Advertising The Customer Experience

My research director Harley Manning has a lot of quips that we affectionately call Harleyisms. One of them goes like this: All ads promise one of three things — you’re gonna get rich, you’re gonna live forever, or you’re gonna get (um, I’ll be polite here) some nookie.

While this might have been somewhat true during the golden age of advertising, I’ve noticed a new ad trend over the past several years: More marketers are advertising the customer experiences that their companies deliver. Here are a few examples:

  • Apple’s iPhone and iPad ads put viewers in the perspective of holding the devices in their own hands, all while demonstrating how easy they are to use and the real-world value they provide (like finding the best price on a book or getting step-by-step cooking instructions).
  • JetBlue promoted its customer experience in a series of hilarious ads that poke fun at the draconian policies employed by its competitors.
  • Virgin America’s San Francisco subway ads say, “LAND WITH AN EMPTY INBOX. SFO -> DALLAS FORT WORTH WITH WIFI.”
  • San Francisco bus ads for Saint Francis and Saint Mary’s hospitals promise: “ER WAIT TIME: UNDER 30 MINUTES.”

Other marketers are using their company websites to highlight aspects of the customer experience. For example:

  • lists multiple ways that the airline “will continue to streamline our websites, our airport presence, and our overall operations until we complete our integration” with Continental.
  • Ally Financial displays the number of minutes that customers will currently wait to talk with a live person directly underneath its toll free number. (As I’m writing this, it’s zero.)

These Marketing Communications Mark A Distinct Shift In The Values Of Both Consumers And Companies

Customers have begun to demand better and better interactions with companies — and they’re willing to vote with their wallets if they don’t get the kind of customer experiences they’re after. (My husband has a t-shirt that sums this up: “I will pay for good design.”) At the same time, top-level execs have finally started to realize that great customer experiences translate into metrics like brand equity, word-of-mouth awareness, incremental revenue, cost savings, and employee retention. These new values are increasingly being reflected in the outward communications from the marketing department.

The Big Takeaway: Customer Experience And Marketing Must Collaborate On Communication Efforts

Forrester defines customer experience as how customers perceive their interactions with your company. These perceptions are obviously shaped by customers’ personal interactions at each and every touchpoint. And if you follow our research, you know that many companies are creating customer experience teams to work with the folks throughout their organizations who are responsible for delivering these interactions. 

But customer perceptions are also shaped by the expectations they have coming into those interactions. That’s where marketing comes in. Traditional ads — rife with catchy slogans and empty promises of money, life, and love — at best do little to set consumers’ expectations about the type of interactions they’ll have, and at worst set sky-high expectations that the organization just can’t deliver on.

The solution? Marketers and customer experience professionals need to work hand-in-hand to ensure that marketing communications set appropriate expectations about the type of products, services, and support that customers can expect. As this starts to happen, companies will reap the benefits of improved customer perceptions.

Do you have other examples of ads starring customer experience?  If so, please share!


Time - The Fourth Dimension?

Love this post, Kerry, as I've been thinking about many of the same things.

In a sense, wouldn't you say that we've added a fourth (or a third-and-a-half) dimension to the "benefits" spectrum? It seems to me that Harley's "live forever" value USED to be about time. I suspect that today, it's more oriented towards health.

1. Wealth
2. Health
3. Nookie
4. Time

I think the convergence of customer intelligence, market insight and customer experience can help a brand define its relationship with those four values in a really meaningful way.

But what they really want...

hi Fatemeh!

Interesting. I always thought about the "live forever" part in terms of health, at least from this advertising perspective.

Although people value these four things greatly, I believe they're less interested in brands that make empty promises about them -- and more interested in those that can deliver something real and tangible (i.e., a good customer experience) in the here and now. ads highlight the call center

To keep the list in the post short, I omitted a set of my favorite commercials -- the ones from that highlight their call center customer experience.

From what I understand, they were half staged by's ad agency. In one commercial, an agency gal calls up and wants to exchange a gift of Nike workout clothes for a deep fat fryer, explaining that she's "going in a different direction."

But the reaction and response of the call center agent -- who wasn't aware the call was fake -- are completely genuine. She even puts a rush on the order.

Watch "Different Direction" on You Tube.

Great post Kerry. I would add

Great post Kerry. I would add another category; you're going to get sick. Seriously, when did "Gout" suddenly become a national health crisis?
As far as ads that highlight the customer experience, you can't overlook Southwest Airlines. I love how they throw the "no fees" right in the face of their competitors. Good for them! Good for their customers too!

Southwest commercial

Ah yes, Southwest. Here's a one of their "no fees" commercials. Thanks, Lee!