Brands fighting the daily share battle have a better weapon.
Six centuries ago, English soldiers brutally defeated French forces amidst a muddy field in northern France. The Battle of Agincourt was a pivotal victory for Henry V, whose unorthodox deployment of English longbowmen proved superior against Charles VI’s tried and true attack of heavily armored French cavalry. Agincourt was a standout battle in the Hundred Years’ War (which later became a major plotline in Shakespeare’s Henry V) because the English army was severely outnumbered more than five to one. The odds were indisputably stacked against them, yet still they won.
Human instinct coaxes us to think more is always better, until the law of diminishing returns prevails. And so it goes for brands fighting the daily share battle against competitors armed with massive marketing budgets that flood media with louder and more intrusive advertising impressions. Just as the French troops, so high in numbers, became immobile on the battlefield, big brands are no longer properly equipped for today’s marketing conditions.
In fact, serving audiences ads with high frequencies over short flights can negatively affect brand perception and response rates (Millward Brown AdReaction Study). This is one of the reasons why a staggering 40% of 19-25 year olds are using Ad Blocking software. And it’s forecasted that this behavior will increase to half of ALL consumers in the US in less than 2 years (eMarketer, Millward Brown).
Ad avoidance isn’t the only thing causing chinks in big brands’ armor: There’s an abysmal 44.7% viewability rate for digital display ads in the US (Integral Ad Science’s Media Quality Report). This means that audiences who aren’t already using ad-blocking software will never see 55% of display ads served to them. Yet our “more is better” mentality continues to fuel brands and agencies that plan to increase their display ad spending through 2020 (eMarketer).
Just like challenger brands, the English army was forced to do more with less—and this became their greatest competitive advantage. They had to focus their resources on the highest-impact targets. How does this relate to brands? Let’s remind ourselves that three of the top four biggest influences on consumers’ buying decisions are all word-of-mouth-derived: Friends and family, recommendations from within one’s social media circle, and online reviews by other people (Deloitte 2016 Digital Democracy Survey). Given this, brands fighting the daily share battle have a much better weapon that will generate positive word-of-mouth and ultimately sales: Great customer experience.
Forrester Research defines “customer experience” (CX) as one’s perception of their interactions with brands. This not only includes customer service but also things like physical locations, websites, tools, apps, and, yes, even online advertising. Any interaction with a brand is a customer experience—and they’re not only critical to get right but especially important to make delightful. While 3% of consumers will tell 15 or more people if they’re unhappy, 72% of consumers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people (U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs 2015 Survey).
It’s been shown that brands that get CX right outperform their competition through big gains in stock price (Forrester’s Customer Experience Index). This is why within 4 years, more marketers will interact directly with their customers through technology and personalization than interact indirectly with them through media and advertising (The Economist’s Path to 2020 Report).
Unfortunately, we’ve got a ways to go. While 90% of marketers agree that personalizing the customer experience is critical to their success, nearly 80% of consumers stated that the average brand doesn’t understand them as an individual (IBM Econsultancy Study). This is what’s called the “experience gap”—and a much greater focus on narrowing this gap is how challenger brands will win the daily share battle.
How? Here are some starting points:
- Brands: As technology takes center stage in marketing, CMOs must break down the barriers they’ve traditionally had with CIOs and play the role of CX champion and integrator. This means caring equally about delighting customers at every brand touch point—not just those in media and advertising. Doing this requires planning marketing budgets differently to create value in each interaction versus sheer tonnage of ad impressions. “Another department handles our website” can no longer be an excuse not to enhance a customer experience.
- Agencies: There is no more powerful marketing tool than the customer journey—and modern lead agencies must own it in order to express big creative platforms as the right kinds of delightful brand interactions at each point along the journey. Today’s definition of “creative” should hone in on that which is purpose-built, contextual, and personalized. Agencies need to abandon legacy ways of working and invest and lean in to their experience design talent more than ever before as the stewards of CX.
- Publishers: Customers want greater control over their media experiences as well as peace of mind with how they’re being targeted. Publishers should stop debating about what makes a better ad and think about how to make better user experiences—change the game, challenge the status quo, and level the battlefield in favor of consumers. Things like YouTube TrueView, Facebook Canvas, and Shapchat geofilters & lenses are just the very beginning of paid branded experiences that empower users.
- Consumers: It’s consumer behavior that’s forcing the hands of brands, agencies, and publishers to rethink advertising. On the marketing battleground, consumers are fighting to seize greater control of their user experience. They must continue to skip content that’s not relevant, block ads that are invasive, bounce off poor click-through destinations, and abandon useless apps. Change will never happen if most consumers tolerate bad experiences.
In the Battle of Agincourt, the English army didn’t choose to be outnumbered—neither do challenger brands. The muddy battlefield (thanks to an overnight rainstorm) tired out French soldiers wearing heavy armor as they tried to maneuver. Like many big brands getting suppressed in today’s landscape of ad avoidance, the French were ill equipped and too dense to mobilize. In contrast, the English used light footman who adapted quickly to their environment in order to flex their bows. Today’s challenger brands must also aim for the heart—not to kill their competition but to win the love of their customers.