Marketers have historically been responsible for bringing the brand to the customer. In 2020, it’s time for us to bring the customer to the brand. The customer experience revolution is upon us, and marketing leaders are uniquely positioned to re-evaluate our skillsets, update our strategies, and lead the charge.
Great customer experiences need to have an “In and Out” approach—internal and external. They can’t start in the supermarket aisle. In order to be authentic, they need to start internally. What does the organization/brand believe in, what does it stand for, and why? The next step is moving externally to understand the customer—not just summarizing the demographics, but actually walking in their shoes and understanding how to make their lives a little more exceptional. Finally, brands need to take those In and Out learnings and use them to build branded experiences that aren’t just enjoyable, but also differentiated.
Look Internally for Purpose
In 2020, it is more important than ever for a brand to stand for something. The desire for purpose-driven brands didn’t happen in a vacuum. The public’s eroding faith in institutions creates an unusual opportunity for brands to present consumers with an optimistic vision for the future, by communicating commitment to purpose-driven action. But watch out! Informed, tech-savvy consumers can sniff out the difference between false virtue-signaling and an authentic, action-oriented belief system any day. Simply posting a black square on an Instagram feed does not qualify as purpose or action.
With one foot in consumer culture and an eye for social insights, we marketers are uniquely able to help brands identify and crystalize their purpose. Marketers can steward stakeholder interviews, lead brainstorming sessions, and build archetypes. Most importantly, we can ensure that whatever voice the brand finds, it is going to be effectively communicated and acted upon.
Do Your Audience Homework
It’s time to get obsessed with our customers. It’s time to become fans of our fans.
When it comes to developing consumer-obsessed experiences, research is our best friend. But in today’s age of hyper-personalization and big data, the question isn’t if a brand will do the research, it’s how a brand will do research differently.
Different brands can begin with the same data. But it is those that go the extra mile to uncover insights that will achieve impact. Marketers have long led focus groups and selected polling samples, but now we must pivot to tactics that see consumers in the context of their communities and culture. And it’s essential to then make sure these findings and consumer insights are shared internally.
Invest in Creative, and Do it Consistently
Does developing a branded iPhone app really do anything to elevate a brand’s customer experience? Unless that app is differentiated, the answer is no.
While technology is essential to make any company competitive, companies have been increasingly sacrificing creativity for technology in recent yearly budgets. This tradeoff often leaves CMOs playing catch-up, as opposed to producing differentiated ideas. Data shows that creativity is worth the investment and helps strengthen brands. Forrester asserts in their 2020 ‘Brand+CX = Marketing’s New Imperative’ report that “for the average CMO’s budget allocations, a moderate shift toward creative over six years produces an 18% higher overall ROI using the same budget.”
Instead of rushing to recreate existing customer experiences, brands need to reference their internal belief systems and audience insights to think disruptively. Consistency is key. As the practitioners who possess the knowledge base for the brand’s purpose and the consumer’s desires and expectations , we marketing leaders must see ourselves as guardians of consistent brand experiences, ensuring that all that disruptive, creative thinking can coalesce in a solid brand vision.