Marketers spend weeks, months and years perfecting their company story and messaging. They pour substantial budgets into creative to bring that message to life through websites, advertising, content and the like. But what happens when all of that carefully orchestrated messaging is not what the customer hears when they talk to customer-facing employees?
Dilution, that’s what.
It’s a bigger problem than you might think. In the new joint study by InnerView and FocusVision, “Have Your Story Straight? Why Brand Message Dilution Hurts in the Experience Economy,” 62 percent of respondents said that brand message consistency is worth $10 million or more per year. But over half (59 percent) of respondents also agreed that their brand’s story gets diluted before it reaches the buyer.
This isn’t just the marketing department’s problem. Message dilution is costing more than a quarter of companies at least $10 million annually, according to the study. Another 24 percent estimated that it costs them between $6 million to $10 million in revenue.
It starts with insights
Fixing this problem starts with the customer. Successful brands understand the importance of knowing who their buyer is, what their needs and preferences are and how they think, feel and act. Customer insights shape the brand message and the strategies companies use to appeal and connect to their buyer.
Encouragingly, the research shows nearly 95 percent of firms have a customer research program mainly devoted to customer experience research. Surveys and focus groups top the list of approaches that brands use to know their customer, but in-depth interviews and usability tests are also standard. There is nothing surprising about this finding.
However, there is room for improvement in the way companies leverage customer research. Research alone is not enough—it needs to ask the right questions, at the right time, in the right way and then be connected to the ongoing brand strategy.
Among all the companies conducting customer research, 90 percent said they used it to shape the unique value proposition in their brand’s story .
But, although 77 percent have a clear understanding of their customers’ needs and preferences, only 53 percent use customer research to inform brand and product messaging regularly. Moreover, while most companies engage in customer experience research, very few engage with their customers to understand insights in areas like brand experience, brand messaging and product development.
Telling the brand story
Without a full understanding of the customer, it becomes a challenge to craft and execute an effective brand story across departments. Of the 79 percent of companies who have attempted to define a clear brand story for their employees and brand partners, alignment remains a challenge. Less than half of those professionals said they have a high degree of confidence that people throughout their organization can tell the company’s brand story accurately and consistently. Another 45 percent express moderate confidence, and 12 percent share little or no confidence that they have internal alignment.
The study showed that successful companies employ extensive and ongoing customer research for driving brand consistency and alignment. Customer research, in fact, lead the list as producing the most ROI for improving marketing and customer experience efforts. Successful brands go the extra mile and tie the research to brand/product messaging as well as use multiple research approaches to get at the heart of how a customer thinks, acts and feels.
Beyond surveys and focus groups, truly successful brands use online qualitative research and in-depth interviews. Truly understanding the customer through the right research strengthens the brand story within the organization and creates an enterprise that’s customer-centric—not marketing-centric. Customer insights data is used to derive insight and shape the brand story, and to achieve collective buy-in across the organization. When the brand message is backed by actual customer experiences, people tend to pay attention to it.
Accomplishing brand alignment is a dynamic process that employees must participate in and experience. Successful companies have a deep understanding and connection with their customer. They have undertaken research to understand their customer truth and create the brand strategy around it. Then there is the process of building the company culture that lives and breathes the message.
As CMO of FocusVision, Dawn Colossi drives worldwide marketing strategy to build the brand and create demand. She has built an always-on customer-driven marketing model based on big data, including intent signals and digital body language; and small data which allows an understanding and clear perspective of what drives behavior and decisions to increase FocusVision’s revenue and market share.