strategy+businessISSUE 68 AUTUMN 2012The Social Life of BrandsA marketing strategy informed by neuroscience can help companiesenhance customer engagement — and make better use of tools likesocial media.BY MATTHEW EGOL, MARY BETH MCEUEN,AND EMILY FALK Scan this QR code with your smartphone to take a free 10-minute survey to gauge how well your company is using and learning from digital data. This Digital Customer Centricity Profiler will help you see how your capabilities for customer centricity compare to leaders in your market and industry. You can also take the survey at www.beadigitalleader.com.REPRINT 00118
The Social Life of Brands A marketing strategy informed by neuroscience can features marketing, media & sales help companies enhance customer engagement — and make better use of tools like social media. by Matthew Egol, Mary Beth McEuen, and Emily Falk It was love at first sight for Nathan Aaron. The pany has made a misstep. North Carolina graphic artist, illustrator, and social me- Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, the cofounders and dia proprietor first saw Method Inc.’s high-style, envi- chief executives of Method, are not put off by Aaron’s ronmentally conscious household cleaning products on familiarity or independent-mindedness. On the con- display in his local Target store. He was smitten. trary, they think he’s a dream consumer, and their mar- 2 “What caught my attention immediately was mint keting strategy is built around people like him. “To suc- dish soap.… Now, I’m a mint fanatic! Crazy about the ceed in a world of earned and social media requires you stuff.… Plus the gorgeous Karim Rashid packaging to shift your mind-set from talking to customers to in- didn’t hurt things one bit. And that was the beginning spiring advocates,” they wrote in The Method Method: of my, should I say, lust affair, with Method.” Aaron 7 Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn wrote that in 2008, in the first post on his new blog, an Industry Upside Down (Portfolio/Penguin, 2011). methodlust.com. Since then, he and a community of “Not only do advocates make good business sense by like-minded consumers have posted more than 1,000 buying more of our products more often, but also they paeans and gripes there, all devoted to the Method engage us — online, in writing, on the phone, and in company and its brand proposition (fashionably de- person — teaching us all sorts of stuff we wouldn’t haveIllustration by Richard Mia signed, beautifully scented, nontoxic cleaning products). figured out on our own.” Methodlust.com is nothing more or less than a fan site, Would your company consider Nathan Aaron a similar to one you might see for a hit movie or television dream consumer or a loose cannon? Would you encour- show. It contains reviews of the company’s products, age his public affair with your brand and listen to his commentary on its marketing strategy, interviews with ideas, or demand that he stop? Would you even know employees at all levels, and reader polls — plus fierce he was out there? Your answer says a lot about your ap- critiques when Aaron (or a reader) thinks that the com- proach to marketing and customer relationships.
Matthew Egol Mary Beth McEuen Emily Falk firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org is a partner in Booz & is vice president and executive is an assistant professor of Company’s communications, director of the Maritz Institute communication studies and media, and technology in St. Louis, Mo. The institute psychology at the University of practice. Based in New York, is an independent network Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he focuses on marketing of thought leaders working she directs the Communica- strategy and capability devel- to create next-generation tion Neuroscience Lab. She is opment related to digitization, business practices based on also a research associate at social media, and shopper human science research. the Research Center for Group marketing. Dynamics at the Institute for Social Research. Nathan’s devotion and Method’s response to it of the company that produces it, and the values they are becoming more typical. Some might attribute this share about it. Some marketers, like Whole Foods, Ikea, trend — the increasing use of community engagement and eBay, are consciously evoking a shift in attitudefeatures marketing, media & sales by marketers — to the rise of online social media: Face- that grew more prominent in the Great Recession: a de- book, Twitter, YouTube, fan sites, and social marketing sire for less acquisition of goods (or even experiences), websites (also known as private-label media) created by and for more meaningful, lasting forms of fulfillment. companies themselves. (See “Scaling Up Social Media,” Companies that promise simplicity, connection, and by Christopher Vollmer and Karen Premo, s+b, Autumn sustainable benefits can gain the most from this shift — 2012.) But the trend represents a more fundamental but only if they deliver. change in marketing practice, linked to insights from social psychology, behavioral economics, and neurosci- Two Systems of Thought ence and brain research. Every form of interaction be- Marketers who want to build a strong social life for their tween companies and consumers — taking place online brands can start by better understanding the social na- and offline, in stores and over mobile devices, in brand- ture of thought and action: the interpersonal, cognitive, ed content and by word of mouth, and indeed through and emotional triggers that link human interaction with all direct consumer experience — is now understood to emotional experience. be shaped by the social nature of brands. People essentially have two ways of thinking. 