Microsoft Paint would have died a slow, quiet death if it hadn’t been for this week’s swell of voices on social media advocating for its revival. On Wednesday, Microsoft issued a press release announcing that it wouldn’t discontinue the Paint app in the wake of users’ “outpouring of support and nostalgia” for the product. Microsoft’s statement marks a triumphant ending all around: Customers don’t have to give up a feature they feel emotionally attached to, and Microsoft casts itself as a brand that listens to — and caters to — its customers’ demands.
We’ve seen stories like this before. From Bank of America dropping a debit card fee to magazines curbing their use of Photoshop, instances of empowered customers joining hands to stand for something they desire are recurring. Today, increasingly empowered customers with infinite social media connections voice their demands with new scale and fervor. Forrester Data’s Consumer Technographics® reveals that nearly two-thirds of Progressive Pioneers, the most evolved of Forrester’s Empowered Customer segments, harness social media to show brands how they really feel:
Brands that respond to empowered customers’ demands on social media, as Microsoft did, reveal to consumers that they are empathetic and customer-led. This quality is particularly important to Progressive Pioneers, who seek out brands that make them feel most valued.
Episodes of consumer uprising will grow in scale and frequency, and brands will have to be deliberate about how they respond. Brands that are explicitly sensitive and empathetic to customer demands will win new levels of customer trust and preference, while those that mismanage customer emotions will be ignored at best and vilified at worst. As my colleague Dipanjan Chatterjee says in his recent report, “The paradigm of carefully controlled top-down messaging from ‘brand control’ has been obliterated by the explosion of power at the fingertips of consumers. Brand perception is now framed not by brand messaging, but by the voices of millions of people who are living the brand.”