It's Time to Stop Waiting for Permission to Create Timely Customer Experiences That Resonate

Opinion: Extensive risk management holds brands back

This year, as I was walking the floor at CES, I was struck by many of the innovations that I encountered. Toasters that tweet. Smart fridges that talk to your TV. Shoes that vacuum. While some of these technologies are amusing, and others are interesting, it gave me pause to think—is it meaningful enough?

Innovation has spurred many dramatic advances and there’s a lot to be excited about. But, even as a consumer, I’m dying to see more ground-breaking change. I know I’m not alone. We don’t need more noise or extra gadgets. What we do need, however, is a refinement of our relationship with technology and to reorient around purpose.

It seems to me that now is the time to stop and ask ourselves: Has this wave of digital transformation given rise to experiences that actually improve lives? How can we ensure that we’re not just innovating for innovation’s sake, but creating experiences that make lives better, more efficient and more meaningful?

Brand purpose beyond CSR

The Association of National Advertisers has identified “brand purpose” as one of the key CMO actions required to drive growth. It defines brand purpose as “the intersection of a brand’s core consumer strategy with societal well-being” and states that it is “critical to maintaining and enhancing brand relevancy.”

Important ideas are becoming outdated faster than they can be actioned because of extensive short-term risk management.

Brand purpose transcends the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). While CSR is an important expression of an organization’s core values, purpose-built experiences must be founded upon the brand’s value proposition and primary functions. The blunt fact is that a customer whose needs are left unfulfilled from poor service or neglected brand promises will not likely be impressed with humanitarian or social responsibility efforts.

Breaking through the permission barrier

So, why aren’t more brands igniting this shift to creating purpose-driven experiences?

The technology is there. The economic environment has created adequate capital for change. Creative minds across the media and marketing ecosystems have the right ideas. It’s not because change is impossible or cost prohibitive. It’s because, as a whole, we operate in a permission-based culture.

Top businesses may have a great idea to reinvent experiences but, by the time the organization is aligned—from marketing to IT to financial—and all necessary permissions have been granted, the momentum for measured risk-taking may have passed. Important ideas are becoming outdated faster than they can be actioned because of extensive short-term risk management.

Leadership teams must have the strength to work collaboratively to redefine their customers’ experiences, and eventually lead change for whole industries. I encourage everybody to push through the permission barrier, and to ensure alignment around the creation of meaningful customer experiences.

Reorienting around purpose

At Accenture Interactive, we’re committed to creating experiences that improve people’s lives—from shopper to patient, student to retiree, oil rig worker to lawyer. By automating the repetitive, we give people their time back. By knowing each person as an individual, our clients can communicate with and serve them in ways that reflect their expectations. By being transparent, sharing beliefs and aligning branded communication with product experiences, our clients ensure messaging is authentic and promises are kept.

Each year, I host an event called DigitalWorld, where Accenture Interactive employees and many others are invited to explore how technology can improve the world. We bring together colleagues from across the globe to brainstorm and create tech-driven solutions for some of society’s most pressing challenges—from human health and environmental causes to disaster relief. One such innovation was the creation of an IoT, voice-enabled virtual assistant to aid the 47 million people in the world who are living with dementia. By connecting caregivers and families with dementia sufferers, the virtual assistant facilitates better and more personalized care while saving time and money.

Creating meaningful experiences doesn’t necessarily mean changing the world; it can range from the noble to the entertaining to the downright mundane. What’s important is working in partnership with clients to reinvent experiences that make everyday lives better, more productive, more efficient.

It’s our responsibility—and opportunity. Because, what’s more, companies that strive to bring more meaning and purpose to the experiences they create are destined to reap big business benefits in the form of loyalty, positive word of mouth, increased revenue and sustained success.

Let’s give ourselves the permission to pursue that purpose together.

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This story first appeared in the April 16, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.