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Building a Customer-Centric Brand: 3 Challenges to Marketers

This post was written by Co-Founder and President at InnerView Group, Chris Wallace.

On Thursday, November 8, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) hosted an event focused on building a “customer-centric” brand. The guest speaker for the evening, David Norton, has extensive experience helping brands build an infrastructure to better serve customers. In his role as Chairman and CMO of GALE Partners and past positions such as CMO of Caesars and Harrah’s Entertainment, David’s expertise is in bringing brand strategy to life through innovative customer experiences. I was lucky enough to serve as host for this event and found David’s insights to be valuable to marketers of all kinds.

Brand Strategy is Worthless Without Coordination

The overarching theme for the evening was execution.

The depth of a brand goes well beyond a one-minute television commercial. Brand strategy touches many different aspects of an organization as it requires significant coordination across functions to put into motion. At a time when brands are struggling to differentiate themselves, marketers need to be the ones knocking down the silos to keep the brand promise and the experience aligned for customers.

Keeping in theme with execution, there were three main points David made that marketers need to hone in on for a successful brand strategy. The following items are not mere suggestions, but rather imperatives or challenges that ensure their brand stays focused on earning each customer:

Centralize the Data

This point comes through loud and clear in David’s book, The High Roller Experience, and it was echoed at the AMA Philadelphia event. For an organization to be serious about providing personalized services to customers, all that customer data must be collected in one place.

Take the hospitality industry for example. If a guest stays at various brands within a larger portfolio (i.e., Marriott or Hilton), the individual brands should not own the data but instead, guest’s wants and needs should reside at the corporate level so patterns can be identified and preferences can be analyzed. This will allow the hotel company to develop a strategy to engage that customer rather than have each brand market to them to serve their own goals.

This is a company-centric approach. At best it optimizes the customer experience increasing retention. At worst, opportunities are missed and it confuses and alienates the customer.

Identify Employee “Corollaries”

A brand defines the promises it is making to customers. David found success in building connections between employees and the brand promises through something he called “corollaries”. David defined this as linking key elements of the brand to simple actions employees take to demonstrate the essence of the brand. For example, during his time in the casino business, there were a multitude of different employees who had a chance to interact with a guest. For each role, there were defined ways those interactions could be personalized to give the guest a consistent experience across the entire property. These “corollaries” made the brand real and put each employee in a position to be an ambassador.

Don’t Wait for Other Departments

The biggest takeaway from the discussion was David’s insistence that marketers should not wait for others to put their brand into motion. He referenced the role marketing played in training executives and his efforts to properly link incentives across the network of the casinos he oversaw.

Marketing doesn’t typically get involved in training or incentives, but all of it tied back to the brand. David needed to keep the strategy aligned across the organization or the execution would fall short. Poor execution in the casino business meant gamblers and guests would spend their money elsewhere.

The concept of “brand” has become more important in the modern organization than ever before.  David Norton did an excellent job of highlighting both why a customer-centric positioning makes sense for brands and gave clear advice on how to put that strategy into motion. Most importantly, David’s experiences should give marketers the confidence to take control of their brand and step outside their silo to ensure sound strategy turns into superior execution. After all, your customers demand it.