Thursday, February 2, 2012

Think outside yourself

AAPL Orchard makes the point that "not everyone copies Apple" by highlighting the keywords in two recent statements by the CEO's of Apple and Sony: Tim Cook's statement featured the words "best," "world," "delight," and "proud," while Sony's emphasized "growth," "businesses," "accelerate," and "domains."

In part this is a communications problem: Cook has the advantage of working for a company that -- largely due to the influence of Steve Jobs -- has its messaging down cold. Whatever Apple employees may say internally, when they address the public they know the script: "We're about making the best products in the world and delighting our customers." Kazuo Hirai doesn't have that advantage at Sony.

Partly, though, this is a challenging problem for any business: how to get outside your own head to the extent that you can see beyond your own wants and needs and understand things from the viewpoint of your customers. The need is clear, because your customers don't care what you want. They don't care about what your shareholders require, they don't care about your profit margins, they don't care about your market share, unless that share gets so low that it starts to affect their experience of your product. The businesses that succeed magnificently, the ones that inspire brand loyalty, are the ones that understand what their customers (current and future) want and need, and put those wants and needs at the top of their priority list.

Apple gets it. Sony does not get it, and never has -- a company that puts its customers first would never force as many proprietary, second-rate technologies on those customers as Sony has. Kaz Hirai might prove to be a brilliant CEO, and he's certainly done well with the PlayStation, but it's a troubling sign that one of his very first public statements as CEO was to define what Sony wants and Sony needs, and expect anyone other than the company's most ardent fanboys to care.