We and They

In March, Fred Wilson (a must read) posted an essay on companies that are either "we" or "they". You can find it here:  A VC: Apple Becomes a "They" Company.

The post created a lot of comments and trackbacks, and it just dawned on me what was missing for me.

I don’t think We and They are absolutes. For example, if there were just one Starbucks in the world, and it was just down the street from you, you’d likely feel differently about "your" Starbucks than you feel about the entire chain. Why? "Your" Starbucks would be identical, but your feelings would change.

Same thing happens when Apple starts litigating against websites or bullying people writing add-ons to iTunes. It doesn’t change your Mac, your user experience.

What changes is the story you tell yourself.

As everyone in the world becomes a marketing expert and a blogger, we’re spending a lot more time thinking about the brands we deal with, the purchases we make and the we and the they. I want to argue that there’s no such thing as we and they. What is really going on is that companies take actions that have nothing to do with the truth of your experience and everything to do with the way you feel about the experience. These actions (like Apple’s suit against thinksecret.com) are the hood ornament, not the car.

And more often than not, those actions are somewhat trivial and very inexpensive. Once companies (and non-profits, for that matter, like churches or government agencies) become more aware of how important these hood ornaments are, I’m betting they’ll get better at telling the story.