September 23, 2020
Marketers love to talk about the customer experience, but maybe this sort of thinking needs to change—or at least, expanded. They should be delivering a human experience.
Today’s customer wants to be treated as a person, not just a customer. They’re willing to open their wallets to brands that understand what they’re going through in these tough times. They want brands to empathize with their plight, not push products. Brands can’t afford to sound tone deaf today.
In a politically divided country, people also want to know where brands stand on many issues. Silence speaks volumes. People don’t want their dollars to indirectly fund issues they’re against. If a CEO personally supports a politician that many customers oppose, for instance, you can bet corporate sales will be impacted.
All of this is a way of saying brand messaging needs to evolve from the customer experience to the human experience. It’s time to treat people as more than just buyers of products and services. It’s about looking at a customer as a whole person, not just an ATM machine.
We’ve already seen brands get this wrong—and the backlash that followed.
With people hunkering in their homes, consumption and sharing of digital content has exploded. Consider a brand’s comms team pushing out a press release supporting Black Lives Matter, which gets picked up by the press and shared multiple times in the form of earned media. But the marketing team doesn’t get the memo and thus owned media doesn’t reflect or even mention this stance, rather continues to push products.
People don’t know the difference between paid, owned and earned media, so all they see is a brand giving lip service to an issue they care about. This leads to customer confusion at best and angry people shouting on social media at worst.
When done right, though, brand messaging can lead to substantial revenue growth. Digital content has the greatest impact on buying decisions and how people feel about brands. You can see this in the rise of e-commerce, both B2B and B2C. People are still making purchases, just doing so online and being more selective.
How can brands ensure consistent, empathetic brand messaging?
One way is to have marketing and comms teams report to the same person, such as the CMO. This ensures greater alignment in messaging. While such a reporting structure is difficult in bigger organizations, brands can at least nurture regular collaboration among the teams and leaders.
For instance, marketers could collaborate on a press release and line up their media assets to reflect and amplify it, rather than receive a draft only hours before it hits the wire. This will eventually lead to a blending of roles and skills.
Maybe it’s time brands re-think how marketing and comms operate in order to become more agile. At least one company is looking to stand up a team of marketers, comms pros and others to work on a project or campaign, like you’d see in a “mission impossible” movie.
While the stakes are not as high as in a movie thriller (no one is saving the world here), consistent and empathetic brand messaging can save a company during these difficult times. It can lead to e-commerce revenue growth while avoiding consumer backlash.
And that’s important enough to make dramatic changes.
Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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