When starting out, brands by their very nature are inward looking. Before launching properly to market, they have to be very clear as to their positioning and purpose and the communication platforms that they wish to present themselves on.
A brand will normally construct an idea of the audience that it wishes to target. This is done in several ways, from detailed focus groups to brand surveys, but the end result remains the same. A brand needs to build up a clear idea of its brand consumer. Without this, it runs the risk of not appealing to anyone due to a lack of focus. This laying out of consumer types will ultimately pay dividends for a brand; it is the typical approach for brands looking to establish themselves in a competitive marketplace.
However, this is more difficult than it would first appear. There is now no such thing as a captive audience. Customers are more demanding than ever and they want brands that are committed to them and take time to understand exactly what they want. In essence, a successful brand will tap into consumers’ needs that they are able to fulfil, whether this is through practical value, entertainment or sheer utility.
A good analogy to use is the corner shop experience. Traditionally, in these small local shops, the consumer was known, recognised and delighted. The shop owner was then able to use everyday interactions to gather a deeper understanding of the customer. Thus, the shop’s brand offering could change to provide products and services essential to the context of the customer. The brand consumer journey always started with the customer. It is this customer-first approach brands need to turn to.
The digital revolution has allowed brands to replicate this experience in a more modern and widespread way through the use of applied customer data. This is essential to understanding in meaningful ways the behaviours, needs and opportunities of real people. Furthermore, data allows brands to actually communicate with consumers at points in their interaction with a brand that are most profitable to the brand
This is most simply defined as customer experience context. By introducing this outlook, it is easier to understand a customer’s needs. We look at the customer’s situation, how they are shopping, how they are feeling and how they interact with a brand. These factors are as changeable as the consumers themselves and a brand’s positioning must possess the same flexibility. Therefore, this agility will allow a brand to change more and adapt to fit the consumers’ everyday routine, and become part of their lives.
This level of brand/life integration is only possible with an ongoing commitment to using real data and understanding what element of the customer experience real people value. Perhaps it's convenience, value for money or entertainment value, but the truth behind it remains the same – brands must offer something of everyday value to consumers. Without this they will be just another voice straining to be heard.
Tash Whitmey is Group CEO of Havas helia