Summary: This article explores the importance of aligning brand communication with customer experiences to build a robust brand. While marketers often focus on messaging, research from Kantars Brand Z project reveals that only 25% of brand equity comes from communication, with the remaining 75% derived from customer experiences. Brands with superior experiences are 2.5 times more likely to increase market share. The article guides readers through creating a customer journey map, emphasising defining objectives, understanding customer personas, mapping touchpoints, gathering data, and implementing improvements. By prioritising customer-centricity, testing changes, and iterating, organisations can bridge the gap between communication and delivery, fostering brand loyalty and growth.

This is the seventh article in our Challenger Marketing series you can find article six, ‘Building the Brand Platform’ here.

This article follows on from article six which focused on how to build a solid brand strategy. There we covered how to define your brand in terms of how it’s seen in the world. How you position your brand, the key messages, your proposition, how you look, this all combines to create an impression in the target customer's mind. And that is what a brand is - the impression created in your prospect’s mind (hopefully a positive one!).

But building that brand is actually a combination of what you say and what you do.

As marketers, we are often less deliberate about what we do. We focus more on how we are seen in the world; what we say and how our brand is presented. But what we do; how we act and the experience we deliver is a key part of our brand that needs to be managed as much as our communications and campaigns.

Kanter has been running a long-term research piece “the Brand Z project” looking to uncover the key drivers of brand growth. They found that brands derive only 25% of their equity from communications, such as paid media. The remaining 75% comes from the experiences that customers have with the brand – its products, services, and customer service channels, including digital.

In addition, brands with the strongest experiences are 2.5x more likely to significantly grow their market share compared to those with weaker experiences. And strong leading experiences include something innovative that plays a key role in helping the brand stand apart from its peers.

So how can we create an even stronger brand by building an innovative customer experience? We do this by looking at each stage in the journey and creating a breakthrough experience for your potential customers.

Ok just before we get started it’s important to note that while your brand strategy defines what you say, your customer journey defines what you do. This is the yin and yang of your strategic foundation - to be successful you need to do both well. Strong in one and weak in the other will create long-term problems - either you will be poor in growth or you won’t be able to retain the new customers you do attract.

So to get this done we need to define the Customer Journey and use this as a catalyst to drive actions that build a customer-centric brand and long-term, loyal customers. Just as we created a Brand Strategy framework in Article 6, we want to create a Customer Journey framework that documents things at a practical level, defining specific actions and objectives throughout the lens of the consumer's experience with the brand.

So let’s get started. Ideally, you have your Brand Strategy completed as this will help guide you, but you can start this process independently. Each of these phases is probably a discussion with a small cross-functional group of employees that are close to customers in your organisation.

  1. Define Objectives and Scope: Determine the purpose of the customer journey map. Understand what you aim to achieve (improved service, new services, reduced churn, high referral) and define the boundaries of the map (eg. specific customer segments, product/service features, or touchpoints).
  2. Identify Customer Personas: Develop key personas representing different customer segments. Understand their demographics, behaviours, goals, pain points, and motivations.
  3. Map Touchpoints: Identify all the touchpoints where customers interact with your product or service. These can include website visits, social media engagement, customer support calls, etc. Create a timeline to represent the customer's journey.
  4. Gather Data: Collect qualitative and quantitative data about customer experiences at each touchpoint. Utilise surveys, interviews, analytics, and customer feedback to gather insights.
  5. Create the Map: Visualise the customer journey by plotting each touchpoint across the timeline. Include emotional states, thoughts, actions, and pain points experienced by customers at each stage.
  6. Where is the Pain? Where there is pain there is potential! Analyse the map to identify pain points where customers face challenges or negative experiences. These represent key opportunities to innovate and make a significant difference. Also, highlight areas where improvements or new opportunities for engagement exist.
  7. Prioritise Improvements: Determine which pain points or opportunities are most critical or impactful. Prioritise them based on feasibility and potential impact on customer satisfaction.
  8. Implement Changes: Develop strategies and initiatives to address the identified pain points or capitalise on opportunities. This might involve improving customer service, enhancing user interfaces, refining marketing strategies, etc.
  9. Test and Iterate: Implement changes on a small scale and test their impact. Gather feedback and data to assess the effectiveness of the improvements. Iterate and refine the customer journey map based on ongoing insights and evaluations.
  10. Monitor and Update: Regularly monitor customer interactions and experiences. Update the customer journey map as needed to reflect changes in customer behaviours, market trends, or product/service updates.

Just committing to this process drives several benefits. It forces you to become more customer-centric. You’ll spend time with customers, researching customers, thinking about your product/ service from their point of view. It’s also about driving change too. The point of going through this process is to look for improvements. It's an action-oriented, dynamic process and will create momentum if executed well.

Once you have your customer journey mapped out you can use this to define what you do at each phase. It helps with media and communication decisions, it helps with sales decisions, it helps when thinking through digital solutions and the customer support that is required. It enables you to think strategically about how you help your customers at each phase of the journey.

We recently conducted a research project into the concept of mental load and how it affects consumers. In summary, it found approximately 75% of both women and men felt the effects of mental load and 64% believed brands could be doing more to help. This is where a tight customer experience strategy comes into play. Thinking through the pain points and making things easier for your customers will build loyalty and build your brand.

Often the knowledge or the process that organisations use to manage customers is more intrinsic in nature. It evolves over time into an unwritten way of working. This can work well in many cases especially when there is strong leadership and understanding of the things that make a difference. But being deliberate and creating a clear plan will elevate things to another level.

Early in my marketing career I spent a long time at Air New Zealand, one of the roles I had while there was as a product manager. Air New Zealand has always been a great airline in terms of its service. It has a strong natural service ethic. We never mapped out the customer journey formally. But we understood the customer needs, we worried about each step in the process, we trained the teams as best as we could, we focused on creating ‘moments of magic’ at key points.

There was a clear, defined approach to how Air NZ managed service. It wasn't documented on a Customer Journey Map. This was well before modern CX was even a thing. Still, even then we understood how important managing the customer service process was. If these new tools and frameworks were available then I’m sure they would have made a difference. Not so much to the final outcomes but I am sure they would have sped up the process by creating a shared reference point and common approach.

Instead of relying on the collective organisational wisdom, mapping the process out, thinking it through, and looking for opportunities to innovate will allow you to create your own magic moments. This will build a culture of service, build loyalty and build the brand by doing and delivering. Mapping out the process also creates a bridge between the communications team and the delivery teams.

So what’s the payoff to a sound CX process? As mentioned above brands with the strongest experiences are 2.5x more likely to significantly grow their market share compared to those with weaker experiences.

Two client projects stand out for us. We developed a new website Oceania who specialise in retirement living. Before the redevelopment, the number of people using the site who were over 65 was tiny - which was a big problem as that was their target market! After the redesign there was an 85% increase in the 65%+ audience, a 92% increase in returning visitors and a 59% increase in website enquiries, you can see the work here.

The second project was for Skyline, they have a strong tourism brand but their online experience was holding them back. After redesigning the online experience to match the excitement of their physical experience we improved their onsite engagement by 11% and eCommerce conversions by 136%. These results absolutely destroyed their business case targets. You can see the work here.

Remember building a strong brand requires both a strong identity and a strong customer experience. Get both right and you’ll be on the fast track to high growth!

Download the Customer Experience Frameworks

Source: Duncan Shand, 24 April, 2024