Bend It Like Bezos

In his terrific book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, writer Mark Schaefer points out something that might surprise you. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos believes that focusing on change can be less important than thinking about what isn’t changing.

Bezos points out that people will always want a low price. They’ll always prefer a wide selection. And they’ll always love fast delivery. By focusing on those three things that remain constant over time, Amazon has become an enormous success — and has changed retail forever.

And did you notice? All of those “constants” revolve around one thing: customer preferences. In other words, human beings. And while humans may change in the ways they interact with technology and so on, their core needs don’t really change that much. Focusing on those basic drives will always lead to better decisions.

Taking this to heart might lead to some really helpful insights — or at least help you question your assumptions about why customers do what they do. For example, it’s a widely held belief that millennials do not want to visit a bank branch. They’d rather do everything remotely using technology and not talk to a living banker.

But what if there’s another way to think about that? What if millennials happened to be the first big generation to start banking after banks began downsizing their staffs? So instead of the experience of previous generations, where many people in the bank might know you by name and know your family as well, they’re more likely to have encountered far fewer employees, higher turnover and a much less personal experience.

It’s widely held that millennials appreciate an experience, and embrace those choices that provide one: Starbucks and other small coffee joints, local shops and boutiques, restaurants that offer locally-grown or locally-made choices on their menus. And Disney World — because it’s the experience. 

So if a bank — or any business that wants millennial consumers — focused its time and energy on bringing back or invigorating that personal experience, they might find that conventional wisdom is wrong, and that millennials and others do want that human contact. Or they might not. But it’s sure worth asking the questions and questioning the assumptions.

The bottom line takes us back to Bezos. What is there about the way your customers think, feel and believe that hasn’t changed, and isn’t likely to change anytime soon? How would your marketing change if that became your focus?

It’s worth thinking about.