What needs to change when customer experience is the new brand?

February 15, 2016

Doug Kessler wrote a very insightful post on our Digital Marketing Blog recently that pointed to a fundamental shift in the relationship between brands and their customers. Whereas once, the things we marketers told people about our brand were the biggest influence on how they felt about it, today a brand is the sum of people’s own experiences of it. That’s a big challenge – and it hugely multiplies the scope of what marketing involves.

If customer experience is now the new brand, what does that mean for those of us with the job of building and managing those brands? It’s an important question, one that’s been taking our marketing team at Adobe on an interesting journey over the last year or so, and one that’s now core to Adobe’s customer experience strategy. I’ll be speaking next week at the B2B InTech event, about what we’ve discovered needs to change in order to cope in an experience-driven world – and just as importantly, what doesn’t. It would be great to see you there – but just in case you can’t make it, here are some of the key learnings that we’ve picked up along the way.

Brand experience counts most when it’s personalised

The experiences that customers really want from your brand are intuitively personalised, anticipating their needs and demonstrating an understanding for their business. Best guesses, hunches and general demographic targeting don’t really cut it any more. To deliver this new generation of responsive, one-to-one experiences we are going to need to start leveraging more and more data, slicing and dicing it in a way that can bring out individual relevance, but doing so always in a way that’s responsible. And to do that, we’ve discovered, you need to look into evolving your marketing in three important areas: People, Technology and Process.

Marketing’s new core skill set

Data in its raw form won’t provide knowledge. It needs mining and processing – and that’s where the People aspect of change comes in. Marketing departments need embedded data science, data analytics and business analytics skills. You have to bring people in with these capabilities – and then train those same people to use those skills to unearth the story, the most relevant insights and the actions you need to take.

Living and breathing the data

Technology-wise, new forms of software are becoming an essential part of the toolkit. Being able to use the data dashboard is now an essential skill for your whole marketing department. In our case, rolling out the Adobe Marketing Cloud across our organisation was a key step in our journey towards becoming a more experience-focused brand. If the transition is to work, you need everyone living and breathing the data created by those customer experiences.

Where Process is concerned, there are at least two big changes needed. Firstly, data siloes need to be outlawed. At Adobe, we discovered that every different function had its own data set – and there was no single source of truth for the whole organisation. We’ve changed this so that all of our people now work from the same data dashboard. As a result, we spend a lot less time arguing in meetings about whose data set is right – and a lot more time unearthing relevant insights.

Content as the ultimate user experience

In many respects, content marketing is the epitome of the new experience focus for brands – because the disciplines of content are so similar to the disciplines of creating good experiences. We recently published our 2016 Digital Trends Report where ‘creating compelling content for digital experiences’ was in the top three most exciting opportunities for Marketers.

The way that we use Sponsored Updates on LinkedIn is a classic example: we use targeting and versionalised content to try different things with different audiences, optimising as we go and delivering increasingly personalised content experiences as a result. We’ve discovered that, where content is concerned, you have to focus on the user, you have to deliver an experience that's relevant to them, but you have to do so in a way that’s also relevant to your brand.

Knowing your brand well enough to evolve it

A lot may be changing in marketing, but the importance of understanding your brand and what it stands for remains absolutely central. You simply can’t deliver responsive and coherent customer experiences without it.

We’ve focused a lot of our thinking around this over the last few years, in particular on the question of how do we keep our brand fresh, modern and relevant.  We recognised that we are no longer in control of our brand. The people we want to connect to want to be part of the brand, they want to help define who we are and what are brand is all about. The deeper they feel part of our brand the stronger the relationship.

Co-creation, collaboration and transparency now drive our thnking. My favourite example of this in action is the way that we opened up our brand identity to our community, inviting them to reinterpret and reinvent our logos, and then embedded the results into our products and brand assets. It’s a part of our brand experience that’s very reflective of what Adobe means to people – and it’s a regular source of content on our LinkedIn Company Page.

That Company Page reflects the other truth about our brand that we’re increasingly embracing in an experience-driven world: our customers don’t just want experiences with Adobe, they are also engaged by the sharing of experiences with other customers. We’re fortunate to have a natural community of creative-minded people and we’ve evolved our marketing philosophy to take greater advantage of that. A great example of how we are facilitating relationships in the B2B space is CMO.com. This site was designed as a content hub to help senior marketing executives successfully navigate the challenges digital marketing presents. In the last year alone, we have featured interviews with over 50 CMO’s who are happy to share their experiences with their peers. All in all, it makes for richer and more rewarding experiences – and that’s really the Holy Grail for brand marketers today.

Simon will be speaking at B2B InTech on February 25th. Click here to register for the event.