Changing Behavior: Driving Brands Through Customer-Centricity

Sean Hartigan ThumbnailLet’s start with a provocative thought:

Brand success really isn’t about the actual brands we serve.

It never really has been.

Heresy, some will say! But the truth is, brand success is really about the people whose behavior we’re trying to change on behalf of the brand: healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, et al. It’s about our ability to truly reach, captivate and connect with these stakeholders, moving them along a learning continuum, so that they come to trust and embrace our clients’ brands.

Makes sense right? Maybe so, but too often client marketing approaches (and we can fall into this trap, too) seem entirely brand-centric. Obviously, here at Ogilvy we’re in the business of building brands from the ground up, so we need to be brand champions. And the brand teams who hire us must promote their products to be successful, so you might argue that marketing should be brand-centric. How else do you raise awareness, drive trial and adoption, and grow market share, if not for personal and non-personal promotion? I get it. But there needs to be a balance between brand business needs/goals, and customer needs. That crossroads is where brands (and us for leading them there) can differentiate, and net long-term customer loyalty by making customers as much of a priority as the products we market to them.

If we simply push out content solely based on what brands want, or based on what they think is important (hinged on market research often fueled by a small N of respondents), we run the risk of being tone deaf to the customers at large, and of missing an opportunity to be more effective with our marketing and the money we convince clients to invest in it.

Please allow me to use a metaphor to frame my strategic concern with brand or egocentric marketing vs. customer-minded or empowered marketing…

Ever had your eyes examined? Sure you have. Now, think back…remember that big device the ophthalmologist sits you in front of? “Lean forward, rest your chin on the thing and look through the lenses.” When you look through the lenses you see the blurry image of the eye chart on the far wall. Your eye doctor then proceeds to slide different lenses in and out of the device until the eye chart comes into focus.

In this metaphor, that eye chart represents the customer. The lenses that most brands look at their customers through are the decile lens (what are they worth to us in terms of scripts/revenue) and the specialty lens. Beyond that, few consider the lenses of geography, ethnography, practice setting, experience with the brand (seeker, considerer, loyalist, evangelist—see Buddy Scalera for more information), and lastly, few actually ASK their customers what they want or need by way of brand support. Until we learn to view a brand from the perspective of our myriad customers, we risk being myopic and not as successful in ultimately doing what we were hired to do: drive brand performance.

There are basically 6 ways to evolve brand-centric marketing to become customer-fueled and more productive:

  1. Employ segmentation informed by those other lenses mentioned above (and others) to provide a clearer view of customers so that we can market to them in a more personally meaningful way—this ties directly back to our FUSION process!
  2. Give the customer the power to make choices that you can support; listening to and delivering on customer needs builds trust, relevance and loyalty.
  3. Centralize your support; make content and assets easy and convenient to access—remove barriers to engagement and opt-in.
  4. Surround your customers in the appropriate integrated channel mix; a holistic customer-minded ecosystem engineered using the right tactics, the right messages, the right offers, and deployed at the right time to your segments.
  5. Learn from your customers; collect attitudinal and behavioral data that is actionable; customer feedback and user data provide the foundation for a productive ongoing relationship, i.e. CRM fueled by personal and non-personal.
  6. Turn customers into advocates; viral or grassroots brand champions are invaluable for getting the word out—and they will if you provide true value.

Anyone whom I’ve worked with knows that I’m evangelical about developing interactive, digital, and integrated multichannel solutions for clients that drive improved reach, engagement and brand outcomes. But before we even get to the cool stuff, the key to success for all of those solutions begins with defining a deeper, more informed customer segmentation. This segmentation then informs content journeys for each identified segment that are then translated to multichannel tactics in the ecosystem I mentioned.

While the benefits of this marketing approach are hopefully apparent, consider this:

A recent report from the Aberdeen Group (a Harte Hanks fact-based research and market intelligence company) benchmarking more than 30,000 companies, reveals that a majority of “customer-centric organizations” companies achieved better than 15% annual improvement in return on marketing investment (ROI), gross revenues, and customer retention rates as a result of the following capabilities:

– Leaders leverage customer analytics, multichannel interaction applications, business processes, and technology infrastructure integrated across brands and product lines

– Best-in-class companies understand exactly the relationships their best customers want

I’ll leave you with this anecdote relative to segmentation and customer-centricity:

Both Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne are males from England, were born in 1948, were divorced, remarried, have two biological sons,* etc. But, would you market to them the same way? While both men may have some interests in common, it stands to reason, brands would do well to learn more about them and promote to them in a way that addresses their nuances.

Food for thought.

*Ozzy also has a daughter 🙂

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