Once upon a time, marketers used to travel to Sri Lanka to taste tea leaves, or drive to farms in northeast Groningen to meet the cows that produced the milk for their ice cream. Those days are long gone, according to Gijs de Bruijn and Hanneke ten Hove of Accenture Interactive. They claim that passion for the message has been replaced by an urge to craft the perfect image so as to appeal to the masses. "Marketers are so focused on how they communicate something that they have forgotten what it is they actually want to say."

<<< Start >>>

<<< End >>>

Years ago, marketers were truly passionate about their products. "Such professionals are becoming increasingly rare," says De Bruijn. Over nearly twenty years in the advertising industry, he's seen the evolution take place: creative, passionate marketers with good ideas have turned into people who spend most of their time listening to market research agencies’ perspective on what customers supposedly want to hear. "Since those agencies all come to the same conclusions about consumers, much of what's being communicated sounds the same. While campaigns score well in conducted market research, they tend not to say anything meaningful about the brand experience itself."

"Marketing professor Mark Ritson describes this type of professional as a 'one-P' marketer," explains De Bruijn. "They are 100% focused on the 'p' of promotion, even though evidence shows that its effect on the brand and brand experience is decreasing. To be effective, marketers need to expand their focus (once again). At Accenture Interactive, we consider it our mission to help them to do that."

"The brand should be the North Star, not the consumer," says De Bruijn. "With the brand as the compass, marketers can fine-tune the customer journey, touchpoints, and experience to match what the brand really represents. Brands need to reclaim that position and ensure they create a brand-specific feel, as well as the right experience across the organization and the customer journey."

<<< Start >>>

"When people put in the time and effort to listen to you, you should make sure you have something valuable to say." 

<<< End >>>

Marketers believe in their own truth, but consumers do not (anymore)

Hurray, the buzzwords are back: customer journey, touchpoints, experience. In theory, marketers and communication specialists know what mechanisms they need to leverage in order to make an impact.

"Many marketers are convinced that what they promise aligns with what they're delivering, while in reality, only a small proportion of consumers feel that way. Why the discrepancy? The answer is simple: because the bulk of the campaign—and the money—is spent on what we call the downstream ('How do we tell consumers about our product?') and how the campaign is distributed. As a result, marketers forget to ask the one question that truly matters: 'What are we actually selling, and why?'" 

<<< Start >>>



<<< End >>>

"Years ago, companies used to explore their options for expanding into new areas only about once every five years on average," says Hanneke ten Hove. That has changed drastically. “Today, the vast majority of companies need to constantly reinvent themselves to survive. This means organizations are being pushed to come up with new stories all the time. The problem arises when those stories don't match with the brand purpose or brand identity. That's when the brand begins to lose credibility. Clients sense that inconsistency in every interaction they have with a particular brand."  

The business of experience revolves around the brand, not the other way around

So how does Accenture Interactive differ in its approach? "We don't just look at communication and distribution; we also prioritize a clear-cut focus on the business experience," says De Bruijn. "And we put the brand at the center. What does a brand have to say? What distinguishes it from other brands? It only works if your positioning is razor-sharp. Of course, you still have to tell the brand’s story and make it impactful and convincing. But we've reversed the order of focus: we create a meaningful brand experience first, and only once we’ve got that right, we put it in the spotlight.”

<<< Start >>>

"We've reversed the order of focus: we create a meaningful brand experience first, and only once we’ve got that right, we put it in the spotlight."

<<< End >>>

Another marketing fallacy? The idea that one successful campaign is the be-all and end-all. "Pinning your hopes to a single touchpoint is a tremendous divestment and a waste of time," Ten Hove says. "Marketing is only effective if you incorporate every moment in the customer journey. The entire organization has to be geared toward the brand and the values it promotes. The brand needs to be the DNA of the organization, instead of a concept owned only by the marketing department."

Computer nerds running the customer service desk? Yes, please

Ten Hove smiles when she thinks about the people who used to man XS4ALL's customer service desk: computer geeks who loved nothing more than wading into the most complex, technical questions about advanced settings, routers, and ports. "When you set up your customer service department so that it offers a truly positive experience for consumers, you are saying something very powerful about what you stand for as a company."

De Bruijn has noticed the same pattern at companies like Bever and Rituals. "The feeling that these companies evoke is exactly how you would expect it to be at every touchpoint. Every time the customer gets that positive feeling, they're reminded why they're a customer—and are motivated to remain one. 'Brains are lazy and like to be rewarded'  is by far one of my favorite quotes. If brands can keep this simple fact in mind, they’ll find it easier to create experiences that are both effective and meaningful." 

"We’ve spent the past few months working with Essent to formulate a new brand strategy. We use the journeys as they are developed by Essent, positioning the brand as the key driver behind the organization and everything it does. That goes far beyond communications and the marketing department; the ambition is reflected in every part of the company. It has to be this way in order for an organization to create an experience that delivers real value," says De Bruijn. 

<<< Start >>>

<<< End >>>

Every investment in business experience leads to growth

According to De Bruijn and Ten Hove, there's no doubt that the business experience increases business value. "By building a brand based on experiences, companies successfully align what is promised with what is delivered. In other words, they don’t just talk the talk; they also walk the walk. Indeed, it’s the ultimate cliché of all clichés," laughs De Bruijn. "But cliché or not: a unified brand experience guarantees a boost in growth and increased customer loyalty."

Ultimately, De Bruijn and Ten Hove have a clear message for today’s marketers. "When people put in the time and effort to listen to you, you should make sure you have something valuable to say. First, carefully consider what sort of experience you’re offering and the value it delivers, and only start talking about it once you have this figured out. Consumers are tired of being flooded with all of this empty, meaningless information. So when they do listen to you, opt in to your communications, visit your website, or follow you on social media, the least you can do is make sure it is worth their while."

More questions about building your brand based on experiences? Feel free to reach out to Hanneke or Gijs!

<<< Start >>>

<<< End >>>

Hanneke ten Hove is Lead Accenture Interactive, the Netherlands and Gijs de Bruijn is Strategy Director and Lead Communicate at Accenture Interactive, the Netherlands.

<<< Start >>>

<<< End >>>

Read all of the insights we share in our customer experience series:

Hanneke ten Hove

Senior Digital Marketing Executive - Accenture Interactive, the Netherlands Lead


Gijs de Bruijn

Strategy Director - Accenture Interactive, the Netherlands

Subscription Center
Subscribe to Accenture Insights Subscribe to Accenture Insights