It’s easy to get confused by all you hear and read about these three subjects. Sometimes the terms are used almost interchangeably in posts and articles. For a while, I thought “CX” and “Storytelling” would eventually solve every one of the world’s problems based on what I read on LinkedIn…
Some brands get it right. They’ve successfully crafted a brand strategy that weaves these foundational pillars into everything they do.
How do successful brands do it? Does one take precedence over the others? Which one? Why? Branding agencies talk about Customer Experience. Customer Experience agencies talk about Branding. Storytellers talk about Branding and Customer Experience. Which one is right? Which one should you work with?
But the story is this – the three topics are very, very intricately linked, and represent the evolution of modern-day branding.
Let’s try and unpack this.
What is “a brand” to the modern consumer? Seth Godin says it best, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter, or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer…”
What is “customer experience” to the modern consumer? My own definition here, “customer experience is the palpable and visceral sum of all of the touchpoints, interactions, trials, and transactions a consumer has with a brand, whether they meet the customer’s expectations, and how this translates to value and loyalty.”
What is “storytelling” to the modern consumer? Dr. Karen Dietz, of Just Story It defines it as, “A story is an experience that has an emotional arc and triggers the senses, allowing the listener to quickly and easily internalize it, understand it, and create meaning from it.”
The bottom line: Today’s consumer demands, and will seek out highly personalized, omnichannel brand experiences. When they encounter this, they will remember it. They will carve out a little space for the brand in their heart, and in their mind. They will tell anyone who will listen the story of the great relationship and the associated experiences they have had and will continue to have with your brand.
Smart marketing people will immediately recognize the power this brings to their paid, owned, and earned media strategies. To often, these things are linked to just earned media and word-of-mouth, but the fact is they are at the core of your messaging strategies, your calls to action, and ultimately your differentiated value proposition. Your content calendar should be based on a storytelling approach.
Smart business leaders will eventually recognize the power that the relationship between Branding, Customer Experience, and Storytelling brings to their Vision and Mission planning, aligning the team to a customer-driven values system, and ultimately creating a Corporate Culture that puts the Employee and Customer Experience at the core.
And Governing this across the organization in a horizontal, and not a siloed way.
This is why things like “Customer Rooms” that contain important artifacts like Journey Maps and Personas should be a part of every organization. This is why company town hall meetings and daily stand up meetings should devote time to employee and customer storytelling that represent both the successes and learning opportunities around the customer and employee experience.
And to you, CFO’s in the crowd…yes, there is ROI on these efforts. Do the math around incremental increases in Customer Lifetime Value associated with retained customers staying longer and spending more, with little to no incremental retention marketing investment. Also, do the math around word of mouth referrals and the associated decrease in Customer Acquisition Cost.
Measure this with your Voice of the Customer program and Net Promoter Score. Use the Customer Effort Score in your assessments. Correlate these scores to acquisition and retention-based metrics.
Branding, Customer Experience, and Storytelling are not the same. Nor are they disparate, disassociated disciplines. They all must work together. You need to create this competency internally or find an external organization that pulls all of this together into a cohesive, go-to-market brand and marketing strategy with expertise across all.
Your Differentiated Value Proposition needs to create an expectation for an experience with your brand and establish a foundation for a relationship. Your Customer Experience needs to deliver memorable experiences at key touchpoints that match the expectations set forth by the brand. And you need to capture these moments in story arcs that convey the value to employees and customers around the experiences and memories.