As one listens to the many of the debates and discussions surrounding the world of brands and the amazing changes that are influencing the way they are delivered in the new era, one feels a real sense of déjà vu.
The collision of usable Big Data and the deeper understanding of improving customer experiences represents a seminal period in the building and maintenance of brands and marketing. They are also two drivers we have seen before and have lessons for us all to learn from.
These developments have the potential to deliver a near nirvana state for those managing and building brands. A state where brands can directly connect their activity and contribution to the financial performance of the business through data and truly connected customers immersed in irresistible experiences that can be measured, so creating a direct link between the activities and the overall business strategy
There seems to me to be a couple of lessons from the past we should recognise, hence déjà vu.
1. The ability for businesses to make sense of and actively use the vast amount of data they now have is extraordinary but it must be focused on delivering a holistic result, one that treats customers as people not just numbers. I am old enough to remember the introduction and growth of EPOS into the grocery retail sector, we had masses of data, we just didn’t call it “Big” at the time, collected at point of sale about consumers and their habits. It required significant advances in computer power, programming and hundreds of bright young things to manage and make sense of it all. This started the loyalty revolution that, whilst efficient, was fundamentally based on the concept of customers being loyal to the brand and not the other way round. Now we have Big Data and an even bigger revolution on our hands we must learn how to use the data and apply it to human beings and their behaviour and not just how we squeeze more out of them. They will give willingly if they see the brand is loyal to them.
2.The current trend of improving the customer experience is a good effort but there lies a danger for all brands, a generic improvement process. This is so reminiscent of the early days of TQM and the business improvement movement that drove internalised improvement to the performance of the business but all too often only paid lip service to the customer. Brands must be used to build irresistibility into the customer experience in order to differentiate them not just make marginal gains through improvement here and there. We must avoid the mistakes of the past as an ever expanding number of experience improvers ply their trade with the danger of overly internalised process taking front stage ahead of deeply understanding the role of the brand in building the experiences to be delivered.
With the data and customer experience stars moving into alignment I predict a highly profitable and dynamic period ahead for the brand builders and their contribution to the ambitions for the businesses they serve.