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We’re very excited about our Festival of Marketing kicking off tomorrow, and in anticipation of the event I caught up with one of the speakers on the day, Suki Thompson, CEO and Co-Founder of marketing consultancy The Oystercatchers.

Suki and I discussed the idea of customer-centricity: how brands can create a better customer focus through their actions and technology and which companies are currently doing it best. 

We still have a very limited number of tickets available for the festival, so if you want to see Suki’s talk along with plenty of others then get your ticket today

suki thompson at festival of marketing

What can people expect from your talk at FOM?

I am curious to uncover insights from two of the UK’s most charismatic business leaders about their drive for customer centricity: their successes, failures and their vision for the future.   

Steve Parish is a legend: successfully converting an old-style print production company into a new global media pioneer, Tag Worldwide, sold for €180m in 2011.

In 2010, he bought Crystal Palace FC from potential liquidation, took it to 10th place in the Premier League, and reported a profit of £23m in the most recent financial year.

Steve has transformed the fan experience both in stadium and online without losing the club’s ‘Sun Footy's Fans of the Year’ status.

He will show how Crystal Palace has created a fan-focused authentic positioning anchored in content and technology that is propelling financial and membership growth.

Simon Michaelides is Executive Board Director at UKTV, one of the UK’s most successful multichannel providers.

He has brought digital from an editorial function into the centre of marketing and embarked on a journey of putting the customer at the heart of the operation. 

He has raised the role and effectiveness of marketing in the business, a task I see many marketers grappling with.

Why is it so important for brands to be customer-centric?

Strictly speaking, brands can’t be ‘customer-centric’ because they can’t act. Brands are perceptions of quality, value, trust, reliability and durability. People love brands, dislike brands or are indifferent to them. 

These brand perceptions help people make purchasing decisions. Faced by a row of 20 soft drinks, which would you chose? Probably Pepsi or Coke.

That choice, prompted by perception, shows why brands are so commercially valuable: brand perception drives sales and market share.  

Brand owners have to design and deliver products and services in a customer-centric way. If companies are truly customer-centric, their products and services will accurately reflect what people need.

In turn, customer perceptions will be positive and sales will follow. 

As Al Ries noted in his ‘Origin of Brands’, “The mind comes first. The market follows where the mind leads.” Put simply: customer centricity drives commercial success.

Consider this: it used to take O2 customers a minimum of 12 clicks to purchase a phone package. It takes me a mere four to five clicks to buy a holiday several times more expensive.

With 02’s increasing focus on the customer journey, it now takes just four clicks or less for existing customers to purchase a package.

How can brands become more customer-centric?

It’s simple: anticipate and respond to customer needs. Listen, become a partner, and give to receive.

The most successful brands put consumers at the heart of their organisation. They become genuinely customer-centric if they then design products and services to meet the current and future needs of those customers.

This is often difficult as most businesses are run from the boardroom where the customer seldom has a voice. 

In the UK, McDonald's uses the 'three-legged stool' approach to ensure that the customer is truly core to its ‘triumvirate’ of head office, the franchisee and the supplier.

This has led to almost 10 years of quarterly growth. It’s a real, tangible working ethos that permeates throughout the company.  

UK Financial Services company Osper realised that young people today need digital finance far more than money in their pockets. It read customer needs well.

Parents pay pocket money straight into an account through Osper’s App which can be topped up with a monthly allowance for their children to spend at will.

This enables children as young as eight to learn financial independence. 



What part can digital technology play?

Digital technology, service and distribution has propelled market research to go ‘live’. We’re moving from traditional ‘focus group’ insight-gathering towards real-time ‘always-on’ consumer research.

There are huge opportunities for brand owners to improve and refresh their understanding of customer behaviour. 

But new technology also presents threats. The immediacy and perishability of real time insight means that companies will have to speed up at identifying customer needs and building products and services. This is digital customer-centricity. 

Crystal Palace has introduced a constant campaigning, always-on approach, using technology and content generation.

This has delivered 27,000 members in eight months since launch, growing weekly. 

The content shares moments of passion between the football club and fans and generates a pulse with them, mirroring the rhythm and pace of their lives.

Over 140 pieces of content are created a week, up from a mere two or so per week 12 months ago. 

Brand owners who build businesses around digital customer centricity will be well positioned to succeed.

Those who ignore opportunities offered by digital, technology and content - and by definition, who are not digital customer-centric – will, I predict, struggle to flourish.

What are the most customer-centric brands out there right now?

There are now so many digital based services that have transformed the market: Hive, Just-Eat, KAYAK, Airbnb and Uber are obvious. 

But I’m interested in how traditional brands have created growth from becoming more customer-centric. 

Crystal Palace FC has put fans at the heart of its club, broadening out the match day event into a brand that constantly communicates with authenticity in the UK and globally. 

UKTV has capitalised on the increasing value of content, by meeting changing customer expectations and platform demand, and ensuring substantial growth for channels like Dave, while competitors decline.  

Who else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival? 

There’s such a great line up it’s hard to choose, but my top ten would be: Barnaby Dawe from Just Eat, Nina Bibby from O2, Nigel Gilbert from TSB, Chris Macleod from TfL, Pete Markey from Post Office, Amanda Rendle from HSBC, Sly Saller from Diageo, Monica Lewinsky, Simon Michaelides and Steve Parish! 

Jack Simpson

Published 10 November, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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