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Where won’t your brand be in 10 years’ time?

by Bridget Kelly

Blame the GFC, globalisation, Gen Y or the internet, but The New York Times hit things on the head when they stamped us as being in midst of the Age of Anxiety. With anxiety no longer just a term solely used in psychology circles, our collective low-level jitters are now a cultural and economic standard.

Common knowledge should spawn unique brands

We’re living in a world that constantly throws new and unexpected challenges at us: start-up competitors, digital disruption, wavering consumer confidence. The list goes on.

To successfully compete in this unpredictable market, we’ve (rightly) put the customer at the core of what we do. Because when a customer has the freedom to switch products or services in an instant, providing the ultimate customer experience is essential for any business to survive and thrive.

Now, this is common knowledge. And, as a result, every element of every brand’s customer experience is constantly evolving in a bid to stay relevant and be awarded that best in class status.

But as we race against the whims of the market, and the latest innovators and industry disruptors, we are in danger of becoming nothing more than a clone of our competitors.

Adam Ferriers got to the heart of the issue when he wrote: “Strong [brands] guide, not follow.” Without strong brand guidance and differentiation, CX alone is not enough to make customers choose your brand over the millions of others out there.

Brand is the coat hanger everything else must hang off

And that includes CX. When you incorporate brand into the customer experience, it can start to look a little different, because brand is about more than the product and the offer. It’s what lingers with the customer long after the interaction. It builds trust, it has heritage and it’s irreplaceable. Without it, experiences become standard and your brand disappears in a now homogenous category.

Guinness, for example, has one of the world’s most successful, counter-intuitive customer experiences. Contrary to the unofficial law of CX, that demands an immediate and responsive service, Guinness makes its customers wait. Through a six-step pouring process, no less. For every, single pint.

This process ladders up to Guinness’s brand philosophy, “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait”. And their CX looks to communicate that quality and heritage every time a customer walks up to the bar.

But it works both ways. Failure to recognise the role your brand plays in your CX can, equally, have dire consequences.

Take Uber – a brand whose user experience and customer service is held up as being world-class. But even that hasn’t saved it from a widely publicised fall from grace. Lies about data breaches, employee statements citing a toxic work culture, reports of a volatile CEO and the company’s failure to stand for anything other than profit in the #DeleteUber fiasco saw Uber experience a $2.6 billion dollar loss over two consecutive quarters in 2017.

Rehabilitation through brand

Which brings me back to my initial point.

When someone suffers from anxiety, it’s common for them to undergo a treatment process called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is centred on recognising the connections between thought and actions. Metaphorically speaking, it encourages the individual to pull back from the trees to see the forest.

In the Age of Anxiety, when the world is a victim of its own disruption, we desperately need to do the same.

When sudden new challenges come up, we need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and use brand to guide us in our response.

Consider questions like: where will this new CX lead you in terms of brand consistency? Is it creating an experience for your customer that is uniquely you? How will you take new tech or new best practice CX and implement it in a way that builds on your existing customer relationships and your identity?

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said, “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ … that second question is actually the more important of the two – because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now.”

Ultimately, your customers want to know who you are and what to expect from you, which is something only your brand can – and has to – deliver.

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