Consumers Have Power. Companies Have Genius


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What does this rising consumer control bode for the future of companies? Do we become reactionary? Do we simply give consumers what they’re asking for? Do we follow their drive to lower margins? We all love deals after all. And what of breakthrough innovations? When consumers aren’t even aware of what’s possible, how can we expect them to ask for it? And after all, wasn’t it consumer research that favored “new” Coke? In this scenario, it would seem company fortunes hang from the consumer-puppeteer’s dowel.

Companies as Puppets?

Reduced to such an analogy, companies become spineless without heart or intent. In such a world companies lose their creative drive. Who’d want to work there? I wouldn’t sign up for that. But if we enlarge our view a bit, we see that powerful consumer strings aren’t the only element in a consumer-company-market system. The dynamic is circular.

Paradox of Power

So here’s where we achieve some equilibrium: consumers have buying power but companies have genius. Call it a paradox of power. Consumers create context and give companies purpose, but companies form things into reality and manifest the extraordinary. Now there’s a place I’d want to work. With our market coexistence pact, consumers have problems and companies have solutions. Customer service leaders do this every day.

The Vision Mission Thing

In previous posts we’ve underscored the importance of Vision and Mission. This is where company genius must reside. The vision and mission must be seeded in a spirit of understanding, service and purpose. When clearly articulated, passionately and brilliantly pursued it positively impacts all: employees, partners, vendors, customers, the culture at-large. To succeed companies must put customers first, understand their needs and values and consistently serve their interests. Companies that apply creativity and innovation to this understanding deliver new value. And with new value comes new profits. Consumers pay for genius.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. David, great post.

    While it’s true that rising consumer power is a slap in the face to companies used to throwing their weight around, I think it’s a mistake for companies to become “puppets” as you put it.

    Sure companies need to listen, react, respond as part of a real relationship. But just ceding control and doing whatever customers want (or thinks they want) is not the answer either.

    Apple is a classic example of a company that’s always pushing the frontier to offer new products that solve problems the consumer didn’t know they had. I’m pretty sure nobody sent in a suggestion to build the iPhone, for example.

    I believe the best companies will strike a balance between being reactive and proactive. In the end, both the consumer and the company need to win for the relationship to endure.

  2. I’m confused by the “wanted to work there” and “provider of genius I’d purchase” points. Companies can shape mass opinion as much as they learn from it.

    I like Bostonian shoes and drive a Volkswagen, like the products but wouldn’t want to work in their factories. It wasn’t anything about the “power” I had to choose, their products solve a problem.

    Apple is a good example, however, more accurately they create problems with media by shaping mass opinion. Problems they have already solved, then give solutions they already have (while working on the next cycle.)

    Wouldn’t want to work at Apple either …

    Warm regards,


  3. Thanks Bob for the read/reply. I agree on Apple’s “genius.” But to this point of consumer power/company genius, it will be interesting to see what consumers will do with this seemingly larger ipod touch? What problem does ipad solve verses ipod, iphone, imac, ibook?

  4. Justin: thanks for your reply. I agree with you, above all, products succeed when they solve a consumer problem. Companies must be guided with this clarity of purpose. When they apply focused creativity, innovation or “genius,” they build consumer/brand equity. Bostonian has done that well. Volkswagen has a long history of getting it right as well.


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