3 As marketers put this insight into practice in so- Through several decades of research, cognitive scien- phisticated ways, a one-way message or image can no tists have come to recognize them as deeply ingrained, longer compete. The value of a brand is linked to the complementary systems; psychologist and Nobel lau- relationships it fosters: the social connections among reate Daniel Kahneman made them the central theme people who buy the product or service. Managing these of his book Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus & connections at every scale, from an individual contact Giroux, 2011). Social cognitive neuroscientists such as to a message that reaches millions of people, is the fun- Matthew Lieberman have also identified brain regions damental task of marketing today. that map to these two systems, with each playing a role With the right conditions in place, a brand can in social interactions. move beyond a purely transaction-based relationship to The first system — often referred to as System become a platform for an experience that feels to con- One, “reflexive thinking,” or the Thinking Fast system sumers like friendship. Great marketers have known — manages habitual thought. When people take men- strategy+business issue 68 how to do this for decades, of course, but it is now pos- tal shortcuts, have a gut reaction, or form a rapid first sible to make authentic connections more consistent- impression, they are using this system. Thinking Fast ly. Tapping into the social nature of a brand this way seems to operate effortlessly, often generating first im- means thinking differently about the expectations that pressions within a tenth of a second. These impressions consumers have for the product or service, their view are shaped by other ingrained and automatic thoughts
— current emotional states, prior experiences, habitual Thinking Fast. As habits develop, consumers reach forattitudes, and social norms — any of which may be re- that brand with less conscious thought. Their percep-lated to products or brands in some contexts. The snap tions of themselves using the brand, and of others whojudgments of Thinking Fast don’t necessarily register use the brand, may also change.as conscious impressions or decisions, but they can be Imagine setting out to buy a relatively complexpowerful and self-reinforcing; every time a person acts product, like a mobile telephone. You might walk intoautomatically, a neural pathway is invoked and the a retail electronics store with an expectation based onthought is made a little stronger and more accessible. years of experience and perceptions, ingrained in the However, the quick impressions of Thinking Fast reflexive (Thinking Fast) networks of your brain, aboutare not sufficient on their own to meet the challenges of “geeky” technology, manipulative service contracts, andeven a relatively uneventful day. People therefore rely on unhelpful salespeople. This pattern of thought arisesthe second cognitive system — known as System Two, instantaneously when you enter, making you skeptical“reflective thinking,” or the Thinking Slow system — of sales arguments.to process their thoughts, reactions, beliefs, and expec- But if friends have told you ahead of time that theytations more deliberately. The Thinking Slow system had a positive experience at that store location, youis not exclusively rational; it is also influenced by emo- may slow down your thinking a bit. Then suppose thetions. But it comes to the forefront in a more conscious salesperson you encounter is skilled and knowledgeableway when people are sufficiently motivated or attentive. enough to describe other uses for the phone that reso- features title of the article & sales features marketing, mediaThe Thinking Slow system takes place in parts of the nate with your needs — for example, as a navigationbrain (for example, the prefrontal cortex) where thought system that can help you find restaurants in unfamiliarprocessing can feel relatively demanding or draining. neighborhoods. The reflective, Thinking Slow parts ofThe brain has a limited capacity for reflective thinking your brain might come to the forefront. Repeated ex-at any one time. periences with a salesperson who is honest and knowl- Although they occur in different parts of the brain, edgeable might lead you to develop a feeling of trust to-the reflexive (Thinking Fast) and reflective (Thinking ward that retail store. If you keep returning, you mightSlow) systems operate together. Each influences the oth- sooner or later revert to Thinking Fast, but now with aer. Social psychologists studying persuasion — such as higher degree of brand loyalty embedded in your day-Richard Petty, John Cacioppo, Robert Cialdini, Alice to-day behavior. Within the brain, loyalty can becomeEagly, and Shelly Chaiken — have long observed this a habit.phenomenon in experiments; when people are distract- The flip side of the coin also holds; for example, ifed or don’t care much about the issue in question, they you can’t easily return a garment or resolve a frustratingrevert to reflexive thinking. But when the stakes are banking problem, your brain might register the same 4high or there is less distraction, people tend to engage type of conflict and negative emotion that it would if ain more reflective thought. Social neuroscientist Wil- friend betrayed you. Distaste for that company’s brandliam Cunningham has suggested that these two systems would then color the