Chapter 4: Part 1 – User-Centric

“User-centric” is the soil of “The Right-Brained Organization”. Without “user-centric”, “The Right-Brained Organization” cannot take root and sprout. But soil is not only capable of cultivating one kind of plant. In fact, “user-centric” is not exclusive to “The Right-Brained Organization”, and I even suspect that it is most likely to have originated from “left-brained organizations”.

I don’t know who first came up with the concept of “user”. Yale University professor Edward Tufte once said: “There are only two industries that call their customers users: drug dealers and the software industry.” But at least, the software industry is a highly left-brained industry. And they clearly separate the concepts of “user” and “customer”. In our current concept, “users” are users, and those who pay are called “customers”. The two are often not the same person.

Therefore, please do not understand “user-centric” as the traditional enterprise often says “customer-centric”. The concepts of these two may not be exactly the same in some companies. Their “customers” are not “users”. Moreover, the essence of “customer-centric” is to think about how to sell things, while “user-centric” is to create value for users. At a deeper level, when more and more managers consciously or unconsciously begin to use “users” instead of “customers”, it actually reflects the transformation of enterprise management mode.

In a customer-centric enterprise, marketing is a very important job. If you have ever worked in such an enterprise, you may have heard a word: “positioning”. Positioning is one of the cornerstones of traditional marketing management theory. Advocates of positioning theory believe that the key to business success is to seize market position in users’ minds. Whoever is the market leader can become synonymous with this market. Successful positioning means that once customers think of a market or a product category, they will immediately think of your product brand.

Marketing expert Al Ries wrote in his book Positioning: “Positioning starts with products, which can be goods, services, companies, institutions or even people – perhaps yourself.” He believes: “The latest definition of positioning is: how to make you different in the minds of potential customers.” He emphasized that positioning “is to occupy a valuable position in the minds of potential customers.”

There are countless successful companies under the guidance of positioning theory, from Coca-Cola to Moutai, from Oracle to Baidu. Even giants like Procter & Gamble in the daily chemical industry set up independent brands for each product below. The purpose is to use the magic power of positioning theory. These companies from all walks of life have all reaped rich returns through this theory. However, in recent decades, more and more managers have begun to question positioning theory and many large companies’ practices have also begun to directly challenge classical positioning theory.

In 2007, Apple founder Steve Jobs announced that the company would change its name. The “Apple Computer Company”, which had been used for thirty years, would be changed to “Apple”. Jobs explained that the name Apple Computer Company made people mistakenly believe that Apple was just a computer manufacturer and seller. In fact, the company’s business has changed and will continue to change greatly.

At that time, their product naming was still basically similar to Procter & Gamble’s traditional model. Computers were called iMac, MP3 players were called iPods, office software was called iWorks, mobile phones were called iPhones and later developed tablet computers were also called iPads. But consumers have already realized that the letter “i” is often a naming feature of Apple products.

After Cook took over as CEO, more and more products were directly crowned with their own brand: Apple. Watches are directly called Apple Watch, TV boxes are called Apple TV, music services are called Apple Music, game services are called Apple Arcade and credit cards are called Apple Card…

If Procter & Gamble sets up a brand for each product correctly using positioning theory. Then there is no doubt that Apple’s approach is anti-traditional. But in fact this phenomenon of strengthening corporate brands and weakening product brands is not only found in Apple alone. And these companies’ product layouts often greatly exceed traditional industry concepts.

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