• Transform magazine
  • November 29, 2021

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The journey driven advantage in brand transformation

Karen Boswell BW

Karen Boswell, chief experience officer EMEA at global brand and customer experience agency, VMLY&R, argues that brand transformation requires more than just a creative name change. According to Boswell, human centred design (HCD) thinking can create the right customer-led strategy and map the right journey for brand transformation.

Driving change can be summed up by a very simple equation; Human need + Technology = Change.

Yet all too often, it’s the human element of how brands and businesses conduct themselves that gets overlooked. A technology is powerless if it is not adopted by people, so chasing the latest fad is a high-risk low-return model as is implementing the latest platform because everyone else is. Equally, so is chasing your competition because once you catch them up, where do you go?

Humans are a relentlessly demanding bunch. We always want more, and we want it more personalised. It stands to reason, therefore, that human centred design (HCD) thinking can create the right customer-led strategy and map the right journey for brand transformation.

The word ‘journey’ is loaded and often underutilised. It’s, put simply, the seeking of shared value; it’s finding what value means to the customer, then correlating that to the value of your brand for business gain.

So how do brands embark on this journey?

Create and deliver value to your customer

Long gone are the days when you could get away with simply having a story to tell or a product to sell. You must now be where your customers are and meet them on their terms if you are to bring them with you.

As an industry we’re often busy focusing on data, however, in reality we’re not really listening to what the data is telling us. At the same time, we’re also spending our days convincing ourselves that ‘Customer Obsession’ is the way forward, but are we obsessing over what our customers need or want from us, or simply obsessing over how many we need to acquire or retain to hit our figures?

Everyone knows the feeling when a brand doesn’t understand them so you shouldn’t  separate that feeling from how you treat your customers. Brands must earn loyalty before they expect loyalty in return. 

Represent authentic value of your brand

Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei lectures that good leaders realise what they are good at, and then work to excel over all others at being great at it. Whereas, successful leaders realise they can’t be good at everything because otherwise they suffer from exhausted mediocrity. This is also true of brands.

Nearly all brands are stakeholder led so the focus from the boardroom down is sales. It can therefore become easy for brands to lose sight of their purpose, especially in their customers lives.

Journey driven thinking will enable a brand to map the context of customer need to the authenticity of a brand promise, no matter how the brand evolves or transforms. This will enable brands to not lose sight of their purpose and truly understand whether it has the right to meet a customer’s emotional and functional needs. This approach will add to the strength and stature of a brand’s reputation, qualities proven to attract and retain customers.

Delivering value for your business

If a brand remains where a customer needs it and continues to deliver this in a way that's authentic to its purpose, it sets itself up for a return in value in the long-term. Not only does it increase brand strength but it also provides stronger pricing power over the competition.

A customer-led journey transformation will also eradicate wastage in media spend, focus brand impact, inform adoption of technology and correct use of data, and, therefore, help deliver on the feasibility restraints within an organisation.

The challenge is not chasing radical growth through your transformation. Brand evolutions  need to be thought of as a slow and incremental process. But by putting your customers front and centre, listening to them, and bettering your brand for them, you will evolve as a strong business that stands the test of time.