starting point of your future in-work together iteratively; the brain balances their rela- teractions with the brand via the Thinking Fast system.tive influence according to a number of factors, includ- In either case, when the brain is motivated to expending how motivated the person is to think hard and how energy on the Thinking Slow system, and there is goodmuch experience he or she has in a given situation. reason to change basic attitudes about the company How does this apply to marketing? Because people and its products, the consumer is more likely to feelare rapid meaning makers through Thinking Fast, and that change.deliberate meaning adjusters through Thinking Slow,the development of brand loyalty is a complex and shift- The Social Nature of the Branding process. Both thinking systems are involved in pro- Brand loyalty, when ingrained this way, also makes ancessing each impression, and every impression matters. individual more likely to talk about the brand with oth-Initial decisions to select or change a product or service ers — which, in turn, reinforces the loyalty. Thinking ismay involve the Thinking Slow system. But over time, social or at least deeply affected by human interaction.as people integrate that product or service into their Some brands, such as BMW, Burberry, Coca-Cola,routines, the decision to purchase or use it migrates to Heineken, Lego, Nike, Starbucks, Virgin, and Volks-
wagen, have tapped into consumers’ hearts and minds broadly emotional associations related to that product at various times because they are associated with a sense or service will proliferate. When Aaron perceives that of community. others value his information, he is more likely to con- Since Aristotle, philosophers have identified social tinue sharing it, and to attract others to jump on board. relationships (in addition to reason and emotion) as im- This social sentiment about brands need not be limit- portant factors in persuasion and influence. Starting in ed to a fan site like methodlust.com; it can appear in the 1930s, social psychologists verified experimentally any context, facilitated directly by brands and retailers the importance of social relationships in influencing at- across both digital and physical touch points. titudes and behavior; beginning in the 1970s, behavior- How, then, can your company shift to a relation- al economists confirmed that market interactions also ship-driven approach to marketing — anchored in au- have a strong emotional and cognitive component. thenticity, trust, and multifaceted connections? There Now, a growing number of social psychologists and are four tenets, which form a convenient acronym: marketing researchers use social media to study the link Reframe, Understand, Listen, and Engage (RULE). between social norms and purchasing decisions. They are finding that the context of a community influences Reframe: Focus on the Whole Person how people interpret their experiences, and may shape Many companies are still learning how to design every their willingness to have an authentic relationship with touch point to generate a greater level of social interac- a brand, rather than just engage in a transaction. For tion and participation. The new forms of marketing,features marketing, media & sales example, when people expect others they know to re- grounded in building relationships, are to conventional act with approval to a product or service, they are more marketing what interactive games are to television dra- likely to react positively themselves. ma. Instead of a single, point-to-point narrative, present- Neuroscience research also suggests that social cues ed the same way to every audience member, the cam- shape the way the brain responds to information. Social paign is an immersive experience, in which the play is cognitive neuroscientists and neuroeconomists, includ- unpredictable and both players — the consumer and the ing Greg Berns, Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn, Vasily marketer — may respond quickly. It is less scripted, and Klucharev, Malia Mason, Michael Norton, Hilke Plass- consumers have an active hand in shaping the outcome mann, and Jamil Zaki, have shown that preferences — of the game. The authenticity of connection is critical; a and the neural responses involved in computing those brand that is not trusted cannot survive in this milieu. preferences — tend to change depending on whether To develop this level of authenticity, marketers people have been told what other people think. must learn to connect with the consumer as a whole The brain doesn’t process all people equally. It has person, including those drives and motivations that long been known by social psychologists that human were formerly considered irrelevant to product con- 5 beings cognitively favor some people over others. Wil- sumption. One useful body of work for this is the liam Cunningham and Jay Van Bavel (director of the four-drive motivational theory developed by two or- social perception and evaluation lab at New York Uni- ganizational science professors at Harvard Business versity) have found that the systems in the brain that School, Paul R. Lawrence (who died in 2011) and signal motivational relevance are more active when peo- Nitin Nohria (currently dean of the business school). In ple see other people who are members of their team or their book Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our group, in comparison to outsiders. Choices (Jossey-Bass, 2002), they proposed that people The social nature of thought, combined with the are motivated and make choices as a result of four