From “Brand Love” to “Love Me, Brand” (or when Genetics meets Marketing)

Is Genetics a field that can inspire marketers? What about customers´ love for brands, is it a thing of the past? Accenture answers a resounding yes for the first question, whilst for the second one we find different perspectives for what «Love in the Times of the Digitalisation» means.

At DES 2018, Sylvian Weill, Accenture´s Personalisation Lead for Iberia, told us that to thrive in our customer experience-led, digital world, companies must use all of the data they are collecting to build a single view of the customer.  This would be for marketers a quest similar to the Human Genome Project. Difficult, but not impossible. The Customer Genome would be a systematic process for identifying the organisation’s DNA symbols, creating the lexicon of terms used to describe customers (the gene sequencing) and providing a powerful database that lets companies store, query and retrieve this information to act on knowledge of customer affinities.

The goal? Based on that mapping, the ultimate goal for Accenture is to serve customers with the personalised experiences that will help them to navigate the sea of product and services offers available online. Data from a recent research indicates that customers are getting frustrated with their online experience and a good example is that almost half (48%) of consumers have left a brand’s website and purchased somewhere else due to a poorly-curated experience. On the other hand, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognise, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.

For Accenture “Experience is the new brand”, and in order to succeed in this new world you have to understand both the What and, above all, the Why of customers´ desires. However, there is a growing disconnect between consumers’ expectations and the reality of what they encounter online. The burden of choice or how to serve everyone without being annoying or overwhelming continues to be one of the major challenges for today’s marketers, per the consultancy.

What about love?

Curiously for a presentation focused on business to consumer marketing, I don’t remember hearing some typical buzzwords such as “image”, “love” or «loyalty». That reminded me Lovemark, Kevin Roberts’ book published in 2004 (I still have a copy with his kind dedication), whose title now sounds a bit anachronic. If experience is the new brand, and customers have more options and more information in the digital age, it is clear that loyalty is a more difficult goal to conquer now that in 2004. Brand love has become more transactional than spiritual, let’s put this way.

In this sense, we know that life is much more difficult nowadays for a CMO due to the operational complexities of running a department with so much pressure on analytics and on quick response to market changes. The pressure is even stronger on advertising agencies and brand consultancies which based their contribution to brands on “the antiquated notion that marketing is synonymous with ‘messaging’” to quote Martin Weigel .

Customers learned to become more utilitarian in the digital age with its myriad of offers, media fragmentation and abundance of information. Customers have more options, and certainly personalisation is the way to get to customer’s hearts & wallets. To be fair, Roberts’ framework postulated that a for a brand to be a lovemark it had to be less generic and become more personal. But the way to do this in the book with its concept highly dependent on mass communication (aka tv advertising) is very different from today’s perspective.

Personalization Lead AccentureFor Accenture, for example, brands need to enable a two-way dialogue and this happens when brands design experiences that help customers to create their own journeys. This fundamental shift away from traditional communications modes to interactive conversations will enable marketers to drive new levels of personalisation, trust and meaningful experiences. Accenture updates and expands the idea of «brand love» with its 4R Personalization Framework, which coincidently is represented in the shape of a heart. Similar to the way customers expect to be treated by their favourite offline business, online customers expect to be recognized by name when they arrive, and have their preferences remembered without having to be reminded. Customers expect the business to know them better than they know themselves by paying close attention to their unique preferences and making recommendations that are relevant within the context of the situation.

Not an easy task, of course, because companies need scale to make money with personalisation. The framework is highly dependent on customer experience analytics, disposition of customers to facilitate their data and a level of maturity that few companies have nowadays, being a good example Hoteles Meliá. However, this is clearly the direction of travel. To seek customers´love for brands will probably continue to have its importance on marketing strategies, utility and presence will continue to be the two pillars of marketing but data will be the at the centre of the DNA of this increasingly individualised relationship.