an architect on brand value

Discover magazine has published an interview with William McDonough, the “King of Green Architecture.”  In it, McDonough explains his provocative and profound view of the brand:customer relationship.

“Q:  What lessons did you learn when you were creating sustainable product designs for Nike?”

A: “I think seeing your customer as part of your family is really important, seeing that you’re in a relationship with your customer when you sell them a product. And it’s not an abstract thing; there is a physical transaction that’s occurring that has an emotional connection.

So, for example, say I sold you a pair of shoes, and now you’re finished with them and they’re these sweaty old crummy things. What are you supposed to do with them? It would be easy to throw them in the wastebasket, just throw them out. But if you’re part of the family, you could say, “Well, maybe I’m going to get some money back from these shoes. I could get a discount on my next pair if I bring them back.” And you could ask, “Why would a company give a discount in exchange for old shoes that they then have to grind up or recycle and take care of? It’s really just a cost.” But the fact of the matter is, companies like Nike could really be seen as companies that provide shoe services. In fact, they’re servicing your needs for foot coverings. They can also be seen as design and marketing companies. They’re not really manufacturers. They job out manufacturing. So, if 75 percent of a company’s budget is marketing and you develop a way, through the actual materials of the shoe or the product itself, to have the customer come back to you for their next product, then it makes recycling look like a real small part of your marketing budget. And all of a sudden the product becomes part of your marketing for the next generation. That’s the real value in this. It’s not going to be the molecules and the value of those molecules per se. It’s the relationship between the customer and the supplier that is the valuable thing.” (emphasis mine)

Wow, huh?!  Leave it to an architect to articulate how to create real brand value.

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