Differentiated brand experiences: Why success means examining every aspect of the organisation – Marketing Week

Faced now with a growing cost-of-living crisis, it’s more important than ever that marketing teams are able to link their brand’s customer experience (CX) directly to business outcomes.

It was against this backdrop that marketers gathered on 13 September for a special Festival of Marketing Masterclass event, sponsored by the digital design and technology agency Rufus Leonard. The focus was to generate debate and collaboration around the best strategies for winning executive buy-in for marketers’ CX efforts, and for ensuring that brand strategy and execution are closely aligned. With an emphasis on practical ways of realising opportunities and overcoming challenges, the focus was on building brand differentiation in a crowded and increasingly competitive marketplace.

While marketers have tools at their fingertips to make this easier, it’s important to start by thinking customer-first, while breaking down internal barriers and silos and communicating in language that the C-suite understands, warned Econsultancy consultant Barbara Stewart, delivering the event’s keynote.

“CX is the opposite of an investment in niceties and abstract gain. It is a direct investment in the organisation’s financial performance,” she said. “It’s business transformation.”

She added: “Anyone who takes on CX is a change manager. You have to pull the whole company along with you.” And given that it “takes a whole village to deliver CX” and it is “every single department’s role” to deliver, marketers must map out stakeholders as well as the customer journey across all touchpoints. It is also important to outline, test, measure and report the financial impact of efforts on a frequent basis.

Building a CX roadmap

With this is mind, Rufus Leonard presented two hands-on Masterclass sessions focusing on evaluation and optimisation of CX to deliver a competitive edge. The agency’s Experience Value Engine is one example of a tool that can help businesses identify what is driving or ‘breaking’ effective customer experiences in their own organisations, thus defining how they create value for customers.

Rufus Leonard CEO Laurence Parkes pointed out that, as expectations rise and competition accelerates, category-leading brands must constantly strive to remain ahead of the pack: never before has the digital realm been so fundamental for creating category-defining brands, he said.

And, while the most successful businesses make a meaningful difference to customers, this process must start with a thorough analysis or review of the entire brand canvas – capturing the ‘owners’ of each process, and considering both their effectiveness and wider integration within the business as a whole. Such an evaluation can identify any gaps and ways in which an organisation can bring a brand to life, through defining the areas in which brand, technology and experience meet – from website functionality to CRM functions or back office data architecture.

In this way, building an ‘experience playbook’ can enable brands to deliver meaningful experiences across channels, Parkes said. It can act as a single source of truth or focused plan aligned to goals across the C-suite – helping also to support a business case for investment, and to push through action. Parkes’s emphasis was on the importance of building a framework to review an experience ecosystem holistically – across people, process, technology, platforms and content. This means looking internally, differentiating and ultimately creating value by identifying “where you are ‘killing it’, and where there are gaps”.

CX is the opposite of an investment in niceties and abstract gain. It is a direct investment in the organisation’s financial performance.

Barbara Stewart, Econsultancy

Throughout this process, the employee experience is also critical to success. “Brands must ensure that whatever they stand for at core brand and mission level is owned and understood by their employees,” said Ross Timms, director of strategy and transformation at Rufus Leonard, who pointed out that leading organisations enjoy clearly defined values and encourage collaboration, with everyone embracing a common ambition or purpose.

“We must break down the silos, complexity and confusion that every organisation has,” added Parkes.

A process of evolution

He also made the point that, when questioning whether business processes are fit for purpose, it’s important to be mindful that there will always be new needs and that “going in the right direction” in terms of user experience – inevitably a process of evolution – is what matters.

Yet, by honing in on all touchpoints and journeys across all departments, marketers can uncover which areas must be dealt with most urgently. This may mean, for instance, ensuring that the website delivers upon its role in the ecosystem. At other times, the answer may lie in new ways of working. Meanwhile, marketers must continue to scan the horizon, thinking always about what defines and what drives the experience – both now and in the future.

Strong organisations are mission-led with a strong understanding of the opportunity ahead, said Parkes and Timms.

They communicate the mission and the plan loudly and consistently, gathering feedback and engagement with regular strategic reviews and strong governance. They have the data and technology platforms required to deliver modern experiences whilst testing and improving. They are customer-centred, with a strong understanding of their target audiences. With a productive and efficient workforce, they create ongoing feedback loops from front-of-house to back-of-house – even using culture as a talent acquisition tool.

Delivering digital differentiation

Given today’s increasingly digital world, it’s important that marketers put their brands at the heart of new online or virtual experiences. Timms warned: “Strategy must go hand-in-hand with brand experience. Really understanding what defines and what drives your unique brand experience is key to delivering competitive advantage and sustained growth.”

To this end, Rufus Leonard’s established Brand Experience Framework focuses on five facets: do, connect, think, sense and feel. What are we enabling our customers to do? How do our experiences facilitate connection? What will our expertise help people to understand? How do our experiences excite customer senses? What emotions do we want to evoke?

In both the physical and the digital world, marketers must think about statements that apply to their specific brands in each of these areas and then create genuine differentiation, connecting what consumers want with what technology can do, and supporting company vision with a clear, convincing plan and execution.

In this way, through the use of practical approaches and tools, there are opportunities to create distinctive – even category-defining – experiences, connecting brand strategy with design, technology with data and organisational engagement with user experience.

To find out more about Rufus Leonard or enquire about our proprietary EVE and Brand Experience frameworks, please visit www.rufusleonard.com.

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