• Transform magazine
  • September 26, 2022

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Beware of the Dancing Bear

Opinion Piece Pic

Principle Global’s brand strategy director, Adrian Pring, and managing director, Nicholas Griffin, believe everyone is looking to ‘digital’ as the way forward in brand experience. They see it as ‘an ingredient in the pie; not the pie’. They suggest, as you consider your brand experience strategy, it’s important to ‘Beware of the Dancing Bear’.

‘Going digital’ drives operational efficiencies, reduces costs, and increases profits. But in the race to be first, countless brands have jumped on trends and overplayed the role of digital technologies.

We’ve seen robots, gesture-controlled interfaces, rows of tablets (in many cases all switched off) and AR showrooms that don’t support sales. Most are pointless from a customer’s perspective. Far from turning customers on, they turn customers off.

Physical retail is fighting for its place in the mix. We’ve seen brands introduce new formats and concepts to serve customers in ways that elevate their purpose, proposition, knowledge and advisory services. Some initiatives work, some don’t. Businesses have learned from these experiences and are channelling efforts more effectively as a result. 

The journey has taken time. But the need for change has never been greater. We are seeing major behavioural shifts in many markets. Pandemic-induced transformation and higher purchasing power in younger, mobile-native consumers mean that digital is increasingly important. People are savvier at searching for the best deal and finding it. Loyalty is harder to come by. Conversely, brands are reimagining the role of their physical experiences as social distancing rules are relaxed and customers yearn for a return to something resembling normal.

Winning in the future will require a shift in the way businesses build brand experiences. We propose three principles for success.

Be customer-intimate and channel agnostic. Start with customer needs, attitudes and behaviours, over prioritising a particular channel. Customer insights might inform high-level attitudinal personas that can guide overarching themes across channels. This should be accompanied by harnessing customer data to build the brand experience around individuals’ behaviours. It’s about balancing a brand with broad appeal, with personally relevant paths-to-purchase that save customers time and give them exactly what they want. This also supports stronger conversion through the purchase funnel. 

Put your people in harmony with digital. For many brands, people remain a vital part of experience delivery. We've seen many examples of people and digital platforms at odds. Like a major hotel group where app-based check-in was available, but front-office staff insisted on paper forms and signatures, wasting customer time and platform investment. Blending employee engagement, service design and digital tools is not only essential for businesses but also should be empowering for the people that represent your brand.

Be boldly purposeful at every touch point. Increasingly people expect businesses to have a positive impact on both the environment and society. Today, consumers have infinite choices around the brands they associate with. Brands that shape an authentic purpose and live it through everything they do, informed by data and fueled by creativity will ultimately be tomorrow’s benchmarks.

The future may look uncertain. Copy-and-paste won’t work where customers have the power of choice in their pocket. But there are ways to adapt and build future-fit brands, that put the best of digital technology at the service of delivering a holistic and purposeful customer experience.

So, what is a ‘Dancing Bear’ and why should you beware? Simply put, it’s something you think is exciting and cool at first, but then stop and realise it’s actually frivolous and pointless. If you find yourself meandering into ‘Dancing Bear’ territory, pause, rethink and return to the three principles for success. You’ll be thankful you did.