Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What customers are really valuable?

At the request of Dave P, I’m trying to include internal links and use more pictures when I post. Rather than make a quip about how he needs pictures to learn or how the sheer text in this blog is actually good for our search engine results, I decided to go with it. Whatever, I like pictures too and as we remember, there was a blog post I wrote a while back that was entirely made of pictures.

I’d like to explore the real meaning of customer value. Yesterday I had a heated argument with a group about the valuation of intangible qualities like spinoff learnings, thinking efficiencies, or creativity. I really maintain that these can’t be quantified. They have value, perhaps it’s shown in the higher price that can be charged for services where intangible value is present, but it cannot necessarily be measured.

For example, how do you measure the value of 'Wal-Mart Chicken', shown above. Seriously this is Dali-inspired!

How do you measure the relevance of a campaign or a message that really inspires the audience? How do you measure the value of consumer engagement, when that engagement is among consumers themselves, and not between consumers and the brand? A good analogy here might be Apple – how can one possibly accurately value the positive discussions and culture that consumers create on their own surrounding the Apple brand?

In my tense group meeting, I made the mistake of rhetorically asking, “how do you bottle starlight?” – I realize how dumb that now sounds, but that’s the intangibility of value that I’m trying to get at.

Your customers are the people who buy your products, but they’re not necessarily the ones to consume the product, speak about it, or brand it themselves. This expanded description includes ‘engagers’ – the people who form engagements with the brand
but are not necessarily the buyers.

Let's take rabbits as an example:

You have your average, normal rabbits.

Then you have your exceptional rabbits who operate outside of conventional reality.

If the large rabbits don't buy anything, but they draw attention to the species and generally act as a focal point for marketers, then don't they have some form of intangible value?

So who's driving the people who drive sales? Who is catalyzing forms of interest in a brand that the brand itself could never achieve? It's consumers that are producing real value these days, not marketers, it's just tricky to determine who exactly creates the most value - that is if you can't wrap your mindgrapes around the idea that not all value can be measured.

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