For years, brands have had it beaten over their heads that ‘The Customer’s in charge now’ and that they need to ‘Give up control and get the hell out of the way!’
Horrible advice, at best. Customers don’t want to take complete control from brands, they want to love brands that they see themselves in. We gravitate to brands that are smart enough to understand us, and what we want.
We want companies to make it easier for us to engage in the activities we are already doing. We want companies to understand where we are headed, and to clear a path to make it easier for us to arrive at our destination. And we’ll pay good money to the companies that can do this.
Apple understood this with iTunes. They took the concept of Napster (music located in a central place that was accessible to others) and greatly improved on the stability of the service, and we were willing to pay for it as a result. The popularity of Napster (In its original form circa 2000) proved that we wanted the ability to log into a service and download songs. But anyone that used Napster in those early days knows that the quality of the songs was often horrible, and you were at the mercy of whoever was online when you were as to what songs you could get.
Apple understood that we would pay 99 cents a song for a stable download, and a high-quality song. Plus, they also removed the guilt we may have had over downloading music without paying for it.
They took an activity we were already engaging in, and cleared a path for us to more effectively and efficiently get there, and we are quite willing to pay them for offering this service.
There’s a world of difference between trying to push someone in a direction versus clearing the path they are already headed down. The smart brands understand this, and are winning as a result.