Balancing BX and CX

Why brand experience needs customer experience, and why modern brands can’t rely on one alone

Brand experience (BX), long established through advertising and communications, has been the bedrock of brand-building, and it plays a crucial role in winning consumer affinity. But it's the rise of the customer experience (CX) era, and its tight focus on every consumer touchpoint, that will future-proof modern brands for the next decade.

The rise of the CX era

Marketers are increasingly prioritising the development of robust CX practices to drive business growth. According to Gartner, 75% of marketers plan to increase spending on CX initiatives in the coming months. What's more, a review of open job postings on LinkedIn reveals US-based companies are currently looking for twice as many CX managers as they are brand managers.

It's clear that there is an overt shift happening in modern brand-building, and marketing leaders are reorganising their teams accordingly.

CX transforms BX

Historically, marketers understood BX as articulating a brand's value to a targeted audience in the most differentiating, relevant and measurable way possible. They built classic advertising campaigns designed to move the needle on sales and conversions. Some of the world's most iconic brands, including Nike, Budweiser and Burger King, to name but a few, were built on incredible advertising. But the proliferation of digital media and its decentralisation of consumer audiences has created a need for brands to move beyond short-term conversions and build meaningful connections with consumers. The reason why BX needs CX is that the very definition of a brand is changing: a brand is the promise and the delivery of a total experience.

In this sense, the BX to CX spectrum covers everything the brand represents on behalf of the company, including all products, services and communications. Together they form the total experience. Every positive interaction with a brand confirms and reinforces the brand promise. Every negative impression compromises that brand promise and disconnects audiences from the brand. It is no surprise that CX-driven disruptors in athletic wear (Allbirds), alcohol (Haus) and quick-service restaurants (sweetgreen) are giving established brands – those still more focused on BX than CX – something to think about.

A successful modern brand manages BX and CX as a virtuous cycle. BX creates differentiation and distinction; CX senses audience intent and creates action accordingly. The success of one informs on the other, and the overall effect of the total experience influences whether a consumer chooses the brand or a competitor.

According to internal BAV data, the most connected brands in the world excel both in how they connect with people emotionally through BX and functionally through CX. Such brands command 31% more pricing power than their peers; they are 41% more likely to be the top choice in their category; and 51% more likely to be differentiated against their competition. These brands prove the creating effectiveness of balancing excellent CX with inventive BX.

The BX plus CX solution

As marketing organisations face new demands – from talent requirements to an expanding definition of marketing – marketers should ask themselves how they can apply CX and BX to drive business growth. There are three keys to adopting a total experience mindset that addresses the creative effectiveness crisis:

  1. Marketers should look at the meaning of brand promise through a new lens. With CX underpinning the brand, the shared value between the brand and its customers should define the brand promise. "Your company's long-term health rests on a firm understanding of who your customers are and how you provide unique value to them," write Sally Blount and Paul Leinwand, both of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, in a recent Harvard Business Review article. "Defining, communicating and fulfilling that purpose is the job of an organisation's leaders."
  2. Unlike the world of communications, where advertising is created through rigorous testing, marketers who manage CX know that every time they launch a new experience it will be the worst experience that someone will have with a brand. While counterintuitive, it speaks to the nature of change and to the iterative, customer-centric mentality required of marketers in the future.
  3. The delivery of the experience will lead to an increased emphasis on cross-functional teams, not just within marketing, but across the business, from sales to product development to supply chain management. Building a modern brand that brings BX and CX together is everyone's business.

To be successful in the CX era marketers will need to embrace a new definition of agility, one that focuses more on one's ability to understand and manage multiple touchpoints to deliver the total experience rather than on the speed with which one operates.

A renewed emphasis on building strong brands that are the growth engines of the economy, society and culture is required. To build them, marketers must understand that BX needs CX, because the only way to build a healthy, sustainable and connected brand is by managing both the promise and experience together.

Tomas Gonsorcik

Chief Strategy Officer, VMLY&R

published on

12 March 2020


Experience Communications

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Consumer behaviour Branding

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