is doing a lot of things right when it comes to winning customers. They are realizing double digit sales growth. By May 2013 they sold more Ford hybrid and electric cars than in all of 2012. The Ford Focus is the world’s top selling vehicle nameplate.
Every business person should compare their best practices with the following 13 trends that represent Ford’s most current market research and analysis. They are core to winning customers in 2013.
- Trust is the new black. The reshaping of brand equity created through the consumer search for trustworthy businesses.
- Consumer republic. How consumers are now voting at the cash register.
- Get real. The marketing connection created through candor and authenticity.
- Pioneering pathways: Work transformation built upon risking, failing, learning and entrepreneurship.
- The micro skills DIY. How individuals are monetizing their skills creating a currency of craft.
- Help me. Help myself. How real-time technologies are reshaping products and consumer experiences with products.
- The economics of local pride. Consumers linking what they buy to their local economy/community.
- Rise of the intima-city. American urban cities growing faster than the suburbs.
- Defying distraction. The consumer pursuit for meaningful engagement.
- The minimial maximist. Consumers and companies redefining “success” to align value and values.
- Return to your senses. People are increasingly re-balancing their lives between digital connectivity and real world engagement.
- Forever young. The rise of intergenerational interests and pursuits.
- Post-green. The bottom-up actions by consumers and business that is making green mainstream.
About the author
Bill Roth is an economist, Founder of Earth 2017 and is recognized as a top five sustainability blogger. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017