Perhaps the most critical role of chief marketing officers (CMOs) is to be the voice of prospective and existing customers within their organizations. After all, they are responsible for understanding how shifting trends could foreshadow changes to their customers’ behavior, tastes and demographics.
Given that consumer behavior is constantly evolving, one would expect CMOs to have a strong grasp of how the main drivers of this ongoing evolution – data and technology – function in their businesses.
Banking, for instance, has seen the mass adoption of mobile apps as the primary customer interaction point. With the right functionality, banking apps can put customers in control of their finances. Banks also collect significant amounts of customer data, which they can use to create data-informed experiences that enable customers to better manage their finances. A bank’s CMO ought to have a good understanding of how customers are using the company’s app and apply that understanding to build better experiences and drive more interactions.
Brands that communicate the wrong message
Yet while businesses spend heavily on marketing technology and data – according to Gartner, CMOs allocated 29 percent of their 2018 budgets to MarTech1 – my recent banking experiences suggest that some banks are failing to leverage these investments to benefit customers or, worse, are using technology and data to the detriment of their customers’ financial health.
A low-rate deal recently ended for my home loan. I expected the lending bank to use its data insights to switch me to a new deal that was best suited to my situation. If the bank had asked me to approve this switch through a banking app notification, it would have created a positive customer experience aligned to its brand message of helping customers.
Yet none of what I expected had transpired. Instead, the bank sent me a physical letter with my new home loan rate, which would significantly increase my mortgage payments. Aghast, I began researching rates on the bank’s website and soon discovered the bank had switched me to its worst deal. After learning I could not switch to a better rate through the banking app, I went online and spent 30 minutes to make the change. The difference between the rate the bank had assigned me and the one I had found was significant, yet both were offered by the same bank. With the better rate I would save 20 percent every month on all the same terms except the interest rate. Why default me to the worst rate? Why not automatically give me the best rate for my risk profile?
This disconnect points to a failure by the bank to use technology and data to reinforce and strengthen its brand. If CMOs have little control over the actual customer experience, how can they control the brand positioning and marketing communications?
Brands that don’t communicate
A recent online shopping experience provides yet another example of the gap between a bank’s brand positioning and the actual customer experience. This bank, which is different from the one in the preceding example, is supposed to be the leading bank for customer satisfaction.
My card was declined while I was trying to complete an online purchase at a large retail brand. I tried the card a few times to no avail, and ultimately used a card from a different bank. The next day, I received an email stating that some monthly payments had failed. Checking my banking app, I saw nothing awry – I had no alerts or messages. I then phoned my bank and found out that the bank had applied a fraud block because the online retailer doesn’t apply two-factor authentication to verify large transactions. Between the time it took to retrieve my phone banking passwords (I rarely do any banking over the phone) and to verify that all my transactions were legitimate and that no fraud had occurred, I was on the phone for 15 minutes – ample time to observe that my bank had irritatingly disrupted the retailer’s attempt to create a convenient customer experience and then made no attempt to contact me to prevent or resolve the issue. I understand that fraud is increasing, and every bank wants to protect its customers; however, in more than 20 years as a customer with this bank, I have generated significant amounts of data and behavioral patterns that any insight would have revealed the routine nature of this transaction. Allowing that the bank may not use data for this purpose, I still could have managed this issue instantaneously via the banking app if the app had the relevant functionality.
Once again, there was an alarming disconnect between marketing and the reality of a customer’s experience. Given the importance of technology and data, it is surprising that Forrester predicts CMOs will revive branding as their top priority this year.2
Fusing brands with technology, data, and customer experiences
Simply spending on technology and data is not enough; the tools and capabilities implemented by chief information officers (CIOs) must be adopted across enterprises to deliver personalized and positive customer experiences that are fully orchestrated by CMOs.
Customers view a company’s brand as not only what the company stands for but also what it does, including all of the direct and indirect interactions with customers. Providing customer experiences that differ from what your marketing communications have promised will harm your brand’s reputation. Unequivocally, a ‘focus on brand’ must go well beyond communications.
The CMO, in collaboration with the CIO, should drive the strategic thinking around aligning brand and customer experience by leveraging relevant technologies and data-powered insights.
Swipe right on technology and data
Using technology and data effectively is a CMO priority.
Don’t be the CMO who believes marketing is only about award-winning brand communications. While great creative execution will always be necessary, CMOs also need to embrace technology and data and thoroughly grasp how and why they function within the context of their brand.