Keeping the promise

The catchphrase 'brand experience' has taken on many meanings, depending on what you do for a living. To marketers, event planners and promoters, it means 'experiential marketing.' To management consultants, it means 'customer experience.' To brand consultants, it can mean both - and more.

The catchphrase ‘brand experience’ has taken on many meanings, depending on what you do for a living. To marketers, event planners and promoters, it means ‘experiential marketing.’ To management consultants, it means ‘customer experience.’ To brand consultants, it can mean both – and more.

What it really means is brand operationalization, and that’s the approach we took for strategy’s conference on brand experience on March 30. It includes using the brand as a means of focusing and aligning organizational behaviour in order to deliver a consistent customer experience across touchpoints. It means using the brand promise to guide experience design and measurement. It can even mean changing the organizational structure to facilitate and sustain effective execution of those brand experiences.

Because many of those things fall outside the traditional responsibility of the marketing department, marketers need to think about how to leverage their knowledge and expertise to champion the brand across the value chain.

Customer insights should give them the support they need to demonstrate to the rest of their organizations that brand can be used for a lot more than advertising.

If sheer interest in the conference was any indication – attendees were from many of Canada’s and some of the world’s leading brands – then marketers are visibly looking for ways to do this.

Our keynote, and strategy’s Marketer of the Year, Sean Durfy of WestJet, shared how internal culture and employee engagement can drive brand loyalty and achieve remarkable financial results. The very successful ‘I am a WestJet owner’ campaign did not air until it had the support of the employees themselves. This is a wonderful example of what can happen when employees are empowered – and motivated – to care about what the advertising has to say. People in that company don’t just own shares – they all own the customer too. The ROI on that? Thirty-one consecutive quarters of profitability.

VIA Rail’s Keith Moulton explained how his company changed the org chart, from the top down, in order to deliver an improved customer experience. New roles in the

c-suite, like chief people officer and chief customer officer, made it clear who was responsible for that experience and who was responsible for delivering it. The interesting thing is that Moulton, as director of marketing communications, plays a principal role in sustaining the success of the re-org.

Meanwhile, Scott Allison of Marriott Hotels of Canada shared how his company’s relentless focus on the stuff that really counts for customers helps bring the brand to life in hotels across the continent. His aim was to raise the bar on how customers felt about Marriott from ‘like’ to ‘love.’ One big contributor to that feeling is the quality of the bed. The success of the brand experience, therefore, depended on the success of swapping out every bed across the huge Marriott network. Here is where brand meets logistics, procurement, and maintenance – a truly cross-functional branding exercise.

All in all, we heard marketers speaking out about how, in their efforts to create a truly differentiated brand, they focused on how well the actual customer experience supported the brand promise. Here the marketing department suddenly takes on a leadership role within the organization, and can act with authority when supported by a clear understanding of what customers want, what they don’t get from the competition, and how well the organization is equipped to deliver it.

If you’re a marketer, the knowledge you have about your customer can be used to drive competitive strategy well beyond messaging and deep into execution. So what are you waiting for? Take that knowledge and use it.

Will Novosedlik is a founding partner of Toronto-based Chemistry, a company that formulates brand strategy and links it to internal engagement and customer experience. He was co-MC of strategy’s Brand Experience conference, a job he shared with his partner Susan McGibbon.