There’s always going to be a gap between what consumers want – and how brands deliver. But that inspires brands to innovate and evolve, according to CoverGirl’s senior VP Ukonwa Ojo: "It’s healthy there is a gap as it drives us to give better experiences and better aftercare. It’s challenging to set a high bar".
Mars’ president of gum and mints Orla Mitchell believes the key to closing the gap is to bring "meaning, value and distinctiveness" to interactions with people.
Mitchell and Ojo were talking at a discussion hosted by Campaign and Accenture Interactive in front of an engaged audience, during the Cannes Lions festival. The panel, chaired by Campaign's global head of media Gideon Spanier, explored how marketers can meet consumer expectations. Here are the nine top pieces of advice…
1. Make your brand the best moment of a customer’s day
Disney is a brand that "always puts experience at the core" explained its UK & Ireland CMO Anna Hill: "By creating experiences that reach different audiences, we’ve brought in a broad range of people. The Disney store experience, for example, we describe it as the best 30 mins in a child’s day. That’s the experience we’re striving for. It’s about creating moments for people so they can touch, engage and have the freedom to immerse themselves in the brand."
Mitchell said that the days of slapping content on a screen and expecting big results are over: "You actually have to engage – it’s about bringing meaning and relevance to those touchpoints. Engaging in a relevant time in a contextual way."
Zaid al-Qassab, chief marketing and brand officer at BT urged marketers to "never forget the core skill of marketing is to understand customer need and deliver on that".
2. Everyone has to think like a consumer
Marketers mustn’t think of themselves as marketers, explained Ojo: "It’s most important to put consumer at the centre, it’s the most helpful thing to do, until she is crazy delighted to us, it’s not going to work. Identify the barriers to achieving that and try to solve them".
Sherine Yap, global CRM manager at Shell explained that this consumer first approach must extend beyond the marketing department: "Encourage everyone in the business – from IT to finance – to live as a consumer does."
3. Make your resource as diverse as possible… then argue
Customers want to see themselves represented. To do that you have to have a diverse workforce, get rid of biases and don’t just go with the status quo, explained Hill. "If you do this, you end up offering the customer something you’ve offered before. We encourage people to have contrasting points of view in meetings. We get people to throw in an alternative idea to challenge others so we’re really thinking things through. Always have someone there to do that – and make sure purpose is right at the centre."
4. Total data transparency, total responsibility
Data transparency is one area marketers should be "black and white" on explained al-Qassab: "We have always had the highest stands on where we have customer data. It’s not an area where there’s room for compromise. We need to offer transparency, end of. If you want people to do something, you need to offer value back."
Yap urged brands to do, not say: "We must get purpose and transparency back into the supply chain, it should come through in all of your brand activities. A bad, unsafe or fraudulent experience is very unwanted."
5. Find great partners, share problems, create answers
Hill believes that partnerships are key to delivering on customer expectation: "The more partnerships we do the better, creative, tech and more. I believe you can borrow from each other’s equities. Great partnerships – can help bridge that gap and solve consumer problems."
6. Develop a creepy scale
Hill suggested some brands be "named and shamed" for being too creepy and intrusive. But where is the line? Mitchell believes it becomes creepy when you’re being fed marketing based on photographs and conversations, for example.
Yap compared this to going on a date and the other person presenting information about you, that you never told them, but that they scraped from the web: "It’s not OK." Are you using information that is available but not intended for marketing? Is that fair or creepy?
7. Place an authentic purpose at your brand’s heart – and get senior buy-in
If purpose is at the core of your brand, you can start ordering priorities and objectives, said Ojo: "Our purpose is to celebrate her [the customer] for who she is and equip her to transform into who she wants to be." Everything CoverGirl does aims at that purpose and informs business and marketing decisions.
Jon Wilkins, executive chairman at Karmarama, part of Accenture Interactive, explained that purpose is also about knowing what you’re not going to do, as much as what you will do even if it means short-term pain: "Patagonia is an example of a brand making conscious non-economic decisions that lead to long-term growth."
But is purpose recognised by the board? Hill said it’s a challenge presenting purpose initiatives to the CFO where there are costs attached: "There are hard conversations and you have to stick to it. It’s not short term, if they’re looking for a return in a minute, they’re not going to get it."
She explained how Disney’s initiative around getting kids fit and healthy fitted their purpose – and they were able to use the Incredibles 2 to promote this mission.
There’s huge pressure on marketers and business leaders to deliver growth quarter after quarter. It won’t happen if you work in silos, said Mitchell: "You need a common goal."
Wilkins believes that buy-in to your vision – which combines purpose and business goals – is key: "This will ensure you go in the right direction."
8. Have one single measure of customer satisfaction across the business
BT is a multifaceted business with over 100,000 employees working on numerous products. Aligning all parts of the business and delivering on customer expectation at every level is challenging said Al-Qassab.
"We use Net Promoter Score. Nearly everyone in the company has it as part of their scorecard. We’ve started to use that to do work on our customers end-to-end journey. It starts with you receiving something in the post." And hopefully ends in purchase. Al-Qassab explained that through scoring each moment of the journey, BT are bringing all of the parts together.
9. Own the company
Ojo said that thinking like one of the founders is key. "Treat the business as your own in all the decisions you make. If this was your business, how would you act?"