Happy 2017! Settling in to the New Year often renews hope and excitement for the future, and rekindles anticipation for the brands, products, and experiences on the horizon. This year, it’s hard to think about imminent innovations without considering a modern imperative that is rapidly moving to the forefront of conversation: customer empathy.
We are barely three weeks into 2017 and already the cry for customer empathy – and brands’ responses to it – are popping up frequently. At the Consumer Electronics Show, the “insanely cute” Kuri personal robot stole consumers’ hearts, and took the notion of “tech love” to a whole other level. The progression of Artificial Intelligence is sparking public debate about the role of compassion in human connection. And people find themselves seeking meaning, purpose, and understanding over happiness.
The need for empathy affects how customers evaluate brands too: Consumers increasingly prefer companies that resonate with shoppers’ personal values. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® social listening data shows that consumer buzz about company values is on the rise:
Black Friday approaches. I should be breathless with anticipation. You see, I’m a brand strategist. To me, the prospect of millions of people reveling in thousands of brands and turning the bottom line from red to black is brand nirvana. It’s like Christmas came early. Which it does, in a way, on Black Friday.
Yet, the tendrils of self-doubt infiltrate my exuberance. Must a weekend so treasured for time spent with friends and family be ruined by being pepper-sprayed at Walmart, by being gored in the Pamplona bull run down the aisles at Best Buy to save 50 bucks on a TV I don’t need? Do we really need to spend any more time glued to our devices buying more clutter?
Maybe you feel this way, and maybe you don’t. But you would expect brands to be cheerleaders for Black Friday, right? Wrong.
Black Friday 2011: Patagonia buys a full-page ad in the New York Times and instructs readers not to buy its jackets. That’s right, they pay good money to tell folks not to buy their stuff. Citing the “astonishing” environmental cost of making jackets, they encourage people to reuse and recycle. Fast forward to Black Friday 2016. This year, Patagonia is donating 100% of Black Friday sales to grass roots organizations "working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards." Yes, you did read that correctly. 100%. And sales, not profit.
Black Friday, 2015: REI decides to remain closed that day and give all its employees a paid day off. No, their P&L does not self-combust. Instead, they choose to close shop again for Black Friday 2016. REI’s CEO says that this “reinforces both REI’s culture with employees and the message that resonates with the company’s core customer base.” About 2 million people plan to #OptOutside with REI.
Wally Ollins, of Wolf Ollins fame and a legend of sorts in the branding world, didn’t look too kindly upon brand measurement. "There are too many people," he said "... who are fed the rubbish that if you can't analyze it - if you can't chew it up into numbers - it doesn't exist." Not one to mince words, he continued, "I deeply reject all that and find it to be a contemporary version of witchcraft." It's hard to argue with Wally; somewhere along the way doctrine and data have dulled the notion that brand is, to quote JetBlue's CEO, "the way we feel."
The Inevitability Of Measurement
David Aaker is a legend of sorts as well in the branding world, and a lot of his work centers on brand equity. David writes of brand as an asset. And as an asset, it is must withstand financial scrutiny and ROI justification. CMOs may know it in their hearts, but CEOs and CFOs must see it on paper. That leaves us with the unenviable task of calculating the incalculable. Many have rushed forward to meet this challenge. I describe various measurement techniques in detail in my new report for Forrester clients: Branding Never Sleeps; a brief summary appears below.
Four Measurement Streams
The nitty gritty of brand performance is relatively easy to measure using survey, operational, and transactional data
Near-real time brandsentiment can be captured by social listening, although skewed samples and lack of established frameworks muddy the water
Perception can be surveyed, but traditional ask-and-tell tracking of emotions is fraught with problems; neuromarketing offers some emerging and exciting avenues
It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
First, this is my inaugural post since rejoining Forrester Research in May. I’m a boomerang in Forrester parlance — a former employee returning to the company — and it’s been wonderful to immerse myself in the marketing world and reconnect with so many clients, vendors, and colleagues. In the time since my first tour at Forrester, I’ve held several executive roles, spanning global marketing technology, adtech, and SaaS technology. One of the interesting aspects of being a boomerang is bringing my range of experiences back to Forrester, which I believe will make me a better analyst and resource for clients. I am partnering with my colleague Rusty Warner to cover enterprise marketing technology. It’s a big topic! By teaming up, Rusty and I are in a great position to maintain the Enterprise Marketing Technology playbook, extend coverage of marketing technology into new and expanded topics, and work closely with Forrester clients on a global basis. In particular, I’ll be focusing on the future state of marketing and advertising technologies.
