Explained: how to deliver differentiated, high-impact brand experiences

Deloitte's Doug de Villiers: "Brand owners need to drive data optimisation and deliver differentiated human experiences."

Current South African marketing – primarily advertising – expenditure is estimated to be around R45 billion per annum. The vast majority of this spend sits in outdated traditional advertising media costs, and the effectiveness of this spend is most often questionable, and ROIs not well considered. Brand owners are still communicating through reactive brand briefs, with limited strategic intent, and therein lies the problem.

So why has this been allowed to perpetuate?

Largely, traditional agencies follow client (brand owner) briefs without question and most often with limited and always reactive market intelligence. The process thus becomes one of creative delivery (some good, some bad but sadly most somewhere in the middle) with limited strategic intent. As such the net result is often nebulous messages with little to no differentiation sprayed across mass media channels – pretty much an expensive shouting competition.

This ineffectual process is further complicated through the handover of various marketing related activities between multiple agencies, often from different holding company groups, most with varied skill levels, and all with a predominant eye on their own revenue performance. The result is continuous conflict between multiple agencies (research to strategy to design to activation etc) which can result in the end objective either being directed by the strongest group in the room, or – and perhaps even more concerning – seeing the overall delivery being watered down through an elongated process of compromise. Either way the client loses. 

But with today’s business and marketing technology this really should not be the case. Consider this:

Today’s customer is bombarded with brand messages at every point, be they TV adverts, billboards, newspaper ads, building signage, radio commercials, digital pop-up adverts, SMSes, emails, call centre calls and so on. We very seldom have the attention capability of actually absorbing these messages, let alone believing the message content or changing our behaviour. The result is that these messages are also highly generic and most often simply reactive to a competitors’ marketing activities. 

Of course, today's traditional agencies and other marketing service providers (MSPs), are struggling to deliver integrated experiences across sales, marketing and data. Traditional agencies simply do not have the predictive data capture and analytics capability required to become strategically predictive to individual customer requirements, so the default is unfortunately to resort to the expensive and ineffectual “spray and pray” approach.

However, when we do choose to interact with brands – either brands that we already support, or brands that we are trialling – the overall customer experience can be disappointing if there is any inconsistency between the communicated (advertised) brand experience and the actual purchase experience. Simply put, big promise with little delivery.

The problem for brand owners here is of course: a) the massive cost of communicating an expectation only to have it destroyed in the interaction, and b) the power that now sits with the unsatisfied customer to communicate and influence other existing or potential customers. Nothing gets consumers more riled up than a disappointing brand experience.

But all is not lost, in fact we are at a very exciting crossroads where brand owners can completely reimagine the customer experience and deliver a personalised, contextualised and dynamic experience in a cost-effective and high-impact manner. However, the expectation that the traditional agencies and MSPs will bring this to reality, is actually far from the truth, which is that they are unlikely to change or catch up.

We know and understand that customers want to be regarded and treated as individuals and not as a homogenous mass. This means that we need to deliver targeted experiences at the right time, in the right place and through the right experience touchpoint, every time. To do this we need to utilise multiple data points to inform the customer experience in a predictive manner, and then ensure that the brand delivers as required, consistently, at each intervention. This level of human experience – albeit digitally enabled – creates deep emotional connections between customer and brand. Think Apple – I don’t know what they are going to make next, but I know that I will buy one.

As a result, brand owners are increasingly looking beyond traditional agencies – and relations with MSPs – and are bringing data management, analytics and customer engagement processes back into the businesses. This future of marketing move requires a consolidated focus and effort on the behalf of the CMO, the CIO, the CFO and the CHCO in order to:

  • Best consolidate data volumes across the organisations operational silos.
  • Create and deliver a central business impact analytics capability.
  • Ensure aligned, consistent and differentiated customer experiences at every touchpoint.
  • Deal with any unexpected events proactively and in a considered manner.
  • Implement a cohesive integrated marketing services system that ensures effective multi-agency management and measurement, and provides market relevant content and materials with instant availability. 
  • Provide organisational-centric, cost-effective and strategically accurate materials and capabilities to deliver on the customer experience across all organisational functions from HR, through finance, legal, operations, marketing and IT. 

The net result?

  • A predictive, individualised, cohesive and high impact marketing, customer and experience strategy.
  • Customer-impact-aligned marketing spend and budgets, which also leverage the complete organisation’s role in delivering the customer experience.
  • Resultant – and often massive – reductions in misdirected and ineffectual generic marketing spend.
  • Clear alignment with internal and external MSPs for better effect.
  • Integrated – and cloud-based – content management and campaign experience management tools that empower organisations to deliver considered, quality-and-experience-consistent campaigns in an instant (just consider the impact this has on agency revert-re-revert-repeat time and budget ineffectiveness).
  • Real-time impact and effectiveness measurements which allow for highly dynamic “market-by-moment” experience deployment.
  • The retention of a customer and market learning capability that ensures and drives ongoing customer and marketing predictive capability – the power stays with the brand owner and not with relatively short-term MSP relationships.
  • Brand owner internal capacity and capability development and enhancement to ensure an aligned, skilled and high-impact structure with appropriate processes.

Bottom line: Today the customer is truly in charge, and there exists a massively competitive marketplace with endless brands and channel options – as well as endless experience influencers. As such, brand owners will need to take charge in driving data optimisation, defining differentiated human experiences and delivering these individualised high-impact experience moments. The results? Increased and secure revenue, decreased and optimised marketing spend, and an aligned organisational effort and capability in delivering the experience.

Deloitte will be partnering with CFO South Africa at the Reimagining the Customer Summit at the Deloitte Greenhouse in Cape Town on 12 March 2019, where attendees will consider the question: How are leading organisations reimagining the customer and connecting traditional back-office functions to their benefit?