Step up your experience game

Aldo Cundari on the Age of the Consumer and the new ROI - return on involvement.
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By Aldo Cundari

The last 15 years have been a whirlwind of change and learning that has forever altered the marketing communication industry and how consumers connect, both with brands and one another.

Who would have guessed the great equalizer would be our reliance on information and how it could empower us as social beings and consumers? One individual voice can change the world, like the first tweet that sparked the Arab spring movement.

It has also completely changed how we advertise and market goods and services, but more profoundly, it created a self-empowering new universe of connectivity.

With this new empowered consumer, where do we go from here? Better yet, where does the marketing and communications industry go from here?

I believe that we are on the verge – if not here already – of a new consumer enlightenment. If mass advertising has helped build and sustain the industrial, manufacturing and information eras up to today, what strategies and tactics will be key in the age of conversation?

Predicting new social connection tools, the next great technology or “big thing” is almost impossible with the multitude of variables. So I turn to Occam’s razor: “The simpler explanation is generally better than more complex ones.”

We are in the Age of the Consumer. Not to be confused with consumerization, consumer empowerment is supported by customer centricity.
If efficiency through scale defined the last decade, the future requires a sustainable post-fragmentation approach that delivers a new consumer ROI: “return on involvement.”

We as marketers have to look deeper to understand and move the individual through a labyrinth of touchpoints. David Rogers, executive director of Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership, defined it well: the new consumer has reshaped the traditional purchasing funnel. “Awareness, opinion, consideration, preference and purchase” have been supplemented by “loyalty” and “advocacy,” Rogers says.

It is essential for us as marketers to build advocacy by moving the new consumer from the very basic level (awareness), to engagement (are they interacting?), to attachment (are they taking ownership and responding for the brand?), and finally, to advocates (are they brand influencers?).
Given their empowerment, customer experiences and service are at the heart of their expectations and are different today. I believe the velocity of customer expectation will continue to accelerate.

To take advantage of this opportunity, make sure your organization is clear on what drives its purpose. Once purpose is established internally, you must embrace the new customer service levels required at every interaction – web, mobile, email, social media, on the store floor and at the event. “Whenever and wherever” is the new customer centricity model.

Besides the ubiquitous Apple, another brand that’s held up as an example of the way forward is Nike+ FuelBand. Not just another running shoe, it was designed to enhance (and empower) one’s personal performance, help people stay motivated and connect with friends. Nike is about consumer centricity.

The new customer has vast implications for most organizations. If they don’t invest heavily today to meet expectations, consumers will just go elsewhere. In some cases this will require a complete overhaul in thinking, revisiting all customer centricity touchpoints – and adding new ones.
Our job as innovators is to make sure that “return on involvement” happens.

Aldo Cundari is chairman and CEO of Toronto-based Cundari, strategy‘s 2012 Campaign of the Year winner.