Emotional Bonding

Some questions you should ask yourself: are you emotionally bonded to a brand? If you are, is that clouding your judgment? And what was it that triggered that bond in the first place? Is that trigger still present, or has it disappeared completely?

A lot of Nikon's DSLR-to-mirrorless transition problems are rooted in those questions. Back shortly after Sony took over the Konica/Minolta camera teams but pointed them more and more towards mirrorless, Sony (Minolta users) faced similar emotional bond issues. Even non-engineering changes can trigger bonding angst: many Olympus users are currently fretting over the fact that it's now an independent company called OM Digital Solutions, and that a different financial discipline will likely ensue within the company (and that might mean something different in terms of products at some point).

From a corporate view, when your customer base is bonded to you emotionally any transition becomes a big problem to navigate. Auto makers are going to face this in the gas-to-electric transition (yes, I know some of you would prefer gas-to-hydrogen or some other choice, but everything currently points to electric winning because it's an easier, mechanically simpler solution). 

Are you making things worse for the company you're bonded with than it has to be? 

What I see from users—including myself—is that we want a "perfect" transition, which generally never happens. Apple has managed multiple processor transitions pretty darned well, but Macintosh users still complain about things that fall off the table. 

Humans are fairly tribal. We want to belong to something, and then we don't ever want that something to change. We lock in intransigent positions as we do so, and that doesn't help us navigate the changing world around us. But leaders of the tribes (camera maker management in this instance) also get intransigent and expect the tribe members to just follow them without questioning anything. Nikon's management isolation from customers is not a good thing in this respect, which is one reason why I've been pretty vocal about Nikon needing to get closer to their loyal customer base.

At Connectix I managed emotional bonding with our customers to a high degree. We established a pattern of announcing and having immediately available something that hadn't been done before at every Macworld Expo (which happened twice a year during that time period). RAM Doubler, Speed Doubler, Virtual PC, QuickCam, and more. The customers we had bonded with literally ran to our booth the moment each Macworld Expo opened its doors, just to see what the new thing was, and our in-booth sales were the envy of all the other Mac developers as a result.

But I also used that customer rush for something else: we prepared our staff so that they peppered our faithful with questions and tried to understand needs and wants that weren't being satisfied (which produced product ideas we mulled over and often turned into reality). It was all hands on deck at the shows, including everyone in our engineering and design teams. Part of that was that we needed everyone there to staff the demand, but we also wanted everyone in the company to be hearing directly what the customers were saying and interacting with them.

Last time I was at a Nikon-sponsored event, top management was there. But I didn't see them interacting with any of the attendees present. And, of course, no engineers or designers were there at all. (At the Olympics and other big events, the NPS loaner station does tend to have engineers in attendance, and it's one of the very few ways I've seen direct customer/engineer interactions at Nikon.)

But my questions up front were about you, not the companies or products you're bonded to. From time to time you need to re-examine those emotional bonds and see if they're real and worth keeping. Beginning a decade ago I described a percentage of you that did just that and started sampling or switching. Some of those discovered the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome, and a handful returned to their original product bond. 

So where are you? How good is that bond you have and what would completely break it and force you to explore other brands and products? 


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