It was my birthday this week. ‘So what has that got to do with Branding I hear you ask?’ In fairness, I would ask the same question... I woke to find my in-box full of the usual slew of emails from services I had signed up to years ago and never used, all wishing me a happy birthday as if I was a long-lost friend or loyal customer - impersonal and intrusive. Did ‘PeopleperHour.com’ remembering my special day have any impact on my desire to use their service - no it didn’t. In fact it had the opposite effect. I found myself thinking, ‘why are they sending me this computer generated junk email, they don’t care about me and I don’t care about them?’.
Getting Personal - A little magic is required
As brands wrestle with how to personalise customer experience, many are looking to technology to help them innovate. However, brands have to be careful not to focus entirely on technology and data for the answers. Technology and data can help improve brand experience, they can also help build a successful business strategy but a little ‘magic’ is required to really ensure a meaningful connection with customers.
The thoughts of Tim Clarke, Emirates Airlines CEO
As I am writing this, I am sitting in my comfortable seat, on a flight from Dubai to Lagos listening to Tim Clarke, the CEO of Emirates Airlines being interviewed. Tim is saying that personalisation is the future for Emirates and a key pillar in Emirates business strategy. So what does he mean by this? It is a simple statement, that has a profound impact on the growth of his business. Learning is at the heart of everything Emirates do. By studying the data Tim and his management team gather from customers, they better understand what we like and what our aspirations are in terms of customer service - even down to the type of bottled water we like to drink, the make and model of limo we like to pick us up for our flight, the movies that are shown on the inflight entertainment system, and critically, the opportunity for new growth destinations. So, the data in part helps Emirates Airlines innovate.
If Henry Ford had listened to his customers he would have designed a faster horse
There are those that say ‘an over reliance on data makes brands feel generic, soulless and without personality. After all, I have heard it said, if Henry Ford had listened to his customers, then he would have made faster horses, not the motor car.’
This is an interesting concept. There are some things that can be predicted by harvesting data, you can understand trends from the data, you can understand likes and dislikes from data, you can even begin to build your business wish list using data, but there is, and always will be, a need for that element of ‘magic’ if you are really going to build a brand that innovates and therefore wins the hearts and minds of everyman.
Richard Seymour, the founder of world renowned product design agency Seymour Powell and a mentor of mine at the beginning of my career, used to refer to this as the ‘X-Factor’... nothing to do with Simon Cowell and his shenanigans I might add. The ‘X-Factor’ is that magic moment when data transforms into art - into magic.
In a previous article, How to attract the youth to your brand, I hypothesized that one way to attract and retain a customer was for them to discover magic in your brand - to empower them to believe they are the first or they have found something nobody else has in your offer, something that is unique and special to them.
Turning data into art
On my birthday, as I mentioned, I received lots of messages from companies who I cannot remember doing any business with and some that I do, I even received a message from HSBC. However, there was one message that quite simply blew my mind. I opened my laptop and went to Google, as I always do, to search for something. I didn’t notice it at first, because Google often have beautiful graphics celebrating various important events. I searched a second time and purely by chance, my cursor hovered over the graphic. ‘Happy Birthday Nick!’ it said in small text. I looked again, thinking this was a mistake, there must be another Nick with a birthday on the same day as mine... surely... I looked again and the google logo was made of birthday cake... and it was for me!
Now, Google have countless million searches, customers, users or whatever you want to call them around the world, but someone, a genius, has taken personalisation to a whole new level. I discovered something in Google that made me feel special and I loved the experience. It was simple, it was brilliant and Google have once again raised the bar. I challenge every marketing man and CEO who is reading this to do the same with your brand. Make something special happen for every customer, turn the data into art... Get Personal.