By Julian Bossong, SME Contributor to ROAR Marketing Concepts, LLC
So where does brand strategy truly fit – Marketing or Operations? Tradition says the classic answer – Marketing of course. Branding is always a cornerstone of every business school Marketing 101 course. Look for books on “marketing and brand strategy” in Amazon, and you’ll find 3,669 results.
But what if the brand is dictated by customer experiences, and what if those customer experiences are all actually provided by the delivery organization, or Operations? Think about Time Warner and its Herculean effort, launched in the fall of 2015, to reposition itself via multiple operational improvements. Marketing even had to resort to mocking at themselves in television ads, as they had so mismanaged themselves operationally over the years.
In today’s digitized world, where every customer interaction can be scrutinized publicly, the importance of both branding and managing customer experiences in every facet of Operations is critically important. In fact, a recent Gartner survey of marketing organizations found that 89% of their leaders expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience today, up from 36% four years ago. For the marketing team, the terms branding and customer experience are merging.
There are a myriad of important branding or customer experience “touch points” within Operations – from call center support, to remote location delivery, to product packaging, to online self-help resources – all of which have to work together seamlessly to create and enforce your brand image.
Unfortunately, too often there is a total disconnect between Marketing and Operations, where delivery in Operations run counter to the desired brand image and customer experience promised by Marketing. In those companies, customer transfers and handoffs are poorly coordinated, and touch points are inconsistently handled. In many cases, operational team members are actually trained, incentivized and managed to meet cost-related metrics that run counter to what Marketing promised. More often than not, every effort in reputational management is focused on covering up or rectifying mistakes, not avoiding them in the first place.
But when there is harmony between Marketing and Operations, the company operates on all cylinders. Existing customers get what they want and become the strongest advocates. Industry influencers have confidence in the brand name, referrals go up, the sales team close rates skyrocket, and existing customers stay longer. Revenues go up and costs go down. I have seen it work very well.
So the question isn’t “Where does branding strategy fit?” Rather, “How can the bridge be built between Marketing and Operations to the complete the brand experience?” The brand can be researched, described and promoted by the Marketing Group, but it is ultimately Operations that has to be that brand and deliver the promised customer experience. When the two organizations are tightly connected and operate as one team, all facets of the company are designed, supported, measured and compensated consistently with the brand strategy.
Seems pretty intuitive, right? But how often today do you see a costly branding disconnect between Marketing’s promise and Operation’s multiple customer touch points?