By Nick Jakubowski
In 2016, the king of online advertising—content—may soon find itself bowing to a new emperor, the user experience.
Customers are craving holistic experiences with brands that show consistency and authenticity throughout their engagement.
This represents a paradigm shift in how companies relate to customers.
Why This is Happening
Like every other marketing change in the past two decades, we can point to the Internet and how people respond to it.
Prior to the Internet, people had to trust that companies were making accurate claims through their marketing materials.
If there was a problem with a product or service, it would take quite a long time for word to spread widely enough to cause serious damage to the brand.
Now, it can happen instantly through a viral social media post and a customer who is mad enough (take Lands’ End as an example).
It’s the same with good news as well.
Small entrepreneurs used to have to set aside a large portion of their capital for advertising and hope to get enough interest.
That still has to be done, but the cost of entry is much lower and it’s far easier to reach more people through the Internet.
Get a thousand or even a hundred people talking about your brand and you can start earning money.
In short, customers can, and will, talk about their experiences with a brand with other people and those messages will expand rapidly, for good or ill.
No matter which marketing messages you put out there, your customer base can quickly overcome them if they are perceived to be false or duplicitous.
Or even if they aren’t, if a user’s experience of your brand just isn’t as good as your competitors, they’ll tell their friends regardless of product quality or price.
This is a good thing from the customer perspective; it’s much harder for companies to pull a fast one or use marketing speak to pump up the image of their brand beyond the actual user experience without getting caught.
It’s forcing companies to innovate their marketing.
User Experience is Not a New Concept
People are demanding even more out of their interactions with companies.
They want to feel like a member of the brand and that the brand is looking out for their interests.
The major tech companies recognized this a long time ago and built up branding so strong that it transformed into an experience.
People who are devoted fans of Apple, Google, or Amazon know what we mean.
There is an emotion or belief that ties in with using their products that you can share with others.
Apple products have an undeniable “cool” factor through their design work.
Google tries to make you feel that you can gain access to any information you want at any time.
Amazon tries to make itself the most helpful shopkeeper on the planet and give you all the information you need to make informed buying decisions.
Building user experience is not an entirely new concept.
If you’ve ever taken a walk through a Disney attraction, the force of their branding is everywhere, but there is also an experience they want people to have.
They want to bring people into a world of imagination and childhood glee where magic can happen around every corner.
They charge handsomely for the user experience and people continue to go back for more.
People who enjoy the sorts of experiences and emotions these companies evoke in people who use their products will support it.
Marketers in 2016 must convince their companies that developing similar brand loyalties will be the way to gain customers in a future where they can’t compete on marketing claims anymore.
It won’t be easy, but those who can will win the current Internet marketing game.
How Do You Go About Doing That
It’s easier said than done, but it starts with getting a clear picture of what you want your customers to feel when they use your product or service.
Disney wants people to feel happy.
Google wants people to feel smart.
Apple wants people to feel hip.
Once you’ve identified that core feeling, you’ll need to look at your current business branding and sales funnels to see if they communicate that feeling or not.
This could mean you’ll need to do a complete overhaul of your branding.
It could also mean you need to take a good hard look at why you’re doing business.
Even if you sell a product in a perennial market, say insurance, there is still an emotional experience people have when they contact you that goes beyond good customer service.
They could feel protected, or empowered, or relieved to know that someone has their back.
Generating these positive experiences goes beyond simple customer service.
It’s something that has to be communicated through any interaction with the customer.
It’s a complicated process, but if you don’t start now your competitors could get the leap on you.
If their customers start to spread good things about them because they had a positive user experience, you could be left in the dust.
image credit: shutterstock