To further complicate matters, research data shows word-of-mouth recommendations are now disproportionately influential in a purchaser’s decision-making process, especially those from friends and family. The“Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messaging” report published by Nielsen in late 2013 said 84 per cent of global respondents said this source was the most trustworthy.
Consumers are becoming harder to reach, and gaining their trust is becoming much more difficult even if you do reach them.
To manage this challenge organisations and marketers have been looking to better understand the entire customer journey to enhance the customer experience. But this approach comes with an inherent conflict best summed by the following question: “Do want your customers talking about your products or your advertising?”
It is true that advertising provides a direct line of communication to your existing and prospective customers. But a customer experience advocate, on the other hand, will ask; “why not let the customer experience speak for itself?” So how should brands think about this issue?
Reframe the question
I recommend taking a long, hard look at your customers and your organisation to identify opportunities to greatly improve the customer experience. In today’s world almost every consumer-facing company should be doing that in some way. Customers’ ability to be heard en masse is far too powerful not to.
Inevitably, when companies do seek to improve their customer experience, many of the outcomes become innovations and new digital communication channels.
But should these replace the need for advertising? Not at all. However, what they often do is reframe the question, “What are we advertising?” After all, if your company has invested heavily in creating a great customer experience, shouldn’t you tell the world?
Take Medibank for example. It sells health insurance but its current advertising campaign is focused on raising awareness for its GymBetter mobile app. This app allows the user to pay to use a gym, without having to pay regular membership fees. It’s not Medibank’s core business but it is brand-aligned and delivers great experience, and it gets even better if you happen to be one of its customers.
Market trends are maturing in a way that will start to impact on how brands interact with their customers. Here are some examples. The way consumers understand and use their own data is creating a whole generation with very different expectations about the way companies should interact with them. Social media is now reaching ubiquity, but there are still significant jumps in online communication that will be made in the next few years. Technologies such as 3D printing will dramatically alter traditional value chains.
These are just a few examples of near-term trends that will bring further rapid change. These cannot be ignored – and businesses cannot advertise their way around them.
Creating a unique and fantastic customer experience is a way for businesses to stand out. But how the consumer interacts with the product or service, or how they discover that product or service for that matter, is part of the overall experience. Deeply integrating advertising into the way a customer experiences a brand is becoming an essential aspect of the overall marketing mix.
Do we want people talking about the product or the advertising? Neither. We want people talking about an outstanding customer experience, of which both are a part.