The battle over ad blockers has never been fiercer: Their popularity with consumers is skyrocketing across the globe. Ad blockers offer a better online experience and have become easier to use. But consumers like them as a way to protect their privacy and their data from being misused. Firms increasingly think that their best bet is to block the blockers. But a recent study has shown that this strategy is just a losing game, as it has contributed to the deep decline in traffic figures. And the problem doesn’t end there; the EU recently made its voice heard by saying that blocking ad blockers is a practice that breaches EU privacy rules.
But what about your customers? If you use ad blockers, just think of the last time you wanted to check out an article online but were asked to uninstall your ad blocker first or, possibly worse, to fill in your details to “freely” enjoy your read.
Security, risk, and privacy professionals must be mindful that the privacy practices that they design and enforce have a direct effect on the customer’s interaction with their firms. As much as they think about compliance, they must consider the privacy experience of their customers too. And this is one of the examples where the collaboration with marketing leaders, including customer experience, customer insight, and the marketing leadership, becomes extremely important.
Marketers are always falling in love with mobile’s latest “shiny new object” and new technology acronyms — 5G, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), NFC (near-field communication), RWD (responsive web design), etc. — and they’re constantly looking for the next platform, whether it’s virtual reality (VR), bots, artificial intelligence (AI), or the internet of things (IoT).
However, it is time to stop this quixotic quest for a paradigmatic new platform to replace mobile! Instead, recognize that mobile will activate these adjacent technologies to enable new brand experiences.
Over the past decade, smartphones have become a sort of black hole, integrating a huge array of sensors, but mobile is now exploding back out to our environments. Sensors and connectivity are expanding beyond smartphones to our wrists, bodies, cars, TVs, and washing machines as well as to buildings and “invisible” places in the world around us. The IoT is generating tectonic shifts among digital platforms and tech vendors, signaling a new wave of disruption, and unleashing new forms of competition.
The IoT is also redefining brand engagement by enabling marketers to:
Listen to their customers and analyze their real behaviors.
Create more frequent and intimate consumer interactions.
I’ll be brief, because I know you’re busy. If you’re a customer-obsessed marketer, you should plan to attend Forrester’s annual Forum designed just for you – MARKETING 2016. Join us and 600+ marketing leaders in New York City on April 26-27 as we dive deep into the issues that matter most to you. Our agenda this year is comprised of five sections:
1. Thriving In The Post-Digital Age: Led by our own VP/Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk, hear our latest research on what it takes to succeed as a marketing leader in a world where digital embeds in everything.
2. Customer Understanding: Sick of all the noise about big data? Join VP and Research Director Srividya Sridharan as she uncovers how to move from data, to insights, to business action.
3. Contextual Engagement: Principal Analyst Rusty Warner will be joined onstage by eBay and J&J as they discuss best practices in using situational context to drive deeper customer engagement.
4. The Leadership Question: Forrester’s Michelle Moorehead will moderate a superstar panel on the changing leadership role for CMOs.
5. The Power Of Trust: Principal Analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo will discuss how your ability to manage consumer privacy will be a key differentiator in building trust.
As all organizations operating in Australia understand, the line between brand, marketing, and customer experience (CX) disciplines has blurred as people gain access to companies, services and products on their own terms. How can you thrive in this dynamic environment? Start by effectively coordinating between brand, CX, and marketing teams.
We’ve filled our agenda with senior CX and Marketing professionals from leading organizations across Australia, and beyond. Key topics they’ll cover include:
Driving business results, competitive advantage, and growth by delivering the right customer experience.
Identifying the key practices and behaviours that fuel CX innovation.
Building and maintaining a brand in a digital world.
Instilling an understanding of customer emotions into design experiences and branding strategy.
Systematically improving CX through effective measurement.
A CMO and a CIO walk into a hotel bar (Let’s call them Tom and Dick). After ordering a drink, Tom says, “Dick, I really need to start working with a DMP this year, and I want your help selecting one.” Dick says, “A DMP? My enterprise architecture team is building a near real-time, self-service data management platform. We’ll be done by the end of the year. You’re going to love it in 2017!” With an absent look on his face, Tom says “A DMP is a piece of AdTech that we can use to quickly target tailored audiences with our ad campaigns. It’s not a back-office data warehouse”. Dick laughs and says, “Ad campaigns? Didn’t you just buy a campaign management tool from one of those so-called marketing cloud vendors? You know, our CRM system has a campaign module, not to mention an enormous customer database.” Tom’s response: “You’re not getting it. Cross-Channel Campaign Management is a MarTech tool, not CRM. And a DMP is not a customer database.” Exasperated, Dick shouts, “What the hell is the difference between MarTech and AdTech anyway!”