TRENDS REPORT

There hasn’t been a year in recent memory packed with as much change as we have witnessed in 2017. This groundswell of disruption stands poised to continue into the year ahead as the lines between culture and commerce, and the public and private sector, continue to evaporate. As our new age of business continues, the CMO function continues to rise in importance due to a confluence of factors ranging from digital transformation to purpose-driven business. As plans get underway for 2018, what follows are the top 5 things CMOs should be aware of as we inch closer to the new year:

1. We are in an experience economy. Antiquated rules of engagement no longer apply.

The old rules of business were ruled by what was dubbed TQM, or Total Quality Management. Winning companies would win or lose based off of their ability to deliver a quality product seamlessly and consistently. This, in their view, would drive customer loyalty and assure a category or market leadership position. Today, and for the past decade actually, largely in a Jobsian shadow, we have rapidly left that notion behind in lieu of the age of TEM, or Total Experience Management. As commodification has been rampant across industry sector, with offerings based on price point becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate, winning experiences have become paramount, and the ability to drive true engagement has become the Holy Grail, whether you are selling apples or automobiles.

Consequently, marketers are being tasked with crafting interactions with customers instead of mere transactions. To do this, they must not lead the customer journey with the “sale” but rather the carrot that will drive to it. That carrot must be translated into the ability to transform storytelling into a vital business competency that takes the why and who of the brand and translates them into experiences that create lasting emotional connections. This type of thinking will without question help define distinction and competitive advantage in 2018.

Emotional engagement is the sister to rational engagement. Rational engagement is based on the stimulation of the mind, whereas emotional engagement is based on the stimulation of the heart. In today’s age of brand experience, it seems that emotional engagement is proving to be more and more critical to achieving winning results and effective storytelling and digital marketing are at the heart of this movement.

In order to be able to master the new art of emotional engagement, you can no longer tell customers what you care to, or create the experiences you desire them to have. You must tell them the stories they crave to hear and provide the moments that they seek to feel connected and emotionally engaged. This significant paradigm shift has led to an economy predicated on engagement and experience and has paved the way for an era of digital marketing driven by strategic, digital marketing analytics rather than naked creativity.

When thinking about how to gain competitive advantage in the marketing realm in the year ahead, think about capturing key insights and then use those insights to transform storytelling into a strategic business competency that generates content experiences that bring the brand to life.

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2. In the age of experience, EVERYONE is a customer.

Today, organizations that use artful storytelling to create winning experiences are the ones who are leading our new era of collaborative commerce forward – and moving product, improving engagement and retaining employees.  The key to their success is realizing that today, everyone, inside and outside of the organization, needs to be viewed as a customer. The following is a framework to use for experience design through a B2B, B2C, and B2E lens for the coming year:

B2B Experience

Pivoting from a product-centric approach to one that is experience-based, B2B companies are harnessing creativity and technology to tell winning stories that will help educate and inform on the new age of business transformation upon us. To do this, they are using storytelling to optimize the customer experience through the following spheres: economic, innovation, agility/transformative ability, future aspiration and brand engagement.

Case in Point:

A B2B Experience:  GE

GE focuses on telling engaging stories that make sense for businesses.  They invite customers in to see ‘Imagination at Work’, and give customers a reason to believe and engage with their innovation that builds, powers, moves & cures the world.  By harnessing storytelling, creativity and technology via content on digital platforms, including Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, GE is delivering on their desired business outcomes:

  1. Increase audience awareness of the scope of what GE does and highlight positive experiences with the brand.
  2. Support pipeline for young engineering and business talent.
  3. Drive interest among the next generation of potential shareholders. The company needs to attract the next generation of shareholders.

B2C Experience

Today, consumers want to be a part of a brand that does more than give them immediate gratification from a product or service. They want to become a part of a brand that they believe in – a brand voice – one that can enrich their daily lives in ways that create meaningful and impactful engagement. Conveying the cornerstone of your company’s purpose-driven thought leadership in ways that bridge to the world at large, beyond the bottom-line, is critical to success in today’s  competitive landscape. Today’s best consumer experiences are defined by telling informed stories that impact the following spheres of influence and create emotional engagement: future motivation, trust, personalization/loyalty, empathy and education.

 

Case in Point:

A B2C Experience:  Casper

Casper’s founders believed if you’re going to convince consumers to trust you that sleep is a pursuit as worthy of obsession as exercise or eating, you have to approach the story arcs (of empathy and education) differently.  Casper is combining science, design thinking, branding, and a winking sense of humor to redefine the humble mattress into lifestyle experience that has built a new cohort of evangelists proselytizing that the key to productivity and overall health stems from maximizing the quality of our slumber. Casper also upended some fundamental assumptions that nobody talks about their mattress and therefore word-of-mouth sales would be impossible to ignite, a notion that was shattered by an immediate boom in viral unboxing videos that captured the exciting unboxing experience.

B2E Experience

According to Harvard Business Review, 89% of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction; 84% said it can affect an organization’s ability to transform; 80% said it helps increase customer and employee loyalty.  To operationalize your purpose-driven narrative into mantras that bring your brand purpose to life in your organization, consider how you can impact the following spheres of influence to help you create authentic employee experiences that delight, inform and engage:  future motivation, leadership/core values: trust, reward + recognition, education and immersion

Case in Point:

A B2E Experience: W.L. Gore

The executive team began to see trends that employees were anxious that slow decision-making and a lack of risk-taking might be weighing on Gore’s entrepreneurial endeavors.  At Gore, a company built with innovation at its core, the risk of an innovation slowdown was particularly serious. Strong leadership, rooted in the company’s core values, worked quickly to streamline decision-making, encouraged the formation of small startup teams that were motivated to explore new ventures and also created an in-house team called the Innovation Center of Expertise to shepherd (and reward) promising employee ideas.

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