We live and work in unprecedented times. Technology is advancing rapidly, we are overwhelmed by data and our world is more globally connected than ever before.
But I would argue that the single biggest force driving change is people.
People today are bombarded by choice and empowered like never before. Armed with technology and endless information at their fingertips and now through their voice, people are in command of every aspect of their lives. They are curating their world and how they experience it, and as a result, have control over where and how they shop, and what content and brands they want to engage.In this new world order, there are no more captive audiences. Today’s consumer rejects anything that appears to be traditional advertising, and they are wise to marketing intended to obfuscate product or brand deficiencies.
Case in point: a recent report from Forrester (“The Future of Omnichannel Advertising Must Be Customer Obsessed,” June 4, 2018) showed that among the most progressive digital consumers, fewer than 10% are willing to engage with a mobile or web-based ad today.
With abundant choice and empowered and educated consumers, the concept of brand loyalty is also increasingly becoming a thing of the past.  Brands can’t count on past buyers to be their current supporters,  much less future buyers.
Brands need to succeed in every single interaction they have with people, and earn each and every transaction, every single time.And so the companies that will win today and in the future will be relentlessly focused on people and creating value for them. They will strive to understand people on a deeper, more human level. This includes understanding peoples’ needs (both met and unmet), uncovering their emerging and ever-evolving behaviors (at Starcom, we call these desire lines) and meeting them on their terms with each and every encounter and transaction designed to create value for people.Creating value for people is not just about creating positive brand sentiment and or a better social media profile. It’s about unlocking hardcore business outcomes like share increases,  sales gains and the ability to sustain price increases.

According to a June 2019 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Starcom (“Building Better Outcomes for Brands and Businesses”), brands that create value for people (human outcomes) are proven to drive business outcomes both short and long-term.

As marketers, we need to embrace this new people-first paradigm and the opportunities it presents. When brands combine a relentless focus on creating value for people with creativity and innovation, magic can truly happen.  And, we saw many inspiring pieces of work that did just that at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week:

IKEA created simple adaptations of their furniture, available in-store and to 3D print, to meet the needs of their disabled customers and saw a 37% sales increase.

Brahma beer gave people an easier way to purchase their beer – at the same time they were buying pay-per-view futbol matches,  creating an entirely new revenue source and 274,000 new beer subscription accounts.

RMIT University in Melbourne created a new font that helps people to remember what they have read by creating subtle visual obstructions that force the brain to work harder.  The font was downloaded over 150,000 times and  generated 87,000 new leads for the University.

So what can we learn from these examples and other best-in-class brands that put people first?

  • Hold yourself to the standard of creating value for people in every single Interaction: Interactions are a brand’s best opportunity to communicate value and deepen emotional connection.Brands should prioritize human outcomes in each of their customer interactions. Did you help instill confidence? Did you surprise and delight them? Did you save them time? These are all ways a brand interaction can help deliver something of value to them personally.
  • Make People a KPI: While certainly people-focused KPIs have long been incorporated into goals for Chief Talent Officers and HR leaders, this needs to be incorporated at all levels and functions of an organization from C-level to front-line employees. Every employee must be focused on people and understanding your customers on a deeper level – what’s it like to walk in their shoes? What’s important to them? How are you uniquely suited to meet their needs?
  • Remember that because people are unpredictable,  brands need to be adaptive: In the era of the empowered consumer, what people want today may pivot based on cultural, market or personal reasons. So just because you are meeting their needs today, doesn’t mean those needs and desires will remain static.  Brands that will win will be tuned into this and ready to listen, adapt, and meet people on their desire line journey – regardless of where that leads.

By making people the true focus of everyone’s job, brands can truly thrive. Because ultimately, we need to create value for people, not just with products or services, but with every single interaction they have with the brand, along every step of the consumer journey.

This article originally appeared in MediaPost.

 Author: Kathy Kline, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Starcom