Brett Wachter leads the Chicago Lab for IBM Interactive Experience
The Need for Rich Systems of Engagement
Parent brands within the consumer products industry, and across industries in general, have a significant brand challenge in the digital age. Historically, their customer relationships have been facilitated by their individual child brands – the product brands that the consumer is purchasing. The challenge is that the isolated engagement and customer information backbones underlying these child brand relationships provide little visibility across the parent brand’s portfolio of businesses. Without that shared customer information and an underlying system of engagement to foster it, parent brands cannot anticipate when a customer’s needs will evolve from one brand to the next – and help the existing customers they’ve worked so hard to win graduate into new product or service relationships.
That opportunity left on the table is doubly magnified as child brands deploy competing marketing resources to the same customers – customers who are increasingly informed and aware of parent brand identities. This is forcing parent brands to take back their customer relationships by creating digital systems of engagement to deliver value to customers above and beyond the transactional product and service relationships, while capturing information to deepen customer relationships.
As brands invest in these systems of engagement, they drive increases in overall customer lifetime value and efficiencies in their marketing spend. IBM’s Center for Applied Insights 2013 Global Marketing Survey found that, as a group, business armed with forward-thinking engagement platforms have three-year revenue CAGR that is more than 40% higher than that of other companies, and their gross profit is growing at a rate double that of their peers. These top performers lead with marketing platforms founded in giving customers information they need beyond the product and service, and doing so on modern technology platforms that deliver contextually aware content and messages to customers across channels such as social media and mobile.
- The retailer consolidation trend caused downward pressure on P&G’s pricing and profitability. In response, P&G consolidated many of its brands’ marketing spend into their “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign – leveraging not only their scale, but a common communications platform and positioning to help drive consumer choice for P&G brands in jumbo-retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.
- Frequent customer switching opportunity has driven one of P&G’s mega-brands, Pampers, to establish itself as the authority on “Baby Stages of Development” to keep moms engaged throughout their child’s lifecycle with Swaddlers, Cruisers, Easy Ups and Feel ‘n’ Learn products. This platform has helped Pampers further deepen relationships with moms in an industry with frequent and ample switching opportunities as a child grows from one diaper line to the next
- Untapped customer information resulted in Coca Cola elevating data and insight into individual customers as a key priority. In partnership with IBM Interactive, Coca Cola is leveraging its My Coke Rewards program to develop one-on-one experiences deepening the relationship with consumers, including its popular “Share a Coke” program that lets customers have their own name in Coke’s iconic script on their Coke cans and bottles.
- Self-cannibalization thrust Hilton into focusing its marketing investment on its parent and HHonors brand to help avoid competing marketing spend in the same brand portfolio targeting the same customer. Hilton is now working more collaboratively across its nine individual hotel brands in a more consolidated messaging and contact strategy.
So how does a parent brand find its way amidst such a confusing landscape of not just marketplace and customer imperatives, but also complex technology required to ensure a consistent and contextually aware brand relationship with its customers? The start is to formalize senior executive sponsorship and evangelism with participation across child brands. By prioritizing senior-level dialog of how one brand’s customer relationships can further strengthen the others, any silos existing within the organization can be brought together under common purpose.
The next key is to ensure that a hybrid marketing and technology partnership is driving the initiative – marketers without a hands-on perspective of how the enabling technology works will be unable to create a programmatic means of engaging customers across channels. On the flip side, nor will technologists with objectives and measures that don’t include developing the length and breadth of customer relationships. Should that cross-disciplinary insight be unavailable in the organization, tapping a partner strong in both omni-channel marketing strategy and integrated technology implementations can help ensure alignment of technology solutions to the customer engagement vision.
Create a nexus of hybrid marketers and technologists with an understanding that it’s not a technology platform or a marketing platform, but the symbiotic relationship between the two that will power the next generation of systems of customer engagement for parent brands.