In this week’s blog in our Reimagining Insights series, Lou and I dive deeper into Experience Management Absolute #1: Narrow the “brand canyon,” focusing more on how customers and employees feel about themselves rather than just what they think about your brand.
Lou’s company, Experience Engineering, Inc., has been dedicated to helping clients cross the “brand canyon,” since its founding several decades ago, shifting their mindset from an Industrial Age paradigm for Experience Management to a more customer-driven approach.
Branding has historically focused on influencing how we feel about a company. In its origins, branding dates back to at least 2000 BC and was a primary way of marking ownership. Cattle were branded with symbols to signify ownership for goods and their origin. That didn’t change much for nearly two thousand years until the mid-1700’s and the rise of advertising agencies in England, when branding grew in importance with the rise of mass production of goods. This was followed nearly two centuries later at the start of the 20th century with The Thompson Red Book of Advertising and The Thompson Blue Book on Advertising, written by James Walter Thompson, founder of the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency. His writing led to the belief that brand building should focus on the specific attributes of a company’s brand image and managing how a company is perceived by its target customers, not just communicating about its products to drive purchase. This innovation spurred a lot of great thinking about how to build brand equity.
But things have changed in the post industrial era. Today, companies don’t own the brand any longer. They deliver experiences - and only a subset of the total set of experiences around the brand - and customers formulate the brand in their own minds and own the brand. The rise of social media and the Experience Economy have led to a significant shift in Experiential Value Creation and its relationship to Brand Reputation.
This is a significant shift that we are still coming to grips with and that is not yet fully understood, activated and dealt with in today’s new, post Industrial Age. The transformative nature of experiences is paramount, but all too often the focus for insights is still on what customers think about the brand. To unlock more valuable insights for your experience design efforts, you need to delve into how customers feel about themselves at key moments that matter along the customer journey. It is the emotions that customers feel about themselves that make an experience more memorable and one they want to share with others. Companies recognize the importance of emotion vs. just functional benefits from products and services, and are increasing their investment in enhanced digital and physical experiences to drive adoption, loyalty and advocacy, going beyond reducing pain points and cost-to-serve.
For example, insights about how your products make them feel confident and inspired at specific moments that matter, rather than that customers say your brand delivers quality products in general. It is these positive and negative emotions that ultimately shape attitudes and behaviors, leading to a cumulative impact on your brand health. This is an important distinction that is too often overlooked in the design of customer insights capabilities.You need both, to generate the most valuable insights to shape your CX strategy and prioritize where to invest, as well as to provide a more actionable way to assess the congruence of the actual CX with the brand strategy.
There are several implications of this Experience Management Absolute #1:
Your focus needs to explicitly address the emotions you want customers to feel. Do you have alignment about your CX vision? Does it address the emotions you want customers to feel about themselves, or is your vision focused on the words you want them to use to describe your brand?
Your CX listening posts need to support ongoing insights into these emotions. Do your relationship and transactional CX surveys generate these insights in a consistent way? Are you pursuing new AI-driven approaches to modernize your CX listening that tap into unstructured data and what customers are feeling along the journey, for example using platforms like Qualtrics XM Discover?
The ways you pursue experience design efforts along the customer journey need to focus on amplifying these emotions. Are you regularly incorporating your CX insights into continuous improvement efforts? Do you have sponsors of key moments that matter that are accountable for the CX with the right mindsets and skills in human centered design and data analytics?
Your approach to generating and acting on these insights will be most valuable if you integrate and coordinate your efforts across potentially siloed efforts along the customer journey. For BtoC brands, these insights can be used to drive more effective campaigns that integrate across shopper marketing, ecommerce, and customer service experiences. For BtoB brands, these insights can be used to better integrate across sales, marketing, and service experiences, including both digital and physical interactions.
The way you track brand health will need to evolve to address the prioritized set of emotions you are looking to amplify for your target customers. Using customer panels to track brand health can still be valuable for BtoC brands, but will likely be best combined with other approaches that mine unstructured data like ratings and reviews and other social media. For BtoB brands, mining social media will be less scalable, though you can explore ways to use messaging and conversational AI as part of your listening posts to provoke a larger volume of unstructured data that is also more actionable if shared during the journey rather than a survey done later.
Hopefully this blog has given you a spark or two of inspiration to explore how to better narrow the “brand canyon” at your company. If you’d like to talk more about these ideas and how to apply them, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Lou or myself.
In our next blog, we’ll dive into Experience Management Absolute #2, understanding the role of unconscious thought to build deeper insights into how customers, employees, etc. feel as opposed to what they think.
To see my full set of blogs click here. If you’d like to see my book reviews, including one for Clued In by Lou, click here.