in- neuroscience of brand loyalty, should be a major factor nate drives: the drive to acquire possessions and status; in marketing priorities. Every touch point in a consum- the drive to bond and relate with others; the drive to er’s life should be treated as a pivotal moment, an op- learn and understand the world; and the drive to defend portunity to reinforce the connection between the con- what they consider important. Marketing has long at- strategy+business issue 68 sumer and the brand. Touch points that encourage the tempted to address these drives, but different campaigns sharing of social sentiment may be especially powerful have focused on different ones. The more drives that are reinforcers. Thus, the more often that people like Na- taken into consideration by marketers — not just the than Aaron post their recommendations online through drives to acquire and defend, but also the drives to bond ratings, reviews, tweets, and commentary, the more and learn — the more loyal consumers become. With
Brands that grew the most were explicitly connected in people’s minds to fundamental human values such as joy, pride, and the desire to improve society.socially oriented marketing, it’s particularly important page 7.) The reason, from a neuroscience perspective,to balance all four drives, rather than emphasizing only may have to do with the reflexive nature of deeply heldone or two. values. When these values are called to mind, the as- features title of the article & sales features marketing, media For example, Kimberly-Clark’s marketers engaged sociated emotions and memories may transfer (throughall four motivational drives in their Potty Project cam- Fast Thinking) to other concepts, including some brandpaign created for Huggies Pull-Ups training pants. references. Indeed, when information about brand attri-They considered all the stressful dynamics of potty butes tied to values (such as protecting the environmenttraining: the drive to acquire (gaining status as a good or honoring tradition) is manipulated in experiments,parent by successfully training your children); the drive people for whom the value is personally relevant are sig-to bond (by having a better relationship with your kids); nificantly more likely to make decisions focusing on thatthe drive to defend (by avoiding conflict in the home); attribute. In short, there appears to be a rapid connec-and the drive to learn (by mastering parenting skills). tion in many people’s minds between the relevance of aThe Pull-Ups team created a website (pull-ups.com/ brand and the fundamental things they care about.na/) with instructional videos, featuring a community Different values are important to different indi-of parents learning together. It showed ways to make viduals, but values themselves tend to be broad moti-potty training a cooperative, relatively fun-filled task for vational constructs, adopted by people the world over.parent and child. In just three months, the Potty Proj- One of the most comprehensive studies of values was 6ect became a top destination for potty-training parents, conducted by Shalom H. Schwartz, a social psycholo-garnering 857,000 visits, which totaled 45,387 hours, gist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schwartzand 1.9 million video views. Even better, parents shared classified human values into 10 types: power, achieve-the experience; the amount of material sent on from the ment, pleasure (hedonism), stimulation, self-direction,site to visitors’ friends exceeded the project’s target by universalism (which includes values like social justice400 percent. and world peace), benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. He concluded that group cultures influ-Understand: Align to Consumers’ Values ence the priorities people place on these values; higher-In a study of 50,000 brands, former Procter & Gamble priority values are powerful motivators because theyglobal marketing officer Jim Stengel found that those are central to people’s concepts of themselves, and arethat grew the most over a 10-year period (on average, bound to deep emotions.three times faster than the overall group, from 2000 Thus, when people engage in brand experiencesthrough 2010) had one thing in common. They were that activate their high-priority values, they may beexplicitly connected in people’s minds to fundamental more likely to identify with the brand and develop anhuman values such as joy, connection with other people, emotional connection with it. A recent Starbucks cam-adventurousness, pride, and the desire to improve soci- paign on behalf of social consciousness may work thisety. (See “The Case for the Brand Ideal,” by Jim Stengel, way, by connecting perceptions of the chain with the
The Case for pressed what we stood for. I brought subconsciously — aligned it with the it back, which was then an unheard- concept of human growth. We became the Brand Ideal of move at P&G. We also created more than a maker of peanut butter. a full-page newspaper ad campaign We were a partner with moms in their by Jim Stengel headlined “The Answer Is No,” which young children’s development. explained that our peanut butter had Any brand is simply the collec- no cholesterol, no preservatives, and tive intent of the people behind it. To T he pivotal assignment during my early career at Procter & Gamble (P&G) was Jif peanut butter. Jif no artiﬁcial colors or ﬂavors. It was based on the top 10 questions moms asked us about Jif. In tune with our everyone your business touches, from employees to consumers, the brand deﬁnes who you are and what you was a US$250 million business when I overall