I am passionate about our world, a world where consumer understanding meets technology and enables marketers to make more impactful decisions.
The world we live in
We work in a world where empowered customers demand personalisation from brands with which that they want to engage.
Within this environment, it’s interesting to see that both Consumer Insight and Experiential Marketing are booming. I suspect it is for the same reason. In a world flowing with more data than ever before – ever more autonomous and automated – a strange truth is emerging: People are yearning for more humanity.
In a recent state of marketing report, Salesforce mentioned that modern customers are looking for connected and contextualised interactions at every turn. For marketing teams used to owning only one stage of the journey, that’s a tricky proposition. COVID-19 has taught us all the importance of human connection. In response, brands are working harder than ever to not just sell to their audience but to create a personalised experience.
This can be done via both digital (insight) and live (experiential) experiences.
For research, time between insight and action has shortened considerably in the last twelve months. The ability to harness customer input is moving at light speed, with research technology (ResTech) presenting compelling advantages to CMOs who invest and learn to leverage closer customer connections. Insight communities connected to well-designed CX programs that provide ongoing dialogue with the people that will help marketers shape the future of their company are now commonplace and delivering both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of customer behaviour. By inviting customers into an inner circle and demonstrating how you are taking action based on their input, brands are personalising this part of the customer relationship whilst creating two-way dialogue, the type that strong relationships are built on. All delivered digitally.
The digitisation of customer insight has been pushed over the hill by the pandemic and will only get better with increased investment in digital market research (MR) innovation. It will stick and improve as it has delivered impact and relationships at a more human level.
For Experiential marketing, which is all about experiencing the brand and emotional connections between the brand and the customer created through memorable and unique experiences, we see a different story. Experience turned to digital during the pandemic in order to maintain connection and was able to do this successfully, but we noticed a certain amount of digital fatigue over time. Unlike research, the digital experience did not deliver as much (joy) as a physical event, and brands and customers alike pined for a more human touch/connection. This area of marketing is seeing heavy investment for a good reason.
So why is this?
The reason for all this is not especially surprising: We see people bounce out of lockdown, book holidays, and – as a priority – reconnect face-to-face with family and friends. We are humans after all, and we are better when connected face-to-face. It doesn’t have to just be very large events, in fact, it is large events that Australians are most worried about in terms of health risk when coming out of lockdown (even slightly more than catching a plane or being at the airport!).
Experience can be as powerful when intimate, well-targeted, and pushing beyond a simple CX play and into the heart of delivering an exceptional brand experience. For all intents and purposes, this is proving to be best done live as it is a feeling that is difficult to replicate in the digital world. This experience, however, will have to adapt to the change we have seen and respond to customers’ frequently changing needs.
We know that many brands are facing pressure to stand for something bigger than the products and services they sell (especially with consumers aged 15-30 years). Again, creating impactful brand experiences via events and face-to-face can more easily ‘seal the deal’ in developing trust; something vital for long-term customer engagement and retention.
The digitisation of brand experiences has been a good stopgap during the pandemic, but brands are now returning to the investment of face-to-face for greater impact.
It’s a simple case of horses for courses.
The future looks healthy for both the research and experience-led subsets of the marketing profession. Adaptation has occurred to balance the enormous changes in customer behaviour. Now it’s time for confidence in what customer insight and exceptional brand experiences can deliver – and where we can push the boundaries even further.
Things are bright, both digital and live.