Watching brands engage in the increasingly bitter fight to "win" Christmas with the biggest, sparkliest, most heart-wrenching telly ads, you could forget that the festive season is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill. You could also forget that, for brands to succeed, it’s not just about advertising exposure any more.
The balance has shifted away from big brand touchpoints towards endless interactions with smaller ones. The number of UK shoppers using their phones to make purchases online during the lead-up to Christmas is up a massive 44% this year, according to consumer behaviour data from Ve Global. Moreover, the big retailers saw a huge spike in people shopping on mobile on Black Friday, with Argos reporting half of its orders had been made on a handset (up from 40% last year) and Carphone Warehouse seeing sales through smartphones go up 8% year on year.
Yet, inexplicably, most brands don’t seem to feel the need to invest the same level of care, craft and creative magic that they apply to a big glossy ad campaign to their key consumer touchpoints, such as mobile. They allow the standards they normally apply to their marketing to slip because they view these channels as utility that is purely functional and transactional – and this often results in customers getting a low-quality experience.
These touchpoints are more than just utilities. Brand experiences can be beautifully crafted and transformed from mere transactions to moments that build brand equity and make people actually feel something. Deus ex Machina roared out of the garage in Australia back in 2006 selling customised motorcycles and has since built a category-dominant global brand and retail business. With creative craft, focus and lifestyle magic across its stores, restaurants, bars, social feeds, clothing, packaging, events, record label and ecommerce platform, Deus is at a point today when it can even create and sell an ever-increasing range of lifestyle movies (heavily branded, of course) on iTunes. Deus isn’t just a brand, it’s a culture.
Getting every customer interaction right and making sure transactions are not just purely functional but also surprising, delightful, exciting and rewarding build brand equity now and into the future.
Once the Christmas race is over, brands that didn’t make it to the top of the tree can console themselves with the fact that traditional advertising is just one part of the story. Today, a brand is only as strong as its weakest touchpoint. We are no longer dependant on a select number of media gatekeepers to change consumer perceptions and create value. There are many more opportunities to win over the public than ever before; we just have to look for them in different places and apply the same amount of care, craft and creative magic. It’s no longer OK to just create a connected and consistent customer experience. In 2019, we should be creating extraordinary journeys.
Neil Miller is global chief experience officer at Bartle Bogle Hegarty