No Dead Ends: An Aspiration For Integration

Matt Walsh Executive Experience Director, CP+B

I'm betting the campaigns you're thinking of were brilliant ideas. They build brands through smart channel planning and multi-platform narrative + stylistic coordination. Some of them even featured co-creation elements with the social world affecting the advertising initiatives and vice versa. The majority of them strove to be "integrated" in a quest to build emotionally charged relationships with their target audience that would result in brand preference that hopefully translated to a purchase in the future.

They achieved all of that quite well, but I would argue that we marketers need to be striving towards something greater than what I described.

I believe that the primary goal of marketing in the modern era is about creating and strengthening people's relationships with brands and products by providing value for both consumer and company.

Relationships. Value. They're two deceptively simple concepts, but as goals they are seldom achieved. Can you drive an emotional relationship from that anthem spot? Absolutely. Can you provide value with that digital tool you've created? No doubt. Can you pay someone to go back to the store with that mailer coupon? Yup.

But when we all look in the mirror, there are few brand-to-consumer engagement and communication systems that are integrated by more than narrative and look-and-feel. We create emotional connections through narrative, but relationships need to be about more than just emotion. The emotional connection wont matter if it is then betrayed by inadequate customer journeys and outdated interactions that are antiquated, fragmented, generic and unable to drive action down the funnel. Real relationships are driven by a marriage of emotion AND behavior.

And right now, even for those famous campaigns. Those relationships are too often being betrayed by Dead Ends.

I define a Dead End as any touch point that doesn't intelligently encourage a consumer's journey down the funnel through personalization and/or immediate engagement opportunities.

It's easy to misinterpret this definition as being solely about digital. Although digital offers powerful tools to help a customer down the funnel, it is by no means the only way. I'm not just talking about advertising either.

Idea Ecosystem

Every touch point and every path must be considered at every stage: your receipt, your logo, your POS display, your commercials, your emails, etc. Every one offers an opportunity for an emotional connection, but each is also a potential doorway to a deeper relationship with your brand. Where do those doors lead? Do they lead to a vague hope of heightened brand preference that might one day lead to a sale? Or do they lead somewhere smarter and more strategically rewarding?

Unfortunately most marketing strategies are only focused on telling the story of the product and its attributes rather than on enhancing the journey required to lead customers to and through the product. That's shortsighted, and sacrifices long-term relationships for fleeting short-term profit.

If creating behavioral and emotional relationships is the first half of the equation, building value is the second half. As marketers, our ecosystems and experiences have to provide value to our clients and brands, but we also need to offer relevant and meaningful value to the consumer at each touch point, be it utility, information, entertainment or something else.

An Engagement Cycle

That's where a holistic ecosystem approach becomes both more rewarding and more challenging. Modern technology now offers the potential to share information across more touch points making possible a new era of personalization and relevance. However, designing the flexible and customizable experiences that leverage that information and ladder up to non-linear user journeys that are also personalized... That is massively complex to design and implement.

Experience Designers can help. Much the same way we conceptualize out and plan the pages and paths through a website, we also apply similar toolkits and perspective to more macro product journeys. Independent of our own practice, Chris Stutzman recently wrote a Forrester article encouraging CEOs to capitalize on the opportunities inherent in this line of thinking:

"Leverage experience directors to guide how consumers will navigate the brand ecosystem. Another critical component of a creative strategy, especially in today's digitally connected world, is guidance about how the audience will interact with the brand. A great creative idea needs a trellis for ideas to constantly grow and flourish across complex brand ecosystems. Today, marketers need an experience director who can orchestrate the combined skills of designers, usability experts, and content architects to assemble and integrate their brand experience."

But, whether or not we utilize Experience Design, how do we integrate more deeply to achieve those value driven relationships? Four things will help start us on our way:

  1. Stop Hiding Behind Excuses.
    • We don't have the time
    • We don't have the budget
    • We don't have good enough ideas
    • We can't take the risks
    • Our customers aren't ready
    • There are too many politics
    • I can't change anything myself
    Every one of us can find an excuse for why our consumer touchpoints and funnels are not more integrated. Let's stop hiding behind these excuses, align on a vision, and do the little things that ladder up to something big.
  2. Provide more than just entertainment value.
    Every idea and touchpoint needs to provide relevant and significant value both for client and consumer. A chuckle or a tugged heart string is critical, but that alone isn't enough anymore.
  3. Ask "then what" for every idea.
    Every interaction needs to ladder up to a bigger strategy for the customer journey. We have to be as interested in that journey as we are in the ideas that make it up.
  4. Move past the "digital vs. traditional" argument.
    Rather, it's the marriage of holistic behavior-centric product design with culture changing, emotionally charged brand narratives that we need. That intersection is where the real opportunities are for integration, relationships and value. Not fighting for digital or traditional, but rather marrying Behavior and Emotion.

If we do these things we'll be able to move towards the relationships that are driven by true integration, and we'll enjoy the results that come with that.

Let's all break down our Dead Ends.