Marketing as a change agent (pt 1)

I went to a very interesting event in that there London last night at the incredibly swish Ogily offices in Cabot Square, Canary Wharf. I was there to see Matt Watkinson present some highlights from his new book Ten Principles behind Great Customer Experiences. He was accompanied by Rory Sutherland, the erudite Vice Chair of Ogilvy. Matt presented six of his ten principles, explaining what goes into great customer experiences, and how a company should think about creating them.

It was an interesting setting for a topic that has always seemed anathema to me when it comes to posh London agencies. Ad agencies (for that, really, is what Ogilvy is, no?) often talk the talk when it comes to customer experience, but can they really walk the walk? This was one of the questions with which Matt was faced following his talk.

And he gave a decent answer. In his view, which I respect, marketing has a critical role in setting (or creating) the expectations that customers can have when dealing with a brand. The brand values and advertising that communicates those values can give people a positive impression of the product or service that the company offers, and done well, can create a differentiation from competitors’ offerings.

AMAZING TV adverts, direct mail packs and websites can publicise the unique selling point that a company hopes will find a sweet spot in the hearts and minds of customers.

But is that really enough? Actually getting the level of buy-in from the top required to get the budgets to do that sort of thing is relatively easy. The Marketing department will already have possibly the largest budget in the organisation to ‘fritter away’. It’s just a case of how and where. Marcomms can set a benchmark, but collectively, are they a catalyst for change?

When customers deal with that brand online, on the phone and in their shops, does the marketing function really follow through? Do they influence appropriately and in a timely manner so that the changes necessary in the organisation are cascaded down and made effective and consistent top to bottom?

Do those staff members – especially those that have the pleasure of dealing directly with customers – properly live and breath those brand values that were so diligently thought through and crafted in those ‘creative boardroom moments’?

In my experience, this rarely happens, and marketing people are rarely effective in doing it. I don’t know why. It IS a hard job. And it’s a shame they don’t often succeed.

So, who’s going to take up the baton…?
(to be continued… go to the next post in this series)

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