Use Customer Experience to Build Brands
Ipod. Red Bull. Zara. Starbucks.
Mr. Marco De Veglia
Partner, Trout & Partners
G-CEM International Partner (Italy)
This article is exclusively written for G-CEM.
Try to say that (in your own language if this helps). What is the first association you do?
Advertising, right? A big, impactful, creative advertising campaign on mass media. Commercials, print ads, billboard. The Big Bang. This is how marketing people are taught to think.
Now, tell me do you remember a Microsoft advertising campaign? Probably not. Ok, try this one: an Ipod advertising campaign. No? Ok, maybe hi-tech isn't a good example. Let's try other markets. Starbucks advertising campaigns, anyone? No? A Red Bull campaign? A Zara campaign? Oh, dear. Nothing. Nothing comes to mind.
And the reason is simple. There hasn't been any. Or, in some cases, there has been some advertising support, but well after the launch and establishment of those brands.
How come that the No.2 brand in the world (Microsoft), the No.1 electronic device in the world (Ipod), the No.1 coffee shop chain in the world (Starbucks, it invented the category), the No.1 energy drink in the world (Red Bull, it invented the category) and the No.1 fashion chain for growth rate in the world (Zara) didn't use advertising for their brands?
Because today advertising isn't that effective in launching a brand.
In that phase you have to launch your brand with Customer Experience Management.
The Ipod? The Ipod is a sleek, wonderfully designed piece of hardware. Moreover it's made by a cool company, with a cool CEO. And it's moderately expensive. And it has white earbuds (before it, they were black or other dull colors). All these factors create a customer experience that says "I am really cool and that is the music player for me"
Red Bull? Small can. Red bulls on the can. Mysterious ingredients and effects. A rather medicinal sweet taste. All these factors create a customer experience that says "Mmm" this drink is tough, just like me".
Zara? Designer-like stores. Designer-like assortment. Designer-like shop assistants. Designer-like shoppers. Designer-like customers. All this make a customer experience that says "I am so smart to buy this that is really designer-like - someone would say copycats - except for the price".
And Starbucks? Italian sounding names for the most absurd coffee and stuff combinations on Earth (ok I am of Italian origin so I know how it is the real thing). Very expensive cups of coffee.
Comfortable seating and tables. Wireless connections for the new professionals who do business there. All this makes a customer experience that says "I am clearly better than some because I can afford to pay this sum for a coffee and actually understand all the differences of java and - if the case - I work here with my laptop and am part of the information age".
I think you got the picture. It can be a service or a product but customer experience works the same by putting a series of factors in synergy to effectively communicate your brand positioning and promise.
The big paradox and why it's changing your job, marketer
With roughly 90,000 commercials (or other media equivalent messages) reaching consumers in one year (that's about 1 advertising message every 3 minutes, every day) the mind of consumers has learned to be very selective. (These data are for the US, but even if your country has one half of the American advertising load it's still well over 100 advertising messages per day).
Minds cannot analyze and elaborate all this information. So, people simply decide to filter and focus on the few things they know and trust: word of mouth and their own experience.
Thirty years ago - when most of today's marketing techniques have been invented, by the way - it was hip to buy the new thing you have seen advertised and surprise friends. Today it's hip to buy the thing you don't see advertised and surprise friends.
Hence, the big paradox of today: in the over-advertised and over-communicated society, people look for less communication and more personal experience of things to buy.
Yes, today people want to objectively experience your product and objectively decide if it maintains its promise and it's worth its price.
Oh, dear! What can marketers do about that?
A new Customer Experience driven branding plan
We don't see things as they are; we see things as we are.
- The Talmud
Luckily for marketers, this is an illusion. Consumers are influenced. Opinions can be influenced. Word of mouth can be influenced. Customer Experience can be influenced.
There is no such a thing as objective experience, at least not in marketing land. Experience is driven by marketing programs like PR, word-of-mouth (that can be orchestrated), advertising.
Customer Experience is the final act of the modern marketing communication plan. You have to prepare your customer for the experience.
So here is the new branding plan for the new over-communicated society:
1. Set the stage with PR. It's not about you saying "Our product gives you this experience", it's about someone else in the media saying "Their product gives you this experience"
2. Make sure you set up Customer Experience. That means studying service, packaging, price, distribution, post sale and all the other components that the customer will actually... can "experience"
3. Let customers have their experience freely. That means customers are allowed to find problems in your offer. This is good if you acknowledge it, fix it and communicate you have fixed it. Let the customer help you make the offer they want
4. Use advertising to "confirm" the customer experience. When the story of your (managed) customer experience is well out, you can confirm it with advertising. Even customers will like to be confirmed they have done a good choice
If advertising for brand positioning is like a very ineffective infantry charge of the World War I, Customer Experience Management is like putting a friendly government in charge of the country you want to conquer. You overtake your customer's mind defences by involving them in the process.
Be an astute marketer. Your customers are looking forward to use their experience to choose. Set up everything and let them sell themselves your product.
|About the Author|
Marco De Veglia has worked in marketing communications since 1990. He has been Strategiic Planner Director and subsequently Head of Interactive Strategy for the D'Arcy Group and Head of CRM for Leo Burnett. From 1998 he is partner in Trout & Partners, the international network of brand strategy consultants. In over 10 years he has built brand strategies for several kind of business: products, services, Fortune 500 and startups, becoming the most recognized brand positioning expert in Italy. He is one of the historical members of G-CEM International Partners where he helps companies to build or "keep on route" brand with the new customer experience strategies.
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