Today, I spoke to David L. Rogers, who is the Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School, and author of The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age. In this interview, David talks about how social networks change our relationship with brands, his five strategies that businesses can use to create value, and more.

How do social networks change our relationships with brands?

From our smartphones to our social networks — we are all connected now by tools that allow us to create and interact with each other on a mass scale. This is changing our relationships not just with each other, but with organizations of all kinds. In the past, businesses relied on a broadcast model to influence customers: mass production, and mass marketing, projected at masses of aggregate consumers. To succeed today, businesses need a different model – a model of customer networks, which are engaged, interacting, and able to participate with, or challenge, your organization.

What are your five strategies that any business can use to create new value?

The focus of the book is primarily on customer behaviors, rather than technology. By understanding the core behaviors that drive customer networks, I identify five strategies that any business can use to create new value:

  • ACCESS: be faster, be easier, be everywhere, be always on
  • ENGAGE: become a source of valued content
  • CUSTOMIZE: make your offering adaptable to your customer’s needs
  • CONNECT: become a part of your customers’ conversations
  • COLLABORATE: involve your customers at every stage of your enterprise

In the book, I illustrate these strategies with more than 100 cases of successful digital strategies from every type and size of business — from B2B, consumer, and even nonprofit organizations.

Do you believe in the process of co-creation with customers? What are the pros and cons to this strategy?

Each of the book’s five strategies can be applied to a variety of business objectives, from driving sales, to enhancing innovation, reducing costs, gaining customer insight, or building breakthrough products and services. A COLLABORATE strategy focused on innovation is what is often called “co-creation.” I have found successful examples of this and other COLLABORATE strategies, from the 2008 Obama campaign to Apple’s App Store, using diverse platforms, from online competitions, to open APIs, to web platforms like eBay. The key to any COLLABORATE strategy is to pick the right platform and to be very clear about the motivations of your customer network – Why would they participate? What’s in it for them? What value do they gain?

What really exists “on the network”? What should we know about the network?

Customers’ lives are increasingly lived digitally. So businesses would be wise not to think of “digital” as a function to stick in a particular department of their organization. In our daily lives, the distinction between “online” vs. “offline” is increasingly blurred as we integrate mobile devices into our conferences, meetings, dinner conversations, and TV watching. My son doesn’t understand the distinction between a computer and the Internet, because he never experienced the former without the latter. I suspect his children will not fully grasp our distinction between “online” and “offline.”

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by all the organizations I had met, taught, or advised that were creating really innovative new strategies, marketing, and business models for customer networks. These weren’t just web companies like Google or Facebook, but car companies, hospitals, retail stores, fashion brands, B2B services, and education start-ups. Writing the book offered an exciting opportunity to research hundreds of such cases and think deeply about the underlying patterns, and to offer some practical advice for anyone grappling with business strategy in our digital age.


David L. Rogers is a widely-recognized leader on brands and digital strategy, known for his unique insights into customer networks. He is the author of “The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age” published in 2011 by Yale University Press. He is the co-author, with Bernd Schmitt, of “There’s No Business That’s Not Show Business: Marketing in an Experience Culture” and co-editor of “The Handbook on Brand and Experience Management.” David tweets at and blogs at He has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Marketplace, and Reuters. David teaches on brands, marketing, and digital strategy at Columbia Business School, where he is the Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership, the leading global forum on branding issues for researchers and executives.