We humans are natural orchestrators.
We love distractions and dissonance of our own making. We bury our noses in screens at family dinners, shut out the noise of the morning commute with wireless headphones, and ignore very real vehicle traffic to chase and catch completely fake virtual monsters. We’re very good at the mental gymnastics required to connect loose dots or block out unsavory ones.
Unfortunately for marketers, the endless allowances we make for our own complications turn to deep wells of annoyance when it comes to brands. We chafe at the unwanted repetition of dumb advertising (why are you interrupting me again to talk about yourself?) and fume at the disconnection of touchpoints we expect to be related.
“Today’s customers…expect every brand interaction to be a connected experience that reflects their actions and behaviors, is consistent across touchpoints, and generally treats them like humans,” according to Salesforce research. Ask any weary business traveler who has ever stepped up to a familiar hotel registration desk only to be asked, “Have you stayed with us before?”
Seven in 10 people say that contextualized engagements based on earlier interactions are very important to them, according to that same Salesforce research. Sixty-three percent expect companies to recognize them wherever they engage. Yet those elevated expectations have been “largely unmet,” according to the survey.
Understanding connected experiences means understanding how media and our expectations of brands have changed in the past two decades.
TV hasn’t been replaced by a Next Big Thing. It’s been joined by dozens, even hundreds of alternative options. Instead of a shared god-like beacon, we’re creating for infinite combinations of preferred channels lighting up like personal constellations. A century of polished craft is being lapped by those who can adapt at the pace of a changing climate.
At the same time, software has eaten the world, turning every brand in every category — no matter how low tech — into a digital service and experience provider. Ignore your category. Your new competition is the ease of Amazon and the ubiquity of Google and Facebook. If your product requires waiting in a line or (god forbid) speaking to a person, this is the end of your era.
Customers sense fragmentation in every design inconsistency. They grow annoyed each time they re-enter a password or are chased around the web by digital ads for products they’ve already purchased.
There are better ways for brands to connect with people. In a world where data is abundant but often misunderstood, that means better connections through deeper intelligence; in one where people are more networked than ever, it means stronger connections through orchestrated experiences. For companies, it means linking the dots across marketing, media, commerce, and customer service. It’s a lot harder than it looks when done right, but it’s table stakes in today’s world.
Anticipation, orchestration, and integration are the new marks of quality. Expected connections will pass. Delightful ones will win.
Scott Donaton is global chief creative and content officer for Digitas. Andrew Carlson, co-chief creative officer for Digitas NA, contributed to this article.