How The Expectation Economy Could Help Brands Move On From Ad-Dominated Marketing

How The Expectation Economy Could Help Brands Move On From Ad-Dominated Marketing


EMEA chief marketing officer for Merkle and dentsu’s customer experience management service line.

Let me ask you a question. Is your attitude towards a brand — say a bank — influenced more by its advertising, the quality of its online service or by the experience you have when you interact with the brand by phone?

If I asked, “Is one of these things more important than the other, or are they mutually re-enforcing?” you would probably agree with the latter.

These questions remind us of a simple truth: that our experience of something is multi-faceted and that the different ways it connects with us influence that experience.

Yet until recently, this fact hasn’t influenced the way brands market themselves to us or the way businesses organize themselves. That is changing. A wholesale shift is transpiring in marketing that impacts every aspect of an organization. 

As the CMO of a technology-enabled, data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company, I believe this evolution involves a shift from short-term advertising and campaign-focused marketing to customer experience management (CXM).

For years, marketing departments have taken what companies want to sell and organized campaigns to launch those products and services and build brand affinity in a large audience. Red lines divided advertising from other areas of marketing, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and customer loyalty.

Like many areas of life, technology has disrupted this top-down, mass-production marketing model. People have been predicting the expectation economy for some time. It’s now very real, and it means the power of advertising delivered through media alone may be diminished.

Micro-changes such as choice, speed of information and frictionless service have changed how people perceive brands. The marketing industry could see change coming but has not articulated what it means or how to respond until relatively recently.

At first, the industry responded by embracing technology in an often-disjointed way. Digital marketing driven by behavioral data skewed advertising spend toward performance models and the tech giants.

In parallel, martech, fueled by first-party data, has enhanced the personalization of direct communications — including everything from text promotions to what a representative says to customers on the phone.

Meanwhile, service technology (including apps, voice and in-store tools) has created new touchpoints and data opportunities through which a brand can communicate with customers or provide a service.

In the background, businesses are redesigning their operations around integrated data systems. Effective data organization and understanding is beginning to give companies a more complete view of their relationship with each person they sell to.

All aspects of a brand’s relationship with people are becoming unified through CX transformation; the combination of data transformation and digital transformation are beginning to work in harmony. But instead of using these channels to enhance short-term campaigns, brands should be combining them with a far more strategic intent. Their mission should be to enhance business performance based on a lifetime of customer experiences and journeys that are recorded, analyzed and fed back into the machinery of the enterprise.

What are the implications for brands and the wider marketing industry?

Data should be designed to transform the customer experience.

People often discuss the importance of data management. But it’s not always clear whether the investment in data operations is aligned with technological, behavioral, societal and economic change.

If the goal is to transform customers’ experiences and thus brand performance, the design of data management is critical. The right foundations in data infrastructure may prove pivotal to business success. 

Brands should adopt CXM as a strategic purpose in order to create a template against which to design and develop data creation, curation and transmission solutions within companies.

Marketing should transcend the use of media.

CXM extends the scope of marketing to embrace every touchpoint through which a person can experience a brand.

Here, a stand-alone TV campaign doesn’t serve as much of a purpose. Even a carefully crafted campaign that integrates multiple media channels does not fulfill the CXM model.

Why? Because these campaigns are based on a short-term purpose, travel only as far as paid media and ignore the relationships people have with a brand. 

Instead, companies should be using multi-channel media combined with always-on engagement across all the other non-media channels.

This is not to say that advertising will disappear. I believe great creative ideas that entertain and engage will be important, but brands should craft them through the lens of CXM and activate them across all channels.

Marketing may embrace everything else within a company.

I believe marketing departments will be fused with other elements of an enterprise. The concept of the CXO, a chief experience officer whose role is a combination of the CIO’s and CMO’s, has already arrived, but this role can feel nebulous.

The growth of CXM as an organizational ethos, a north star in terms of business operations and purpose, could allow the role to come together more meaningfully.

In this context, CMOs should evolve to become custodians of all interactions and care for the way the brand can and should interact with people.

Other C-suite roles may blur too. Individual C-suite leaders may require broader expertise. Multi-disciplinary teams may form to focus on project delivery, which could cause departments to become more dispersed.

Agencies will likely either reach upward to speak the language of the enterprise and offer deeper, more holistic business expertise or thrive as specialist service providers that develop creative or navigate the media landscape.

CXM could become a business transformation road map. 

Business leaders are aware that digital technology is challenging business models and giving birth to new data-driven enterprises that have rapidly become part of our lives.

Companies can use CXM as a road map for business transformation so every enterprise, new and old, can become an “adaptive organization.”

An adaptive organization is one that has moved beyond radical internal transformation. It is fueled and unified by data and the organization of talent. It is structured to continually focus on its customers’ experiences and adapt to every new challenge rapidly and effectively.

Being an adaptive organization is not an endpoint. Rather, it is the end of a new beginning.

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