Monday, January 08, 2007

Is the Brand the Experience, or Vice Versa?

My exploration of the relationship between brand marketing and customer experience management somehow landed me at the Web page of BrandAmplitude LLC, a consultancy specializing in brand strategy and research. There I found a first-rate paper by BrandAmplitude president Carol Phillips, called “It Is Rocket Science: How ‘Science’ is Displacing ‘Art’ in Marketing and Creating a New Generation of Practitioners” available here. This presents a mirror image of my comments from last Friday: it argues that brand marketing itself is becoming more like relationship marketing. Specifically, “The ‘Segmentation Era’ which began in the late 70’s and valued insight, inspiration and creativity is giving way to [a] new customer-centric model that values deep customer knowledge, empirical results and efficiency.”

According to the paper, the change is caused by interactive marketing tools that provide vast amounts of customer-level data. “In-depth customer information enables and drives an organization-wide focus on customers. Customers, rather than brands, are increasingly viewed as a company’s most important asset…customer relationships are more likely to focus on the company and its unique knowledge rather than the benefits or features of a particular offering….branded products and services are becoming simply one more tool in building profitable corporate customer franchises.”

This is an important notion: instead of relationships with brands, customers will have relationships with companies. This is because the company is the repository of the data that allows creation of intimate relationships. “When every customer has a unique relationship with a company based on personal preferences, the value of the brand (and its potential for competitive differentiation) rests more in product/service communications, distribution and delivery than in the product or service itself.” Of course, communications, distribution and delivery were always part of the brand: what’s new is that these are customized for individuals.

The impact on marketing is huge. “Marketing’s role extends well beyond identifying the brand promise to ensure that the promise is operationalized at every point of contact….Marketing is required to lead the entire organization to examine its customer facing processes and evaluate them against the ideal ‘customer experience’ and the experience offered by competitors.” The goal is now “bringing the brand to life, consistently, at every point of contact to create a competitive differentiated experience that delivers against customer expectations.”

The paper may overstate the change when it argues that “the ‘art’ of marketing” will give way to “scientific application of empirical rules” and, later, that “‘Creative’ functions will be increasingly mechanized and commoditized, for when creative can be evaluated empirically, ‘creative judgment’ becomes irrelevant.” Although relationship marketing may be more systematic and less subjective than traditional brand marketing, creativity is equally essential to both. Since the paper was written in 2004, these comments may simply reflect the excitement of a new convert.

In any event, the paper makes a compelling and well-stated argument that marketers should take the lead in managing customer experience. It’s worth adding to your own list of resources.

1 comment:

Carol said...

David:

I am flattered and a little surprised you could even find this 2004 paper, much less find it relevant. Yes, I wrote it as a new convert, and as someone with (too) many years as a practitioner of the 'art' of branding and high hopes for the new perspective. As with most new ideas, it is taking longer to reach mainstream acceptance than it took to recognize the trend. I fear there is still too much focus on consumer relationships with brands as products, and not enough on customer relationships with companies as intimate experiences. Blockbuster is one of my clients that is moving in this direction and it shows.

Carol