I had a very interesting conversation the other day with a very smart entrepreneur in Boulder. (Not sure if he’d want me to use his name. So I won’t!) We were talking about businesses and how “they are what they are”, for lack of a better way to say it. Meaning Google is a search/ad company. Facebook is a social company and Apple is an consumer electronics company. That’s most likely not the way those businesses see themselves, but as a consumer, that’s how most see them. When I made this point he went on to say that some companies had gone on to redefine themselves. Big companies like Microsoft with the Xbox and Apple with electronics.
Um. I just don’t agree. How many Xbox users do you think know that Xbox is made by Microsoft. How many people think of a computer as consumer electronics. In consumer’s minds, Apple didn’t stray far from what they were good at to begin with: hardware.
Consumers tend to pour concrete around companies the same way that stakeholders pour concrete around deadlines, once they’ve been muttered by some poor project manager. Once a company has defined itself as something – their brand message – and hopefully it has stuck, people just don’t change their minds about what a business is/does. There are many easy examples lately as Google and Apple try to be more social.
And, as we all know by now, brands are not owned by businesses. They’re owned by the consumer. They always have been it’s just that now, people have potentially thousands of peers around the water cooler. This is why the quality of product or service is so much more important these days. Businesses don’t get a chance to over-hype a substandard product and get away with it any longer. Social media gave ownership of the brand to the consumer and the consumer poors the concrete.