Only connect

It can come as a shock to realise just how little customers think or care about the brands we work for.

For all the effort that goes into developing new campaigns, products and propositions, very little registers, even with the most ardent of loyalists. You may live and breathe your brand, but your customers don’t. As Mark Ritson has written:

“Brands are small things. Enormously central to the marketers in charge of them. Tiny and inconsequential to the customers that pay for everything.”

We all know this, instinctively, if only because we are consumers ourselves. When was the last time you stopped and really thought about Uncle Ben’s, or Dulux, or Zurich Insurance, or any of the literally thousands of brands out there right now who consider you part of their addressable market and seek to engage you?

It’s an obvious point, but one that is always at risk of being forgotten. Not least because the world in which most of us work – with its language of brand positionings, identities and guidelines – has so little in common with the real world, the one where our customers live.

Indeed, it’s this mismatch between how brands see themselves and what consumers actually care about that probably accounts for more marketing missteps than any other.

Take advertising. Research by Lumens has shown that online ads are glanced at for an average of less than a second. Most are barely noticed. And yet this is at odds with how copy is actually signed off, with managers spending hours scrutinising each element of the creative to ensure it meets every objective. This disconnect can often lead to ads that don’t work.


So, what’s the answer?

Well, meeting some real-life customers can help. The most successful companies have known this for some time, which is why we’ve all been hearing so much recently about the importance of customer-centricity.

But how to do that in practice?

Part of the solution is to put in a place a customer closeness programme.

This is a set of practical techniques designed to help colleagues experience what it’s like to be a customer, not just hear about it, so that they start to develop an intuitive grasp of who their audiences are and what they want. Ultimately the aim is to drive better decision making throughout the organisation, and revenue growth.

There is an increasing body of evidence showing the link between closeness activity and bottom-line performance. However, it remains the case that work of this kind can be difficult to justify when budgets are under pressure.

At Insight Sherpas, we’ve found that three things are necessary to avoid customer closeness being put in the ‘nice to do’ column. Your programme needs to:

1. Change minds

2. Drive action

3. Maximise ROI

Done right, customer closeness is not fluffy and not a ‘nice to have’. It challenges stakeholders and drives better decisions at all levels of the organisation. Businesses who do it well have been shown to have a clear commercial advantage over those who don’t.

Click here to learn more about the Insight Sherpas approach to customer closeness, or alternatively please don’t hesitate to give us a call.