The new year presents an opportunity to start new habits and end bad ones. January prompts a strong attitude of reflection for executives, such as Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, who asked customers via Twitter for advice on what the firm should do in 2018—and then implemented changes suggested by the public. As brand consultants, who nerd out over industry trends and study what the best and the brightest do to climb to the top, we’re opinionated about what companies should focus on to improve their business. So we asked our practitioners what they foresee successful companies will do in 2018. Here are their recommendations around what companies should start and stop doing.
Start with the experience in mind
- Marketers must start integrating the end-experience into the development of brand strategy—right from the outset—and abandon the traditional notion that the process is sequential. Consumers only care about brand promises when the experience fails to deliver them.
Stop not delivering what you promised
- Consumers are increasingly powerful: they have access to more and more data, they’re increasingly savvy (and cynical) about brands, and they have incredible ability to influence others. In this environment, more than ever before, marketers must ensure that their brands deliver what they promise. Authenticity in this regard will quickly and permanently separate the winners from the losers.
–David B. Srere, Co-CEO, Chief Strategy Officer
Start taking a stand in real time
- Brands will need to proactively take a stand on issues, in real time and as they unfold. This means that brands will need to have a clear strategy as to what they truly stand for, where to draw the line in terms of when and how to engage and have clear directives to guide staff as to how to act and communicate. A key input will be having their finger on the pulse of what their customers care about and knowing how to connect in a genuine way.
Stop withholding information
- Brands need to stop hiding customer data/privacy breaches and, again, respond and inform customers immediately. In 2017, brands like Uber and Yahoo! revealed data breaches that were years old. Having a breach is one thing but holding back crucial information from your customers is a sure-fire way to damage brand trust for the long term
–Brian Rafferty, Global Director, Business Analytics & Insights
Start leading with purpose
- Ensure that your organization’s brand is guided by a purpose that’s bigger than the products or services you offer. Once you have a clearly articulated brand purpose, live it. This purpose should infuse all decisions and behaviors at your company—from mergers and acquisitions, to individual hires and product offerings. Having a clear and compelling purpose empowers employees to live the brand and everyone else to know what you stand for.
Stop overlooking the power of employee advocacy
- Employees are your most important brand champions. In 2018, savvy brands will recognize that employees are the stewards of their brand experience and treat them accordingly. Remember, it’s not just client-facing employees, it’s everyone—from those making the products to finance and accounting—that forms your brand experience internally and externally. They all serve as brand representative via their actions. Enlightened organizations will stop ignoring their most valuable assets.
–Margaret Molloy, Global CMO
Start designing for failures
- Look at patterns of failures and missteps and use these learnings as inspiration to improve your experience and turn them into goals. Instead of adding “more” to an experience, take a cue from Coco Chanel to remove the unnecessary, simplify interactions, and focus on what your users really want.
Stop being an idealist
- As consumer interactions continue to evolve at a rapid pace, brands need to stop punishing users for their mistakes—such as submitting a form incorrectly. In 2018, the brands that are there for users in the non-ideal moments will win by building trust and solidifying the role they play in people’s lives.
–Leesa Wytock, Senior Director, Experience
Start utilizing brand strategy as a business driver
- In 2018, companies who recognize the value of taking a strategic approach to branding will win. Your brand is where your promise meets delivery. It serves as the North Star for employees and is an asset that every person across your organization can leverage. It’s more than a mere moniker or design aesthetic; it defines and differentiates your customer experience.
Stop approaching ‘brand’ as a one-off engagement
- Brand management should not be treated as an episodic event. A brand is a constantly evolving asset for a business. Successful companies recognize that brand is a filter that guides decisions when launching new products or entering new markets.
–Daniel K. Golden, Group Director, Strategy
Start understanding that content strategy is good business strategy
- Investing in carefully crafting your brand voice is often overlooked as a business driver. Take a holistic, strategic view of what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. If you’re delivering a consistent story across your experiences in a unified, authentic voice, you’ll not only stand out from the crowd—you’ll create deeper connections and unlock growth.
Stop overlooking the importance of the content-creation process
- As our technologies evolve, there’s an ever-growing need for fresh, first-rate content. Creating meaningful content that resonates requires strategic input and clear processes. Engage skilled writers, consider hiring a managing editor to shepherd content from creation to publication, and establish a clear-cut approval (and sun-setting) process.
–William Kingsland, Group Director, Brand Communication