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Empathetic media must form an integral part of the Consumer / Brand relationship lifecycle

Customer relationship management is no longer solely about email. It needs to understand each individual customer’s state of mind and motivations at every stage of the funnel across all digital channels, says Thomas Byrne, EVP EMEA, Merkle.

Until now, advertisers have been focused on deploying media either to shape positive sentiment towards and ultimately encourage consumers to spend with their brand. And traditionally, agencies have helped brands to fulfil these twin goals, focusing tightly on narrow metrics to demonstrate their effectiveness. However, this only tells a part of the story and fails to link in to where each customer may be on their journey.

Increasingly there’s a desire to shift to a more holistic approach, catering to the whole customer relationship lifecycle. Many marketers have recognised this need for years, but the gap between the story and the solution has been wide. The good news is that the gulf between dream and reality is closing, with progress made in tech capability, along with organisational integration and reprioritisation based on changing consumer demands.

However, in order to deliver it, agencies and advertisers need to move from a pure media focus to deliver a total customer experience across all interactions, and deliver value to consumers on behalf of the brands they serve.

Media has historically truncated the funnel’s purpose

Consider the whole cycle of relationship that we as consumers have with brands; how they bring value to our lives and how we deliver value thought purchase, loyalty and advocacy etc...

Traditionally media agencies have specialised in a specific part of the relationship lifecycle, for example honing in on creative to generate emotion, media to translate emotion into motivation or performance, motivation to transaction. This is no longer sufficient to deliver the total customer experience across all interactions with a brand and media must now consider the emotional context that surrounds each individual experience through the cycle to conversion

Neglecting emotional context misses a critical opportunity to trigger the personal motivation to purchase, not just the first time but every time.

This has been due to many factors including client organisational structure and responsibilities, agency perspective and capabilities, tech limitations, or media trading, to name a few. Nonetheless, this fragmentation (brand vs performance, aftersales vs new sales; both in the client and agency agenda and structure) limited the total customer experience and distorted the view of lifetime customer value, in all its many forms.

The new perspective

That brings us to today. In 2020 we have moved into an environment where we can anticipate and cater to the consumer’s emotion – by offering a seamless customer experience across every touchpoint (not just media) contextualised to each customer relationship and each engagement opportunity. What people appreciate about brands has diversified, often weighting more towards purpose and utility. As consumers we are increasingly prepared to exchange our data freely in return for a valuable relationship and service in return. A perceived value exchange is evident.

The media agency of the future needs to move away from reacting to individual, frozen snapshots of customer behaviour articulated by guidance trends or cookie data. We need instead to transition to an always-on stream of relationship. Going forward, an agency needs to understand each individual customer’s state of mind and motivations at every stage of the funnel. This can only be achieved through developing a tech infrastructure to channel data to enable, a measurement framework to analyse and an organisational framework to activate accordingly.

We must chime with unique individuals’ emotions in order to initiate customer action – dynamically moderating our message and creative to present the relevant communication in message and tone. The utility of a brand doesn’t always intersect with the emotion of an individual, so we have to focus on relevance – and sometimes the right decision will be not to communicate at a particular moment. The art of recognising and respecting when to be quiet is underrated but will be a vital differentiator in the future for brands. Agencies must proactively cater to this.

Conversion beyond simply purchasing

In the 2020s and beyond, brands will increasingly be seen as partners by consumers; the key to this relationship is measuring based on customer-centric metrics. We need to look through a multifaceted lens, focused on more than just an initial buy by a consumer.

We are moving to a world where conversions move beyond simply the act of purchase. The smoothness of an isolated purchase is no longer enough – that’s the bog-standard expectation. It’s the smoothness of the entire brand relationship that will determine success for businesses.

Customers will engage in a relationship with a smaller range of brands in the future, and as loyalty increases so will advocacy. Customers’ expectations of the brands they are prepared to be loyal to will grow, and brands must be ready – as must their media agencies. To facilitate this new world of funnel-encompassing engagement, agencies will need the ability to integrate media with CRM data and broad marketing measurement in a way they’ve never historically ventured towards.

“Brands will – and should – be looking to manage their CRM with media now deeply embedded within it.”

Thomas Byrne

EVP, Agency Services, EMEA

The future media agency is emotional

I believe that this new world will be fuelled by an evolution of media, newly seated at the heart of the customer journey, rather than simply being the spark at the start of it.

We have moved from simply presenting; into a conversation. This of course requires a lot more listening.

The advertisers of the future will successfully intersect customer values with brand values and commercial drivers – all stemming from a deep understanding of each unique consumer. Media must stop telling and start empathising. At Merkle we are plumbing enormous amounts of data into the background, as well as enabling contributions from a collaborative and diversely skilled workforce. Our media agency team is now seated within the CRM line of business at Dentsu Aegis Network for this reason.

The media agency of the future will help clients to manage their relationships with their customers wherever they are and whatever their situation. And in so doing, they will be generating consumer trust and empathy; respectfully moving each individual from emotion to motivation to conversion.

If you’d like to discuss how your media could be more empathetic for each of your customers, do contact us. Or if you’d like to read more on this topic, have a look at our latest paper: Integrated media must adopt CRM principles to drive the total customer experience.

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