“A theatre, a literature, an artistic expression that does not speak for its own time has no relevance,” said Dario Fo, an outspoken Italian entertainer, playwright, and 1997 Nobel Prize recipient for literature. Although much of his work focused on satire, this quote quite accurately frames the value of relevance in today’s marketing world.
Today’s consumers, especially Generation Z, have higher expectations and standards. They expect more options and the combination of all three makes it more challenging for marketers. Add to that the escalating number of new product choices available. CB Insights estimates that about 20,000 new food and beverage products are launched annually. For new non-food items, the tech insights platform says that figure doubles to 40,000. That’s a lot of competition and new noise to compete against.
Social media and digital PR can be good for spreading the word about a brand. The downside is that consumers who have had a negative experience will often post their complaints there as well. The CMO Council reports that 70 percent of consumers say they post bad experiences they’ve had to alert others, while 47 percent will abandon the brand if they encounter continually poor or frustrating experiences.
Experts have long been proclaiming the value of customer loyalty but that alone won’t succeed today. Once highly popular, customer loyalty programs cannot maintain and build a healthy customer base without help. A Kantar Retail survey was most revealing. It reported that 71 percent of consumers surveyed said their participation in a loyalty program didn’t make them loyal at all. So, times have indeed changed and customer loyalty programs must alter course as well to stay relevant.
A different study by Accenture showed that today’s consumers seek out brands that are highly relevant to their needs. This is where understanding a brand’s customer and then tailoring messages of empathy, understanding, relevance, and shared values are so critical today. Many of today’s AI-driven customer apps have as much personality as an ATM machine. Relevance is key.
As any wartime military commander knows, good intelligence is critical in planning for victory. Similarly, marketers aiming to include relevance in their strategy need to employ their available tools to gather as much information as possible from consumers.
Data gathered from surveys, customer service staff and AI intervention chats, comments and complaints on social media and website platforms, and feedback from sales personnel are valuable in identifying areas of customer interest, concern and displeasure. Focus groups are invaluable because a skilled facilitator can identify, pursue and follow up on particular areas raised to get to the root of any consumer concerns, ideas, or issues. Some brands recruit customer panels or boards to advise them and give feedback. Thanks is often given via gift cards or free merchandise.
Harvard Business Review suggests companies seeking change and being more relevant investigate and improve on the following areas. These are siloed departments, change management or cultural resistance, and the absence of a shared definition in defining what a relevant experience looks like.
Working on change or cultural resistance requires consensus that new and better ways to satisfy consumer needs exist, then gathering those customer insights and information and agreeing on a plan. Where, when and how customers expect to be greeted with relevance and value are fundamental to crafting and implementing such a plan.