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Brand Strategy

Leading Brands Extend Beyond Customer Networks


Brands must extend customer networks

This really thoughtful post by Associate Professor Rob Cross of the University of Virginia on building valuable networks caught my eye today. Specifically, I was drawn to the final paragraph:

If we are circulating too much with people we have known forever or people who themselves are all spending time in the same meetings and interactions, then we are not getting the performance impact…The magic lies in the new ideas and perspectives that can come from connections into different networks.

The same point applies in many ways to the networks that brands build with their customers. If they are just selling the same goods, or even new goods, to the same community, then there is no contagion – no reason for the brand to spread interest and influence beyond those who already know it.

A circle can quickly become a wall.

The opportunity for brands is to introduce new ideas into their networks and marketing that ‘stretch’ those who know the brand well, but also serve to introduce and absorb new followers beyond the brand’s established catchments. In other words, brands should be looking to continually expand their outreach, while remaining true to a core and unmoving purpose. The last point of familiarity should be the launch point for new ventures and approaches. And just as importantly, brands should make sure they follow the relationship and affinity trails, not just the structure trails.

In other words, expanding brands should be looking to franchise the emotional connections. People might buy more than coffee from you for example, if the emotion that enticed them to buy coffee from you in the first place translates clearly and simply into other areas. That way the brand maintains integrity, intensity and renewal. There should be, in Rob Cross’s words, “connections into different networks”.

Leading brands don’t ask “What will this make us?” They ask these five questions:

1. What could we introduce?
2. Who would welcome that?
3. Why would they come with us?
4. Where could this take us? and
5. Who could we meet then?”

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