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Why being a consumer-first brand means investing in experience

Students taking an exam

Let’s imagine the Marketing Director of a college wants to know what the average class size is for a mathematics course. The smaller the class, the more time the teacher can spend with each student. And the more attractive it is to future undergrads.   

So, the Marketing Director asks the course Tutor for the average class size. The Tutor has one class of 80 students, one class of 15 and one of 5 and reports back that they’ve 100 students over three classes, which gives an average class size just over 33.

80 + 15 + 5 = 100 / 3 = 33.33

Seems fair enough. But what if the Marketing Director had asked the students instead of the Tutor?

80 students would have reported back they are in a class of 80 (80 x 80). 15 students would have reported back they are in a class of 15 (15 x 15). And 5 students would have reported back they are in a class of 5 (5×5).

This paints a much different picture:

(80 x 80) + (15×15) + (5×5) = 6650 / 100 = 66.5

* Because we are looking this from the students’ perspective, we divide by the number of students (100) and not by the number of classes (3).

By considering the perspective of the students, class size has doubled. Simply, the experience of the students and the perception of the college differs vastly.

The point?

Replace students with consumers. And college with brand

If a brand operates with their own centric view of the world, they will be completely disjointed from the reality of their consumers’ experiences. And this isn’t fluffy talk of ivory towers. It’s in the hard numbers. Just like the college Tutor, these brands will ask the wrong questions, get misleading data and make bad decisions.

This is why in recent years we have seen a huge jump in brands adopting a ‘consumer first’ strategy. Most claim to do it.

Yet, in many cases all that gets adopted is the rhetoric. The chart below shows the difference of perception between brands that believe they are consumer-centric and the reality of their consumers’ experience.

Consider how a typical campaign is developed. Brands keep turning to the old, known and trusted methodology. Develop a big idea platform above-the-line. Seed it below-the-line.

Experience is bundled within BTL. Experience gets executed.

Yet experience is not an executional nuance. It’s a strategic imperative. If your brand adopts a consumer-first strategy, then immediately your business becomes the experience of these consumers.

Consider the classic 1999 Pine & Gilmour paper that coined the term Experience Economy (yes, the Experience Economy means more than Millennials ditching material goods for taking selfies at super cool festivals). By studying brands like Starbucks, Pine & Gilmour suggested that the experience of a product will become the product itself. Experience is what consumers will be willing to pay for. And key to creating highly valuable and differentiated brands.

20 years later this theory has become reality. Experience is the currency of 21st-century marketing. Smartphones are a tool that can generate, influence, document, share, augment and amplify experience. And they allow brands the ability to do this at mass scale for relatively low cost.

The graph below shows the difference in share price between the top experience performing brands and the bottom 10. During the same period smartphone adoption grew at its fastest-ever rate – from 30% to 85%.

And it’s driving CMO’s to think differently.

  • What kind of experiences are consumers willing to pay for?
  • How can these experiences manifest in our products/services?
  • How are these products/services positioned in market?
  • How the positioning is communicated through campaigns?

This is why at The Marketing Store we champion an ‘experience out’ approach. For example, McDonald’s Monopoly is the biggest brand experience in the world. We start by designing the experience – from the gameplay to the packaging to in-restaurant to social. Only then is the comms strategy considered.

The results are phenomenal. Last year Monopoly produced the biggest sales in 42 years of McDonald’s trading in UK. All whilst increasing brand metrics by up to 121%.

A great example of a consumer-first brand investing in experience to deliver unparalleled ROI.