Jos Harrison at Econsultancy Live

“The sum-total of a person’s interactions with your brand should lead them to recommend it to their peers. But this just isn’t reflected in the way that we currently manage our brands,” says Jos Harrison, Global Head of Brand Experience and Design at consumer goods company Reckitt, suggesting that brands tend to be focused very tightly on individual touchpoints and immediate conversions.

“There’s a temptation to try and sell people something all the time. Because, as brand owners, we spend a lot of time and energy and money building engaging experiences for people and trying to create some kind of connection and, we hope, long-term some kind of relationship with that person. So, we want to see a return on that investment. But if we accept that this constant sell is irritating and intrusive, and doesn’t actually build trust, then perhaps we should be looking at each touchpoint as an investment, aiming to build something [connected] that is actually more productive.”

“Every opportunity to engage is not necessarily a purchase moment”

Harrison suggests that how we relate to brands bears similarities with how we choose friends.

“Over time you might find that you have a shared interest, or some common background perhaps – cooking, football, beer – and this strengthens the relationship,” he says. In addition to this, it is the values of people – and of brands – that we are typically drawn to, and which we choose in order to mirror our own.

“I align with the values that Nike puts into the world,” he explains, “their thinking and their purpose that anybody that has a body with a certain level of mobility is an athlete and therefore deserves to be supported in whatever athletic endeavours they want to take.”

[W]e can’t see physical and digital as separate things… that’s not how we experience brands as people.

“Every opportunity to engage someone is not necessarily a purchase moment,” he says. “Marketers focus on digital commerce as a major change driver – something that they are investing in. …In many ways we accept that digital is the glue that holds together a lot of our experiences, particularly in certain sectors. But we can’t see physical and digital as separate things. It makes it operationally easier, because we’re able to divide teams into areas of expertise and so on, but that’s not how we experience brands as people.

“So, if consumers consider brands as one – not simply online or in-store – how should we, as business leaders, think about the engagement that our brands offer across all touchpoints – whether digital or physical?” he asks.

Harrison uses the example of Pine O Cleen, an Australian cleaning brand and a Reckitt brand, to highlight the importance of a joined up customer experience.

“There is a digital component to the in-store experience which helps [the customer] decide on the product itself,” he explains, referring to QR codes on product packaging. “But we’re also thinking about the adjacent experiences that happen outside that linear track of spraying the surface and cleaning.”

[T]he answer is not shouting at people from all directions on all platforms at all times, trying to get them to buy something.

“Improving product pages on, augmented reality experiences that generate interest in the product or fragrances or help you get the most out of product,” he suggests as examples, “Even music playlists to make cleaning a little bit more pleasant.”

“So how can we operationalise this concept as brands or products as a service?” he asks. “Well, the answer is not shouting at people from all directions on all platforms at all times, trying to get them to buy something.”

“Aiming for the Holy Grail of marketing advocacy”

To become more service-led, Harrison says that advocacy – seen in everything from positive reviews to user generated content – should be the ultimate goal for marketers. In turn, this can enable brands to continue creating connected and meaningful experiences.

“The great thing about aiming for the Holy Grail of marketing advocacy – recommendations to your peers about how great your experience was with that brand – is it makes the brand owner consider every step in the user’s journey. Because each one is critical, and every single one leaves an impression. Delighting people with each interaction – while constantly trying to ensure that each of those touchpoints is still connected to the other touch points – is a huge task.”

Harrison says that, for brands, the final point of a customer’s journey with a product or service (i.e. a sale) should not actually be considered the end.

“It’s feedback. And we’re not just looking for recommendations or for likes and shares, we’ve also got to be open to receiving negative feedback. Quite frankly, negative feedback is more useful. And this actually forms a really valuable engagement point with end users, because if you’re able to then transform someone who’s had a less than perfect experience with your brand into solving the problem for them, that’s a huge win.”

This focus on advocacy or brand perception isn’t typically reflected in FMCG brand strategy. Harrison cites a Kantar study which surveyed 1,000 senior marketers globally and found that 73% of respondents said that improving brand equity wasn’t a particularly good indicator of marketing effectiveness. “Instead, they were looking for immediate return on sales, immediate sales uplift and believe it or not, creative awards.”

Treat each potential touchpoint as a coherent whole

“If people are using brands to express themselves and their values, it’s because they believe your brand can solve their problems in ways that are meaningful and memorable and hopefully worthwhile,” says Harrison.

“So, to achieve this memorability, it’s important to treat each potential touchpoint – because you’re not guaranteed that they’re going to experience every one – with that particular end user as a coherent whole.”

If you’re asking someone to hand over their hard-earned cash for your product or service, there’s no such thing as low engagement or low interest.

Within FMCG and CPG, there is also a tendency to wrongly dismiss some categories as being low engagement or low interest, argues Harrison.

“If you’re asking someone to hand over their hard-earned cash for your product or service, there’s no such thing as low engagement or low interest. I think the respect that we owe to the end user has to be present in everything we do, every touchpoint we design, every experience, we create as a whole. I think dismissing categories is an opportunity missed, because the chance to build brand engagement, it doesn’t matter whether it’s toilet care – a bottle of cleaning liquid – or whether it’s an iPhone.”

“We have to consider the most impactful moments in the user journey or customer journey, and we have to connect those moments somehow. Talking about the digital component of this experience as the spine – the most important part – but all the other stuff has to be connected to it for it to work.”

For more on customer journey mapping, Econsultancy’s Customer Experience Deep Dive elearning is available in structured and ‘in the flow’ formats.

Econsultancy also offers 25+ elearning courses in ecommerce, and many more across the fundamentals of digital marketing, including an elearning plan for FMCGs, Driving Sales Performance with Omnichannel Retailers.