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Why Brand Strategy Is Dead—and Where You Should Focus Next

Remember the good old days when we controlled our own brand perception?

We spent hours creating messaging platforms. We used those platforms as the basis of all our marketing and advertising programs. We went to market with our message—and not everybody embraced it, of course. But at least we knew we had control of how our audience perceived our products and services. Of course, it was never quite as simple as that, but once upon a time, it was possible to create a brand perception through media spend alone.


Today, the tables have turned. Customers have grabbed hold of the wheel, and we’re in the back seat holding on for dear life.

Perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic. But I think you’ll agree that you’re no longer dictating your own brand proposition. Your customers and prospects have much more control than you do.

They Facebook, tweet, and Instagram their experiences with your brand, both positive and negative. Their messages have a theoretically unlimited reach, thanks to social sharing. And because these channels are free for the user, it’s as if your audience has an infinite marketing budget.

It’s not fair. But it’s reality. And it all makes every marketer’s job much more challenging.


What We Can All Learn from Those Pesky Startups

Of course, it’s not just your audience that’s making it tougher to communicate your message. It’s also the competitive landscape.

Depending on your industry, you may very well be dealing with a host of new competitors that have sprung up in recent years. What these new players lack in experience, they often make up for in energy, glamor, and willingness to take risks.

Let’s face it: we live in a pretty youth-obsessed culture, and this applies to businesses, too. Sometimes, all a new competitor has to do to gain market share is present themselves as a cooler, hipper, cheaper, easier alternative to their stodgy old competitors. Witness the new start-up, Brandless, that is offering a subscription peanut butter service. Yep, it’s just peanut butter, but it’s cool and new and all… internetty. It’s like there’s now a penalty for being first to market.

But I don’t want to suggest that the newcomers are succeeding solely by virtue of being new. In fact, there’s a lot we can learn from the startups.

Many of them have figured out that to win the day as marketers, they need to do more than just write outstanding messaging—they should focus on providing an outstanding customer experience.

They’re on to something.


Three Tips for Putting the Customer Experience First

If you really want to set your brand apart from the crowd, start acting like your customer experience IS your brand.

In other words, don’t look at every interaction with a customer as another opportunity to hit them with your messaging. Look at these touchpoints as chances to provide outstanding customer experiences.

“Yeah,” you may protest, “but as a marketer, the customer experience isn’t really my bag. And I’m not sure we even provide a very good customer experience.”

No kidding? That’s your first lesson. You’re going to have to go outside your marketing world and collaborate with peers across departments, many of whom probably have no organizational incentive to cooperate with you. That means you’ll need to convince these peers of the value that lies in fixing the customer experience above everything else.

It may sound daunting. But here are three steps for getting started:

  1. Shift your mindset. Think about how you can start making your messaging frameworks come to life in the real-world customer experience.
  2. Determine which specific customer experiences contribute most to your brand story. Be brutally honest here, and identify the biggest positives and negatives in your current customer experience. You may have the friendliest call center staff in the business, but if customers consistently have to wait 25 minutes on hold to speak with them, something’s got to change.
  3. Prioritize your enhancement of these experiences. Once you’ve got your list of potential improvements in hand, take the time to project your “wow factor” and ROI from each. This exercise will make it clear what you should tackle first.


Get the Full Story Here

There’s no telling what your payoff will be once you’ve shifted your mindset towards providing an outstanding customer experience. You’ll almost certainly find new ways to engage your customers—especially your most profitable ones. But you may even find ways to reduce costs—for example, by not mailing out so many catalogs that just get tossed in the trash anyway.


There’s much more to say about this. Consider downloading the full story in our FREE article: Brand Strategy Is Dead. Long Live Brand Experience Strategy.