Some of the world’s most iconic brands—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Toyota, Disney—also happen to be some of the most customer focused. And they are some of the richest, as well. Coincidence?
A brand is only as strong as its customers. At the same time, customers will flock to brands they like. So which comes first? The answer is neither. Brand building and customer experience excellence go hand-in-hand to create journeys that never end. They must constantly evolve and adapt to changing market conditions, consumer expectations, and innovations.
We are square in the middle of an experience economy, where products and services are introduced by companies, but refined and ultimately defined by customers. Branding as a form of company control is a thing of the past. Social media and direct consumer connections have propelled brands past one-way broadcast and advertising mediums into collaborative exchanges. This means that companies need to consider customers (and employees) as valuable assets that contribute to the company’s corporate identity and long-term success.
The articles in this issue illustrate how the concept is being activated across industries. Our Benchmark research examines the realities behind the often-hyped sharing economy. Microsoft CMO Grad Conn answers questions about how the company is evolving its brand from product centricity to center on ongoing experiences. Walgreens turns to influencers and storytelling instead of traditional advertising. And the role of employees moves front and center, as we explore the recruiting benefits to being a socially responsible business, and why it’s ok to encourage employees to build personal brands.
In the experience economy, companies and customers work together to evolve the role of brands. We’re all brand strategists now.