Customer centricity has become a mantra among marketers and not only: product development, sales, design... everybody say "we are customer centric".
But how many marketers are really adopting their customers´ point of view ?
How many B2B companies are truly customer-driven and not product driven?
The inconvenient truth: the most marketers are just focused on how to bring the brand message faster and efficient out there. It is a very self-referential attitude, based on considering the Brand as a static object, that just needs to be "communicated" and "enriched" with some emotional values.
Not to mention the not so few tech companies who still believe that marketing is the "t-shirt department" (believe me, I have met such a founder!) and that is all about the product and all about "keeping the customers happy with smiles and good relationships".
Time for a change. For marketers too it is time to think like designers. Less need for quantitative research, whose questions are mostly set up to confirm your assumptions.
So, go out from our offices and step in the shoes of our consumers: explore their needs, pains, emotions in context. Let them be the center of our brand concept. Let us deep dive in their lives, observing behaviors in context.
And, when it comes the time to develop our brand message, let us do it together with them. Let our brand be our customers´ thing.
Once upon a time it was the role of the advertising agencies to create powerful brand narratives for their clients: brand concepts where invented outside the companies, and were embodied by “big ideas” expressed in advertising campaigns.
Today, in the connection economy, everyone becomes a marketer by default. The official brand story is just one of the many stories out there about your brand. Stories made by fans, shared by followers, amplified by their friends. Today, as Jeff Bezos said, “your brand is what other people say when you´re not in the room”.
Brands are shaped by the day-to-day interaction with your customers, retail staff, customer service, agents, fans and detractors. Brands are not temples anymore.
What customers experience and share about your brand everyday is your brand. It does not matter what you say your brand is. It does not matter what your brand manual says, or the new elegant logo designed by your preferred agency.
That is why you, when you develop your Brand, you should think of it as a relationship, defining the role you and your customers have in this relationship, and how this relationship starts, is nourished and ends. (See HBR "Build you Brand as a Relationship")
PEOPLE DO NOT BUY THE WHAT, THE BUY THE “WHY” (See Simon Sinek, "Start with Why")
All of us can describe what our products and service are. Some companies and people can articulate also “how” they do what they do: whether you call them a “differentiating value proposition”, “proprietary process” or “unique selling proposition”, HOWs are often to explain how something is different of better.
But very few people or company can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. WHY does your Company exist ? WHY do you get out of the bed every morning ? And Why should anyone care ?
Take the case of Apple. Its brand is all about the WHY: as they say and write about themselves, "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently". Apple´s message starts with why: a purpose, a cause, a belief that has nothing to do with what they do. Their products are not the reason Apple is perceived as superior: their products, what apple makes, are as the tangible proof of what they believe.
What Companies say and do, it matters. A lot. It is at the WHAT level that the cause is brought to life. Your people, your operations, your culture, your messages, your products, the type of market opportunities you size must be consistent with your Brand Purpose.
And all start from your people and organization.
See This-is-earn, "Brand Love":
Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe.
A WHY is just a belief. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions - everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire.
START FROM YOUR PEOPLE To start with "why" when hiring, dramatically increases your ability to attract those who are passionate for what you believe.
The goal is to hire those who are passionate for your WHY, your purpose, cause or belief, and who have the attitude that fits your culture. Start recruiting your fans. Start recruiting people that can connect with your fans, because they share the same passions, attitudes, needs and belong to the same tribe.
F*#k the Brand Awareness ! What will really say any vanity metric like "Awareness" or how many people like your FB page ?
You have to measure what really matters for keeping your Brand relationship with customers healthy, happy, loyal and living to the longest term.
Look at companies like Apple, Booking.com, Lego, Zappos.... they use metrics like the Net Promote Score, based on the idea that your customers likely to recommend your products is a good indicator of your ability to generate loyalty.
Consider to use statements like these in your customer surveys (see HBR, "A Simple Way to Measure how Much Customers Love your Brand"):
- X is a Brand for me
- X is a Brand I can trust
- X is a Brand I enjoy introducing other people to
Good to read:
Key ideas, suggestions and a step-by-step model to develop brands that people will love.
The approach I summarize is based on three principles:
1 - define the brand around your consumers, and not around your product
2 - Get rid of irrelevant deliverables and focus more on rapidly prototype the brand, with tests and iteration (the so-called Lean Brand)
3 - Measure love, instead of awareness. Go beyond vanity metrics and think in term of real emotional impact and how you want to engage your customers long term.
This is not a handbook, but more of a sticky wall with a checklist of what you need to do, and to care about when developing, redesigning, refining a brand experience.