Every great brand has an obsessive core. The person who camps out for hours before the next iPhone is released. The Harley Davidson fanatic who sports the logo tattoo and is dressed head to toe in Harley gear. The frequent shopper who willingly pays full price and is an incredible source of great word of mouth. The raving fan. You get the picture.
The great thing about most obsessive core customers is that they are highly profitable and help acquire new customers at a low-cost. If you lack such a passionate group, chances are you are making average products for average people. Good luck with that.
Yet brands blessed with an obsessive core–or even a bit less enthusiastic but significant group of “heavy-users”–are often led astray.
Many luxury brands–including my former employer Neiman Marcus–tilted too heavily towards their obsessive core shopper and neglected other important, profitable customer segments. When the recession hit, the day of reckoning was harsh indeed.
Most high-flying e-commerce companies gain their initial traction with an obsessive core. By focusing on an underserved niche that loves to shop online, these brands can often quickly and cost effectively acquire thousands of profitable customers. Alas, as we’re starting to see with many companies that have attracted millions in venture capital funding, growing profitably beyond that initial core is not so easy.
Unfortunately, the factors that create the obsessive core, the raving fan, the incredibly passionate brand advocate, often cannot be scaled.
Unfortunately, in our quest to exploit the seductive virtues of the obsessive core, we can lose sight of the big picture.
The key, I think, is to not let ourselves become obsessed with this group, but to place them in the appropriate context.