In this new world, experience can be a brand’s most powerful asset
As brands recalibrate their creative messaging for a post-pandemic landscape, Accenture Interactive Managing Director and Lead for Global Creative Agencies, Jeannine Falcone, believes that the route to success can be mapped out through experiences.
It’s true what they say, there’s no substitute for experience.
As we emerge into a new world in 2021, it’s imperative that we get to grips with the vast changes in the way we communicate. These shifts have accelerated over the past 12 months and the result is a totally new rulebook for modern communication. Quite simply, the way we experience brands has been flipped on its head. The marketers who will find themselves in a winning position this time next year will be those who take the time to understand this new landscape, and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Quite simply, the way we experience brands has been flipped on its head.
Experience is at the centre of brand communications. In the past, brands have had to make do with talking to (or more often at) consumers. But now they’re increasingly in a two-way conversation. The best thing a brand can do right now is to recognise that and build it into their approach to communications.
Above: Brands are in a two-way conversation now, and can't shut out the feedback from their customers.
A new experience
At the centre of this new paradigm is an essential truth: a company’s most valuable asset is not its built-up brand equity. Instead, it’s the relationship with its consumers and the knowledge of what appeals to them. This is undoubtedly a symptom of the digital revolution, with conversations between brands and consumers now easily facilitated on digital channels, and those channels having more engaged users than ever before. As the pandemic has accelerated the digital revolution, it follows that it will have encouraged its knock-on effects. As The Economist has put it, “too many grannies have discovered the joys of online shopping” for the world to snap back now.
The conversation around experience should be happening across any given business, not just the creative department.
What this means is that the digital experience provided by a brand has never been more valuable. It’s essential that a consumer’s path to purchase on digital channels is smooth, enjoyable, and memorable for the right reasons. Data can help map this out. The two questions marketers should be asking ahead of the upcoming year are, firstly, “can we make sense of the data we have built up to truly empathise with customers?”, and secondly “can we translate that empathy into experiences that are personal, valuable, authentic, and which set us apart?”.
Answers to those questions will crystallise more quickly for organisations that deconstruct the creative process and make it more holistic, as opposed to the well-trodden path of brief-to-concept-to-creative to production. The conversation around experience should be happening across any given business, not just the creative department. Talking about creativity and storytelling within the context of experience optimisation and strategy should be a daily occurrence.
Above: With consumers old and young now shopping online a brand's digital experience is paramount.
The perfect differentiators
It’s that second question which will be truly vital. Setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack has always been essential to a successful marketing strategy (not to mention it being the reason why creativity is so valuable). But what does that look like in a world where more consumers than ever before are recognising digital as their primary path to purchase? Any changes a brand undertakes in its approach to communications need to be authentic and, by extension, credible to their audience. In short, it’s a case of distinct evolution rather than revolution.
For example, a company which already differentiates itself from its competitors through its level of quality customer care needs to see that addressed at every touchpoint, not just in its advertising. Does its online chat support and the ease of use of its digital products match up? Can a company hear a customer’s frustration with a returns policy, or the inability to find a product on its site, and actively respond? Can it accurately capture customer feedback and evolve its product and innovation strategy in response? The answer to these questions will be key in determining how well that company adapts to the new era.
A company which already differentiates itself from its competitors through its level of quality customer care needs to see that addressed at every touchpoint, not just in its advertising.
Organisations with the most compelling answers to those questions will be those who have prioritised integration. We’ve all become more adept at collaborating virtually over lockdown but the most successful companies will be integrating that collaboration across their organisation, bringing in teams from brand to technology to commerce, and beyond. Joined-up thinking is the key to a winning strategy.
Above: With the online relationship between customer and brand ever-more important, so too is the experience of using a brand's digital platforms.
The link to brand purpose
In order to ensure a brand gets its experience and consumer relationships right, it should look to its overriding brand purpose. Brand purpose can serve as an organisational compass, facilitating alignment between day-to-day business conversations and a shared vision for customer experience across lines of business, products and channels.
Forward-thinking marketers will be looking at how to integrate their purpose into their brand experiences, essentially showing consumers what they believe in.
We already know that purpose is going to be essential in the immediate future. With eight in 10 consumers saying purpose is at least as important to them as customer experience, in the world of digitally-led communications, that isn’t a bonus – it’s essential. But forward-thinking marketers will be looking at how to integrate their purpose into their brand experiences, essentially showing consumers what they believe in – and not just telling them. There’s never been a better time to streamline your marketing, helping to ensure brand and purpose are interwoven across channels and regions.
Because that, at the end of the day, is the key to success in the immediate future. In the world of digital communication and commerce, customer relationships are essential. And the best way to build those relationships is through experiences. Get that right, and this time next year you’ll be looking back on a strong start to 2021.