I had a great conversation tonight about shifting the way we think about advertising. Instead of thinking in terms of reach, frequency and impressions, let's think about interactions and individual customer experiences.
This way of thinking isn't new. Some top marketers rave about the importance of every customer interaction. Michael Dell comes to mind instantly. With a few horrible years of customer service and millions of product failures, Dell was on the decline. In order to keep the company relevant, Dell changed their vision to managing the life of the consumer - one interaction at a time.
Dell's strategy bang on. TV spots, billboards and display ads can only go so far. A great campaign can drive people in store but if the salesperson is too busy chatting with friends or unable to answer the most basic questions, the experience is ruined. Some people tell their friends about good ads but ALL people tell their friends about horrible experiences. I bet if you think about the last two weeks of your life you can remember at least three interactions that left a bad brand taste in your mouth (yes Air Canada, I'm talking to you).
So why don't we focus on the customer experience? A lot of brands think that they do. Through customer retention programs, special offers, etc. But many of these programs can be viewed as strategic ploys to simply up-sell (vs. provide added value). It's a good start - but we need to go much further.
Think about the Apple Genius program or the Amazon recommendation tool. These tools help me find things I wasn't even looking for. They qualify me based on my tastes and they are specific. They do a great job adding value and help enhance my desires - not the desires of a Canadian male who is 25-34. Mine.
So what can we do in addition to focusing on the customer experience? I think we need to make a constant effort to find the 100 people who love our brand most. And enable them to share their passion with their networks of friends. That sharing could then lead to more experiences, more sharing and more passion for the brand.
What if we could identify the 100 people who loved our brand most? How would that change our campaign or media plan? What sort of reach would they have if we enabled them - through digital - to talk about their authentic experiences and engage in conversations with people offering products that they are thrilled with?
Would we still spend millions of dollars in media with the hopes of influencing a few? In the short term, yes. But harnessing the voices of our passionate loyalists could yield amazing results. And if anyone knows strategies on how to find them, I'd love to hear them.
Don't get me wrong - mass advertising has a huge place in our world; especially when it comes to awareness objectives. I love TV spots, branded content and digital experiences. But I think a balanced approach of advertising and customer service (and indivudalized experiences) builds powerful brands together. It's impossible to have a great brand that falls short on one of those pillars.
In short, think about the good brand experiences that you have and keep sharing them. And the bad ones? Scream them as loud as you can.