effort to support their values, stand for as a business. If you want joined its brand management team in we held national promotions in which great business results, you and your 1984. Before consumer engagement we donated 10 cents per jar to local brand have to stand for something became the vogue in marketing, we parent–teacher associations. compelling. And that’s where brand conducted an unusual number of in- These efforts transformed Jif ideals enter the equation. home visits and “shop-alongs” with from a sleepy business to an explo- A brand ideal is a shared intent moms. These occasions sharpened my sive growth story. We achieved rec- by everyone in a business to improvefeatures marketing, media & sales team’s sense of Jif’s core customers. ord market share, gaining two full people’s lives. The ability to lever- They weren’t simply women between share points in a market in which age this ideal is what separates great the ages of 18 and 34; they were highly fractions of a share point had been all business leaders from good, bad, or engaged moms with young children. but impossible to win without erod- indifferent ones. A brand ideal is a As a result, my guiding thought ing margin. We also attained record business’s essential reason for being, was to make Jif the most loved peanut proﬁtability, with increases in total the higher-order beneﬁt it brings to butter by exemplifying and support- proﬁt and proﬁt margin of 143 per- the world. ing what these moms valued. We had cent and 110 percent, respectively, in Does a shared goal of improving to have the highest quality and make the ﬁrst year, and even more the fol- people’s lives sound too idealistic for sure there were no traces of carci- lowing year. These results became a the rough-and-tumble of business? nogenic aﬂatoxins, which are toxins highlight of my career and the careers What about practical, hard-nosed produced by mold, in the peanuts we of key members of our small manage- goals such as making the quarterly used. We had to address concerns ment team. numbers, increasing market share, about health and nutrition. We had to Looking back on these decisions, and cutting costs? All of these practi- 7 have great taste that young kids loved. which seemed largely intuitive at the cal goals are crucial. It’s also neces- Jif had abandoned its famous time, I now recognize that they exem- sary to want to be the best-performing “Choosy mothers choose Jif” slogan plify a critical, but often overlooked, enterprise around, with the highest for “Taste the ‘Jifference’ in Jif.” But principle of marketing: the power of standards, the strongest people, and our deeper understanding helped me ideals. By aligning the business with the most satisfied customers. But the realize that the older slogan better ex- moms’ values, we implicitly — and best businesses aim higher. values of universalism and benevolence, reinforced its performance. He held a leadership meeting in New through visible actions, including the company’s own Orleans that included a day of community service; employee benefit practices. Starbucks chief executive 11,000 store managers worked together in neighbor- officer Howard Schultz started the campaign himself, hoods that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. strategy+business issue 68 basing it on the idea that authenticity must be present Since then, Starbucks has created a series of campaigns in any cause-based marketing effort or its influence will that tie its corporate identity to voting, recycling, rain- be limited. forest preservation, economic revival, and other social It kicked off in 2008, soon after Schultz was causes. brought back to the company as CEO to turn around In his own writing, Schultz asserts that Starbucks
They don’t get there through vi- only six months. Its core businesses We also had to model the ideal our-sion and mission statements. When were stagnating, and its people were selves. And we had to measure all ouryou strip away the platitudes from demoralized. activities and people in terms of thethose documents, what’s left typically A.G. Lafley, then the CEO, asked ideals of our brands and the companyboils down to: “We want our current me to take on the role of global mar- as a whole. The success of that effortbusiness model to make or keep us keting officer to help transform the brought P&G’s extraordinary growththe leader of our current pack of com- culture of the company to one where- from 2001 on.petitors in current and immediately in “the consumer is boss.” I jumped at The business case for brand ide-foreseeable market conditions.” This the challenge, and proposed building als is not altruism or corporate socialis a formula for mediocrity. It aims too the best marketing organization in the responsibility. It concerns connectinglow, locking an enterprise into a busi- world — attracting the best talent; fo- what happens inside a business withness model based on the agenda of cusing on growing the market share what happens outside it, especiallythe business, not that of the customer. of the majority of our businesses; and in the “black box” of consumers’If such a statement mentions the cus- making our marketing known, recog- minds and the way they make deci-tomer at all, it’s the customer as seen nized, and admired by all the people sions. If you’re willing to align yourfrom the company’s point of view and important to P&G’s future. business with a fundamental humanin terms of the company’s agenda. To hit these big targets, we need- ideal, you too can achieve extraordi- features title of the article & sales features marketing, media Truly