While advertising will continue to play a role in the overall marketing mix, the golden age of TV advertising is over. Brands and agencies need to take a more holistic view of the customer experience across a multitude of touchpoints, says Richard Carr. For most companies there’s a significant delivery gap between the expected experience by consumers and the one brands actually deliver.

In a recent article in IMJ Richard Carr tells the story of his childhood fantasies about his father being a pilot, and how he perceived flying in general: full of mystery and glimpsed adventure. At some point in primary school, a school teacher told him “It doesn’t really matter what dads do, they’re all glorified bus drivers”. At that time, the young Richard couldn’t see the connection between a pilot and a bus driver. Even though he had never flown, there was a powerful image of the flying experience embedded in his brain. As it turns out, advertising played a dominant role it that creating that experience. The Aer Lingus TV advertisement that beamed in his living room showed glorious travel scenes, iconic music, pristine beaches, alluring air hostesses and, of course, pilots. Even the tagline was aspirational: “Look Up – It’s Aer Lingus”. The message was beautifully crafted but very simple: flying is a special experience and we are waiting to take care of you.

Double page Aer Lingus advert from the Sunday Times Magazine, March 1970.

And here we are in 2019, where taking a flight feels pretty much identical to taking a bus. So, what has changed?
On paper very little: aircraft, airport, cabin crew, pilots… all look pretty much the same since the 70’s. But it’s the experience itself that is unrecognisable. Just to name a few:
  • the booking processes
  • online price comparisons
  • influencers & reviews
  • Airline Apps
  • in-flight entertainment

All these new customer touchpoints represent new ways for airline brands to provide great experiences… and no-so-great ones. Two years ago, United Airlines learned that the hard way and saw $1 billion wiped of its market capitalization when a forced passenger removal was filmed and went viral.  That moment itself was clear evidence that a brand is promise, but ultimately the experience is the proof. And that proof will be shared and seen by many others.

“How people feel about brands and experience them has become a complex business” – Richard Carr

Every single day consumers encounter pain points in their, mainly digital, customer journeys.
Most companies assume they’re giving customers what they want. Usually, they’re kidding themselves. When Bain & Company recently surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when asking the customers, they say only 8% are really delivering.
The article claims to have found two reasons for this delivery gap. The first is a basic paradox: Most growth initiatives damage the most important source of sustainable, profitable growth – a loyal customer franchise. To increase revenue and profits, businesses do things like raising transaction fees that end up alienating their core customers. Efforts to pursue new customers compound the problem, distracting management from serving the core.
The second is that good relationships are hard to build. It’s extremely difficult to understand what people really want, keep your promises and maintain a dialogue to ensure you meet customers’ changing needs. Even initiatives to “better understand” customers can backfire, drowning firms in a sea of data.
How can you close the delivery gap? When analyzing the 8% high-performing firms, there is a common denominator: they rigorously focus on treating their most profitable customers in ways that ensure they come back for more and recommend the company to friends. Unlike most companies, which instinctively turn to product or service design to satisfy customers, these elite few pursue three imperatives simultaneously:
1. They convert insights into truly differentiated propositions reflecting a customer’s total experience
2. They treat every customer interaction as a precious resource
3. And they surprise & delight in ways that help building the brand
Each of these imperatives reinforces the others. Together, they ensure the company is continually led by the voices of its loyal customers.

So, what does this mean for advertising?
Mass advertising still has a key role in defining a brand’s promise, but its dominance has diminished. The golden age of TV ads imprinting themselves in the minds of a captive audience, based on the share of voice, is largely over – argues Carr. In order to drive growth brands need to pull more levers to enhance the experience. This means looking at the entire customer journey.
Every touchpoint in that journey creates an impression: the booking system, the app, the influencer video, the loyalty scheme, the confirmation email… So in order to grow brands must constantly improve the experiences across as many touchpoints as possible.
Companies that succeed in this can close the delivery gap and achieve true customer-led growth.
At Stampix, we help brands communicate their promise in a fun & surprising way: on the back of personal photos and across up to 5 different digital touchpoints.

Interested to learn how we work with brands like Orange, Disney & L’Oréal?
Contact anton@stampix.com to schedule a demo.

Sources:

Closing the delivery gap: How to achieve true customer-led growth (Bain & Company)
Experience counts for everything (Richard Carr, Rothco)

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