Customer-centric Brands

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John Hagel at

"In broad strokes, we are moving from product-centric brands to customer-centric brands. Product-centric brands represent promises about products (or retailers) – “buy this product from us because you can trust that it will be a quality product at good value.”

Customer-centric brands offer a radically different promise – “buy from us because we know and understand you as an individual customer and we can tailor an appropriate bundle of products and services to meet your individual needs better than anyone else.” In other words, customer-centric brands promise that, if you give them their attention, they will give you a better return on attention than anyone else.

Relatively few customer-centric brands exist today. In some cases, you might think of your personal physician, lawyer or accountant. In other cases, you might think of a local, independent retailer like a specialty music store or wine store that has taken the time to get to know you as an individual customer and recommends products to you each time you come into the store.

In the journey from product-centric brands to customer-centric brands, many consumer companies have locked in on a transitional concept – segment-specific brands." (


John Hagel at

"First, such brands ultimately require product agnosticism. If a company is really going to gain the trust of customers, it must be prepared to offer the products and services of other companies, even of competitors. This will usually involve a fundamental re-definition of the business. In the terms introduced in my article in Harvard Business Review on “Unbundling the Corporation”, it requires a choice to become a customer relationship business rather than a product innovation and commercialization business. Most companies today are a hybrid of these two businesses (and a third, infrastructure management businesses). This is the underlying reason there is so much tension when customer segment managers are added to organizations with more traditional product brand managers.

The move to customer-centric businesses will force executives to reassess what business they are really in.

The second test of a customer-centric brand is whether the company in fact focuses on building profiles of, and measuring performance with, individual customers. Nike and Disney have great insight into the motivations and behavior of broad customer segments, but they are hard-pressed to tell you much about individual customers of their products. Without profiles of individual customers, it is very hard to deliver on the promise of configuring tailored bundles of products and services to meet their individual needs." (

More Information

See also John Hagel on Collaboration Marketing