sustainable business mod- ed an even bigger goal: identifying nary growth. Imagine the possibilitiesels are linked to fundamental human and activating a distinctive ideal (or that creates for you, your people, andvalues — an ideal of improving people’s purpose, as P&G dubbed it). We would your community.lives. This clarifies the business’s true improve people’s lives; that would bereason for being, which in turn sup- the explicit goal of every business in Jim Stengelports open-ended processes that can the P&G portfolio. We could then es- www.jimstengel.comdrive many different business models tablish each business’s true reason is the former global marketing of-in succession. The model will have to for being as the basis for new growth, ficer of Procter & Gamble and is achange with market conditions, and the and we could link them all into a consultant to senior managementonly sure basis for creating viable busi- strong foundation for P&G’s recovery and an adjunct professor at the UCLAness models over the long term is when by building each business’s culture Anderson School of Management.a business and its customers share an around its ideal. This essay is excerpted from his book,agenda. To hit higher targets and stay Every P&G business had to com- Grow: How Ideals Power Growth andin front of the competition requires municate its ideal internally and ex- Profit at the World’s Greatest Compa- 8an ideal. ternally. Lafley and I and the rest of nies (Crown Business, 2011). Procter & Gamble had a remark- the senior management team ex-able run in the first decade of the pected all the business leaders to21st century. But in 2000, it was in articulate how each brand’s individualbig trouble, having recently lost $85 identity furthered P&G’s overarchingbillion in market capitalization in mantra of improving people’s lives.had foundered in the mid-2000s because in pursuing Listen: Deepen Consumer Insightrapid growth it became disconnected from its own One hallmark of effective marketing has always beenvalues. The perception of Starbucks as a yuppie-style collecting signals and feedback from purchasers; now,gentrifying force, for example, built up negative asso- marketers have richer opportunities for listening tociations and cost the company the loyalty of some con- consumers and learning what they want, need, andsumers. One result of his new approach is a significant value. Digital media enable this capability; a staggeringleap in appeal to both consumers and employees; they amount of data about products, brands, and companiessee the company, and its CEO, as making a sincere, sus- can be gathered by tracking and analyzing what peopletained commitment. say and do online. But the most significant aspect of
Enterprise Rent-A-Car monitors tweets and comments posted on social media sites each day. Whenever a negative comment is posted, the customer care team immediately reaches out. listening is not the technology; it’s the way companies Insights like these can help marketers better understand use what they learn. the implicit and emotionally charged elements that the Consider, for example, the services provided by an consumer took from the experience, elements that canfeatures marketing, media & sales online software company called Bazaarvoice. Founded significantly shape future interactions with or percep- in 2005, Bazaarvoice compiles ratings and reviews of tions of the brand. products and services posted on hundreds of brand Companies need keen customer-insight capabili- and retailer websites, allowing companies to use those ties to make sense of customer feedback and respond insights to strengthen their capabilities for reach- effectively. They need to integrate consumer percep- ing customers. (Its business partners include Salesforce tions gathered from multiple touch points. One com- .com, SAP, and Booz & Company, the publisher of this pany that is building its listening capabilities this way is magazine.) Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Global manufacturer 3M also gathers Bazaarvoice Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car, data and uses it in both marketing and R&D. It has and WeCar. Enterprise uses surveys and social media collected thousands of reviews and comments from to track customer experience. Information on factors more than a dozen retail sites and mobile apps, as well such as perceived wait time is gathered, analyzed, and as Facebook postings, using them to improve market- reported from all the branches and representatives. This ing campaigns or create new ones. In one case, the com- drives clear frontline accountability for delivering an 9 pany’s Precision Ultra Edge nonstick scissors were sell- exceptional customer experience. Enterprise’s commit- ing below expectations. 3M changed its product copy, ment to listening led it to create a customer care team quoting the language consumers used online (“they’re that monitors tweets and comments posted on social great for cutting fabric and photos, with a comfortable media sites from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Whenever grip”). Among the results was an increase in the click- a negative comment from a distressed customer is post- through rate for banner ads. Customer feedback gath- ed, the team immediately reaches out to the customer ered online also led to the redesign of other products. to resolve the issue. Enterprise’s leaders also consider Listening to customers, both through social media the customer perception information when they rede- and with more traditional research methods, requires sign the company’s services. going beyond what customers say to better understand- ing their emotional experience with the brand. For ex- Engage: Humanize Touch Points ample, Maritz Research conducts some of its customer- The brand experience is no longer restricted to the tradi- strategy+business issue 68 experience research with a “make or break satisfaction” tional organizational silos of advertising and marketing. methodology, surveying customers to understand the Now, the entire company takes part in strengthening key encounters that either made a brand experience relationships and brand advocacy. This might involve great (like finding unexpected treats in a hotel room) or mobile marketing (with the smartphone acting as a broke the connection (like finding bugs in a hotel bed). connection point across the full purchase journey from
