In a year when Chinese astrology tells us we are all supposed to be making money, 2008 has not started off very well for the globally economy in general and the South African economy in particular. Much has been said about the recent political upheaval (Government's response: it doesn't exist) and the current Eskom crisis (Government's response: we might have a problem).
Irrespective, we have been headed for a period of economic slowdown for some time. Markets have lost a bit of their lustre, foreign direct investment has cooled off and interest rates look scary, a bit like Britney Spears after a trip to the hairdressers. In other words the immediate economic future looks a bit bleak.
This has caused a shift in how brands view their markets and how their markets respond to brands. In a time of economic slowdown everyone is supposed to feel the pinch. The bigger brands, whom in times of economic growth, could afford to simply ignore the pleas of their customers are starting to listen and conversely, consumers are becoming far more particular about where then spend their hard-earned cash, or at least what's left of it.
Focus on protecting
Thus, it has become essential for brands to focus on protecting existing market share while continuing to grow new market share by aligning what the brand says (externally) and what it brand does (internally) to delivery on the brand promise. This becomes all the more important in market categories that are reaching maturity, where simply pumping additional spend into the above-the-line process no longer yields the same positive returns as it used to. Great advertising attracts customers; it doesn't keep them.
Finding better and smarter ways of retaining and attracting customers will be one of the imposing challenges facing business in 2008 and beyond. But our customers love us, respond many brand owners. Well, figure this: “Over 80% of companies believe they deliver fantastic customer experiences but only 8% of their customers agree.”
The vast majority of senior business leaders globally say that brand-driven customer experience is the new battlefield. Companies that remain parochially focused on product and service are quite simply on the decline; it's the fearless companies who are taking over. If 40 is the new 30, than taking control of all the contact points of brand experience seems to be the new wave of interest gripping enlightened brand owners across the world
Dispelling a common myth that big (the brand that is) is indeed beautiful, the opposite is true in times of economic hardship. Big is the enemy of control; large hierarchical and cumbersome organisational structures do not guarantee brand control. In fact, in many cases the bigger the organisation and the bigger the advertising budget, the more out-of-control the brand. Brand managers and senior executives need to seriously ask themselves, “How in control are we of our brand?”
Companies are spending millions, and in some case hundreds of millions, on building brand awareness in the market place, only to put that investment at risk when the consumer engages with the brand and often walks away disappointed. In the past, the South African economy was expanding so rapidly that brand owners never really bothered focusing on retention; the boom period allowed this to happened and, let's be frank, brands got lazy, sloppy with service delivery and out of contact with their customers.
Once cannot overstate the exponential shift that has occurred globally, where brands and specifically experiential brands like retail, banking, cellular telephony and the leisure industry have been shunned by their traditional customer base because of their inability to deliver on their brand promise. Disengaged employees, anti customer centric policies and poor brand processes are likely be impacting your brand equity and they are defiantly hurting your bottom line.
Integrating the customer experience into each and every aspect of your go to market strategy is not just a value-add, it's going to become a mission critical business strategy for those brands that wish to stay on top of their game. It's time for brand owners to get off the couch, cut back on the agency-funded Moët-drenched lunches, skip the awards dinners and start focusing on the experience they are delivering to their customers if they want to protect their market share. Otherwise, I believe Government has a few vacancies in the department of denunciation.
I couldn't agree more with you about channel marketing and brand experience. However, do you think that applies to the less developed markets that exist in Africa? Whilst the experiential very definitely does, not many people have access to the internet etc. What is your definition then of the channels? Posted on 28 Jan 2008 10:07
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