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May 28, 2006


Pascal Perin

I am looking for an article of Alan Mitchell : "Embrace new consumer ecosystems and evolve", Marketing Week, January 2001.Di you know how to find/get it?
Stratégic studies
France Télécom

Morriss Partee

Hi again Alan,

I'm sorry; I didn't realize your distinction between buyer-centric and customer-centric. That is indeed an important distinction! I had never thought clearly about this difference before (but felt it intuitively). I look forward to checking out your book!

So let me address it this way as an observer/consultant in the credit union world: There are indeed a multitude of credit unions that are buyer centric. Not only will many CUs honestly tell their member if there is a better deal for them to be had elsewhere, they will also look out for the best interest of the buyer (and themselves) when buying a car. For example, if a member comes to the credit union for a car loan, the credit union will check the price against the published book value, and make sure that the member is not getting ripped off. This is not only the right thing to do for the member, it also protects the credit union in case the member defaults on the loan and the institution subsequently has to try to sell it.

In any case, yes, credit unions are definitely buyer-centric. It's a "we is us" kind of thing. A credit union's board is made up of volunteers of the credit union's membership.

Morriss Partee

HI Alan!

I am so sorry I didn't see your question earlier! Here's my response to "Do you see CUs as being a form of buyer-centric business model?"

The short answer is "YES!". Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives. When I read Patricia Seybold's Customers.com book in 2001, I realized that credit unions, by definition, are extremely "customer centric". There are many for-profit businesses that WISH they could be as customer-centric as credit unions. Ironically, most credit unions themselves don't understand their own true nature, and seem hell-bent on becoming just like banks, only with better pricing. I've just done some editing on the credit union entry and related articles on wikipedia. Feel free to contact me for more info/discussion on this particular topic! I could go on and on... maybe it's better that I don't.


I totally agree with you that the idea of creating a Lovemark is seductive to brand owners, but I doubt whether it is a valid ambition.

Brand owners love the idea of their brands being loved just as any narcissist adores the idea of being adored. That's what this is all about in my view: brand narcissism.

The thing about narcissists is that while they care deeply about what other people think of them, they actually don't care two hoots about these other people in their own right. This is why they never achieve the adoration they so desperately seek.

This whole Lovemarks thing is about a quest to use individuals' emotions to the glory of the brand - an artificial construct designed to facilitate commercial exchange. It is not about respecting individuals' emotions. It's ethically dubious. It's manipulative.

Because of that it destroys trust. Which is why it is not even a valid ambition for any brand owner.

Blue Sky

However - the ambition of creating a Lovemark remains a valid one (as well as very seductive one for a brand owner). As is the fact that there must always be an element within a great brand that does transcend the functional or rational.

Perhaps the issue with Lovemarks is that the route to it - as put forward by Roberts - is one that is routed in marketing practices that we now see as outdated and insufficiently socialised.

I think the challenge is to socialise Lovemarks - socialise Kevin Roberts even! He seems to be someone who is ripe for conversion from the Dark Side. How would we do this - set up a socialisekev tag in del.icio.us?


Hi Morriss,
I agree with you. For most of us, it's about much more than money. As human beings we are naturally emotional in all the things we do, even shopping.
I also think your point about Apple hits the nail on the head. Your emotional attachment to Apple is not 'driven' by some clever emotional communication. It is driven by the pleasure of great design.
In other words, 'emotional benefits' can (and do) come from any aspect of the product or service - including price: If I think the price is unfair, then I feel cross and ripped off. If I think it's a bargain, then I feel pleased.
So the advertising industry's invention of a division of labour between 'product = rational' and 'communication = emotional' is unfounded (and self-serving).
Also, one of the most important emotions in commercial exchange is trust.
One of the emotional-strong points of buyer- and person-centric business models is their ability to offer 'on my side' trust to their users - something that most traditional brands can't. This is also one of the strong points of CUs, I would have thought.
Tell me, do you see CUs as being a form of buyer-centric business model?

Morriss Partee

I agree completely. Point number one is absurd. It is based on an extremely narrow definition of brand. My brand consulting work is mostly with credit unions in the U.S.... Our goal is to strengthen these brands... and a price premium is never a part of the equation. We would love to help them make their brands so strong that they could charge a premium if they desired, but CUs fundamentally return their cost savings back to their members.

However, our financially-conscious clients often completely ignore the emotional side of the equation. I feel that they need to address both the emotional AND the rational.

My favorite case-in-point is my relationship with Apple. I have been a Mac user since 1984. It's interesting to read what so-called brand experts claim are the reasons why Apple is successful....I can't speak for everyone, but I love Apple because their products are GREAT.... extremely easy-to-use, and well-built. This is where my emotional connection to Apple comes from... because I connect with their story AND they have great products. It's not purely an emotional connection because they are cool. We need BOTH the rational and the emotional.... it's not an either/or proposition.

I totally agree with Alan's critique of Roberts' same-old, same-old command and control attitude... it's about connecting to people on an equal footing, talking with them authentically, not about treating people as an unwashed mass to be manipulated. In Robert's world, it's all about the money. And for some people, that is also what it's all about. It's just that I think for most of us, it's about much more than money.

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