By Andy Braunston, VP Content & Strategy
When we think of brand building, we spend a lot of time and effort getting the marketing components right – defining the brand purpose, the essence, the reason to exist, the target market, the what, when and why. Then we go about creating meaningful communications to support these pillars. But often overlooked is the actual consumer experience, and ability for the brand to leverage these moments to truly deliver upon its promises. Unlocking brand potential requires diligence, though not necessarily dollars, ensuring that we understand how people (humans) engage with brands, platforms and technology, and that we deliver these basics, brilliantly.
Brands should be built from the inside out, not the other way around. Before you spend a dollar on advertising, make sure that you proactively understand what happens when someone responds to your messaging. Will they visit a website, on a mobile or a desktop? How quickly does the site load? Do I have the relevant content to answer their potential questions? If I can’t, do I have always-on customer service or a chat bot to help? Granted, there are many different types of journeys, and some take longer than others to convert, but by thoughtfully considering every critical step along the pathway to action, you can remove barriers to decision making, and create opportunities for brand growth.
Most of us agree that your brand is only as good as your last interaction, but how often is this ignored in favour of investing in shinier gimmicks that are easier to execute. Focus on service and connect the threads of your communications down to the finest detail. The little things matter. If your banner ad isn’t relevant, there is no community management on your social channels, or your supply is out of stock but still promoting a sale, you risk delivering a negative experience and a missed opportunity. Whether a consumer is actively in the market for a brand like yours, or passively going about their daily life, how they encounter your brand and the ecosystem around it will matter in forming rooted positive or negative biases when it comes time to buy or act.
We know that consumer experience is not a linear process, and it is also not as dependent upon the paid advertising and promotional elements as we might think. Yes, media and advertising can spark, (or more likely reinforce) interest and get volumes of people to raise their heads, but what then? How we move consumers closer to action is testament to the right types of content, service and transaction experiences. These may seem functional, but they are also very much fueled with emotion. We have seen evidence of this in recent months as brands quickly pivot to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic conditions. As budgets are challenged, and purchase habits shift, the brands with solid organic, ecommerce and owned-property strategies in place have been less affected, continuing with a business as new-normal attitude, engaging more, but with less.
Loyalty isn’t dead, but it is more of a spectrum than we, as marketers, would like to admit. Most brands or services operate in categories where a consumer may consider several brands at any point. Understanding this repertoire or preference set of choice, versus focusing on absolute loyalty, paired with vigorous advocacy, can liberate how to think about growth audiences and the type of content or experience to leverage. Your most valuable consumer may be the one who doesn’t visit your website, but can easily find you on Amazon, and chooses you one more time a week/month than the competition.
Finish the job internally when it comes to setting realistic goals and expectations for your experiences. Different content and contact points around the journey require unique measurement that may not always immediately connect back to sales or transactions, but regardless, we should never dead-end a potential consumer. Yes, we now have the ability to execute a full funnel awareness to conversion strategy within a single digital session, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily always should, or that is a consumer’s preference. Brands must ensure that they have the tools and structure in place to be able to help manage each consumer through their own unique journey, by recognizing where they are and what will motivate them to continue unimpeded, and putting the consumer, not the brand at the center.
This article was also featured in the BrandZ Top 40 Most Valuable Canadian Brands 2020 report