Does Your Brand Determine Your Customers?

This article on LivingSocial’s customer base got me thinking about how positioning your brand when you start a company can affect how you end up growing and the user types you attract.

While I do work at LivingSocial and I do like to slog Groupon, I think this article points out a curious result of branding between the two companies. Groupon is all about the deal. The best cost is the lowest cost. Limited time availability! Share it with your friends to make sure it “tips”! LivingSocial has positioned itself more as a higher-end brand, with mixing in its escapes packages, etc. Just look at the design of the sites as well. Groupon is all green and color heavy. LivingSocial is image heavy. And I think that the brand the companies have put forth have attracted a certain demographic:

Nielsen’s survey data, gathered from 200,000 Internet users, shows that people who use LivingSocial are 49 percent more likely than the average American online to make at least $150,000 a year, compared to 30 percent of Groupon users. LivingSocial customers are also younger (51 percent of them are between 35 and 64, while 57 percent of Groupon’s customers fall in that range), and they’re better educated (46 percent of its users had attended or graduated college or received other degrees, compared with Groupon at 39 percent).

While LivingSocial is number 2 in the daily deals space, I think that they’re set up for a much better run. They can do higher end deals, and therefore gross more revenue. There’s a lot of co-brands to a higher end demographic that simply don’t work on a carnival barker approach.

It reminds me of Apple’s positioning after they started pushing the iPod and other consumer electronics. When you mix this with LivingSocial’s fanatical customer support, especially evident on Twitter, it starts to point to a more successful run.

WWF: A New File Format

WWF File Format Icon

The World Wildlife Fund has started a new campaign to save files as WWF, a file format that is effectively a PDF with printing disabled. While their intent is noble and there are serious issues with deforestation and water pollution from paper mills, is this really an effective solution, or is this just another process that will make people feel good while actually accomplishing nothing?

There are valid cases for printing PDF files:

  1. When sending a PDF instead of mailing a document, there is no wasted paper on packaging, there is no expended fuel in delivery1, and the group sending the document does not need to maintain large quantities of the file already printed (as most print orders are done in multiples of 500 or 1000)
  2. The file will need to be used where there is not readily available power and/or it would be difficult to use
  3. Someone is creating documentation for working offline.

Now, if I send you the document as a PDF, you have the choice to print or not to print. Granted, some people print regardless, but disallowing a user to print? For me this begs the question, why don’t we just encourage people to not print out PDFs?

There has to be some monetary cost to printing at a company. Can we offer incentives to users who print less instead of creating a file format that requires more software to be installed and users to be educated, etc.?

Is this the right solution to the problem of executives gone wild with the print menu item?

1 Okay, yes, there is some micro-expenditure of fuel to generate the electrons required to send the PDF and operate the computer, but nowhere near the amount used in traditional mail.