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Generation Ex(perience)

by Lawrence Heath

City square
For the best part of the last 50 years, the fundamentals of branding have centered on crafting messaging and meaning to tell a compelling company story.

This need to build a brand narrative with real purpose – one that will drive consumer interest – has undoubtedly underpinned the success and longevity of the brands we know and love today. And, as a result, defining this meaning and then bringing it to life is something we’re now very good at as an industry.

We celebrate it every year at Cannes – rewarding the clever way agencies create narratives from nothing, emotion from apathy, and interest in the everyday. There are banking campaigns that make us cry, FMCG ads that make us laugh, and beauty brands that make us ask probing questions about the society we live in. These feats are nothing short of miraculous and we’re right to pay homage to those brands whose messages have defined a generation.

But now, it’s apparent that branding can only do so much, and even a Gold Effie award-winning campaign couldn’t save the Blackberrys of the world.

So, what’s changed?

Until recently, branding didn’t necessarily have to relate directly to a specific product or service – it could be something much broader. In fact, a brand message was often entirely separate from the experience of actually using the said product or service, and so brand and CX conversations rarely overlapped.

However, the space we work in is constantly evolving. Today, brands often fail not because their advertising isn’t clever, but because their products are without a point of difference, their customer service is frustrating – even dehumanising – or because their retail experiences are forgettable. But, as technology advances and barriers to entry are stripped down, new champions have emerged to disrupt even the most mature industries.

Look at the brands that are defining the modern landscape: Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, Airtasker. These are brands that have upturned entire industries simply by taking an experience that already exists and delivering it differently. They put the customer at the core of their offering to effectively turn the customer experience into the brand experience.

But, does it really matter?

In short, yes. With almost two thirds (61%) of consumers admitting they would happily buy products from an unknown brand that provided a superior experience, CX is increasingly becoming the defining factor in affecting choice.

And it’s this truth that we need to consider when we create and curate brand messages and campaigns.

The Internet of Things means we’ve never had a more complex set of touch points to understand, nor a more fragmented audience to consider. And so the challenge lies in delivering experiences that are unique in nature and uniform in greatness. Experiences driven not by segments or a marketing calendar, but by individual customer moments.

It’s going to be hard, but it’s unavoidable. There’s no silver bullet, magic fix or software patch. Rather, it’s going to be about putting the customer at the centre of your strategy to create experiences that make engagements easier, more valuable and worthwhile.

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