The digital world and the ‘internet of things’ have transformed how we experience the promises that brands make.
They have also transformed our ability to shape and co-create those experiences and to tell millions of other people about our experiences, good or bad. But brand owners have had to face transformative challenges before. In the early 20th century, transformations occurred in the mass production, storage and transportation of goods and, later, in mass media, especially radio and television.
Such transforming factors have, though, never changed the fundamentals of brand building: gain continuous insight into what your customers want, know how the purpose of your brand helps them, be clear about your promises and deliver them brilliantly. Brand owners as diverse as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Guinness, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Disney, Ritz-Carlton, BMW and IBM have prospered over time because they have understood those simple fundamentals.
They have also understood that the trust that the brand earns endures, while what the brand actually sells can change dramatically. IBM does not sell computers any more but its brand purpose is still driven by the same insight that Thomas R Watson had in 1915 – that ‘information technologies would benefit mankind’. Today, IBM speaks publicly through its advertising of a purpose to create a ‘smarter planet’. The best brands have adapted to the changing needs of society, not just to the individual needs of consumers in that society. In fact, they have anticipated those needs and develop their advanced planning and research and development process to provide the goods and services that will be needed in the future.
How do you keep innovating your brand experience to stay ahead? Here are seven things you can do:
1. Start with your vision or purpose and work back rather than starting from industry practice and working forwards. This helps you to challenge many of the beliefs and conventions that underpin your market.
2. Stand for something and be brave enough to stand up for it. That way, you’ll stand out.
3. Dramatize your customer experience. Dramatically over-index the key touchpoints where you want to really bring your brand promise to life. Forget timid tinkering. Make it memorable.
4. Make customers part of your brand. Use customer co-creation and social media tools to listen and engage. Marketing is no longer something you do to customers. Make them part of it. Make employees part of your brand.
5. Create social networks internally so that your employees can be part of your R&D effort. They are closer to your customers and therefore often better informed about the opportunities to innovate.
6. Look beyond your industry. Study comparators rather than competitors. Brands can often learn more from brands outside their sectors than within.
7. Continuously communicate results to embed the measures, and hard wire this as the way you do business.
Watch out for…
There is a natural reaction to take it easy once the implementation phase has been completed. But customers are changing so fast, you can’t just stand still. So change your mindset now from managing the experience to innovating the experience. Take a look at how other brands are leading the way.
Excerpted in part from: On Purpose: Delivering A Branded Customer Experience People Love by Shaun Smith & Andy Milligan, in partnership with Kogan Page publishing.
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