Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Marketers Missing the Most Important Touchpoint

I believe one of the greatest marketing opportunities that is missed by virtually every brand on the planet isn't even in the purview of the marketing department. In fact, many might argue it's not marketing at all: Front-line employees.

Marketers are quick to talk about "touchpoints" and go to enormous lengths to make sure their brands are consistently executed across all media. But what happens when a customer picks up the phone, sends an email, or walks up to the cash register?

What good is consistently communicating a unique brand in TV and print if the experience customers have with employees is undifferentiated (or, worse yet, poor)? After all, which touchpoint will have a bigger effect upon a consumer's brand image--the 30-second TV ad they TiVo past or the five-minute interaction with a clerk or customer service rep?

This point is perfectly illustrated in Tom Martin's post about his poolside experience at a Disney World resort. He notes the marketing impact of lifeguards, who constantly rotated position so that they could easily cover every corner of the pool full of children.

Says Tom, "The entire thing was total overkill but it sent a clear Disney message -- children are safe here and you adults can just relax and enjoy yourselves.... It was truly one of the most powerful and impactful things I've ever seen. There wasn't a single parent on this trip that at one point didn't make note of the lifeguard dance."

How much time and effort go into designing and producing brand standards documents that define everything from the Pantone color of a hyphen to the number of font widths that must separate the logo from other visual elements? How much money is dedicated to producing elaborate TV ads and buying television time? (Actually, I can answer part of that question--$46 billion was spent on TV ad time last year.)

Conversely, how much is spent communicating the brand to employees? How much time and effort do marketers go to to ensure the people responsible for their brands' most important touchpoints have any clue what is expected of them, other than generic standards for appropriate customer service? How can front-line employees help shape consumers' perception of the brand if they don't even know what the brand is?

Training employees on basic job skills has always been vital, but the importance of immersing employees in the brand has never been greater. In an ever more transparent world, where employees and customers share more information with more people than ever before, getting the brand right isn't just the job of the marketing department but everyone within an organization.

This much is certain: Whether your front-line employees know it or not, every call, email, and contact shapes your brand, and the aggregate impact of all these consumer experiences will do more to create or destroy a brand than all the advertising money can buy. Great brands like Disney know enough to leave little to chance.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for the shout out on the Disney post. Here are two more from my blog that speaks to this same issue.

Anonymous said...

Hi Augie

Nice piece and welcome to experiential blogturf!

My client ABT ( is Australia's lead brand experience agency, and just completed a great peer-to-peer campaign launch for General Motors/Holden.

At the Melbourne Motorshow, ABT created an experiential marketing
environment around the media launch for Holden's breathtaking Coupe 60 concept car. Using camera techniques inspired by movie 'The Matrix' and staging a anticipation-laden car reveal to a cohort of around 150 journalists, ABT ensured the car debuted with high-impact sound, visuals and stirring emotion.


ABT provided 'go to whoa' strategic, creative and production input to ensure that Holden really wowed attending press and media; footage is now going great guns on YouTube.

Hope you find interesting, Augie.


Gerry McCusker

Augie Ray said...

Gerry, very nice video. It's an exciting introduction for an exciting car.

Anonymous said...

Thx Augie; I agree that ABT's brand experience vid is knockout!