the customer’s couch to the store shelf), store displays A Better Brand Relationship(where brands can engage shoppers with solution-ori- Many marketers — and some consumers — may won-ented merchandising), the anticipation of future behav- der how far companies should go in pursuing enduringior from past customer behavior data (through vehicles brand-to-consumer relationships. Conventional market-such as frequent-shopper cards), and the redefinition ing, focused on the explicit value of products and ser-of technical support (as in Best Buy’s Geek Squad or vices, is easier and more familiar.Apple’s Genius Bar). In the most farsighted companies, But social engagement is not just unavoidable. Itmobile marketing is a means of bringing the commu- represents a far more effective use of marketing effortnity to the shelf. When an apparel shopper photographs and resources, and at its best, it represents a more hu-a garment and texts “What do you think?” to a friend, man approach to engaging consumers. By using thethe friend’s positive response may activate social emo- four RULE activities — reframing, understanding, lis-tions that solidify the brand connection. tening, and engagement — companies can invoke the Building a high level of customer engagement kind of social learning that leads to long-term, mutu-through experience can require broad-based cultural ally rewarding relationships of any sort. On their side,change within a company; employees must align their companies will deliver products and services that areactions with the values of the brand. This type of more closely tied to the values and ideals held by bothcorporate alignment is often perceived in the breach employees and consumers. Of all the moments of truth— when an environmental disaster, quality crisis, or along the total brand experience, the ones that make features title of the article & sales features marketing, mediaethical scandal damages the company’s reputation and the most difference could turn out to be the repeatedbottom line. By now, many consumers are looking for social connections that create bonds among the peopleauthenticity, and companies can only “walk the talk” who are part of the brand community. The social lifeby creating cultures where brand values are expressed of a brand can be an integrative force for a more holis-every day. With the right kind of cultural initiatives, tic approach to marketing, in which companies buildtraining programs, and incentive structures, the actions long-term, multifaceted, and fruitful relationships withof frontline employees — who represent the part of the the people who identify with their brand ideals andorganization that customers usually see — can be a choose to buy and advocate on behalf of their productscritical component of the brand experience. and services. + Embassy Suites Hotels has engaged all its “team Reprint No. 00118members” (as it refers to employees) in the creation ofa socially rewarding brand experience. The company’sculture is focused on this, and is characterized by theEmbassy Suites service statement: “Gracious, engaging 10and caring…making a difference in the lives of others— in ways both big and small.” The ongoing culture Resourcesinitiative, “Make a Difference,” encompasses a numberof programs that influence the behavior of employees, Charles Gremillion, Make Their Day: The Power to Make Guests Happyother stakeholders, and guests. For example, new team (Tribe, 2011): By the director of Embassy Suites’ brand culture, on the power of a great customer relationship.members are introduced to The Deal — a booklet that Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,outlines goals, expectations, behaviors, and “secrets to 2011): Compelling guide to the two overarching systems that governsuccess” that catalyze the distinctive Embassy Suites thought.brand experience. A complementary program called Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, Driven: How Human Nature Shapes“Make a Difference…for you” enables hotel managers Our Choices (Jossey-Bass, 2002): How to build a business that meets theto acknowledge team members for their contributions; drives to acquire, bond, learn, and defend.acknowledgments include certificates of achievement Jim Stengel, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies (Crown Business, 2011): Research-driven manifestoand a selection of other nonmonetary rewards. The on the link between what brands stand for and how they prosper.payoff for this attention has been dramatic; in 2011, for Maritz Institute: www.themaritzinstitute.comexample, Embassy Suites took the top spot in the J.D. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at:Power and Associates annual North American Hotel strategy-business.com/marketing_media_sales.Guest Satisfaction Index Study in its category.