When speaking to agency folk and marketers, there’s a distinction in the way they see the consortium of agencies approach. Agencies see it as the exception rather than the rule, while clients see it as a definite trend. Both sides are, however, in agreement that clients that are making the move have different motives and when ASB announced earlier this year it was ending its relationship with Saatchi & Saatchi after five years, it gave an increased focus on customer experience as the explanation. Demonstrating that, it soon partnered with With Collective for its digital, direct and data-based marketing requirements while True has been appointed to look after the brand.
General manager of marketing Shane Evans explains the move is the result of an evolution in the bank’s strategy due to the wealth of customer data and information that wasn’t previously available to it, meaning it now has more ways and opportunities to engage with consumers. Not only that, it can make those engagements deeper and personalised so its focus on customer experience is allowing it to make the most of those capabilites.
“The marketing mix has many different parts to it and advertising is one part but actually what is at the centre of the marketing mix is customer experience,” says Evans. “That means we need to think about how we talk to, have a relationship with, and engage customers.”
He maintains advertising is still important for the brand in order to tell people about what it’s doing, but if it can create great experiences for its customers, it believes they will do the marketing for it.
Evans makes a valid argument and the recent rise of the likes of Uber show that putting customer experience front and centre can be a winning strategy.
Uber might not be any more efficient than say, Co-op Taxis, but it delivers an experience that’s far more superior and, as a result, that’s changing expectations around what a taxi company should be. 99 managing director Paul Manning agrees with the notion and has been known to tell clients that today’s winning brands owe their success not just to the quality of the products themselves, but to the superiority of the journeys they create.
However, he does not see a model in which agencies are off retainer being conducive to a great experience, because operating on a sporadic project-by-project basis does not encourage everything to be joined up.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he says.
However, what he does see needing to change is a greater focus on helping clients add value to the experiences they create for customers in the wake of all the industry changes in the past few years.
The technology, media, clients and access to data has changed as well as customers, who expect more than ever from clients. And as a result, clients are expecting more from their agencies.
99 has responded by designing itself to be customer experience-centric, with capabilities built specifically to deliver on customer experience. It sees communications as experiences and with so much technology and data added into the marketing mix to achieve that, Manning sees a consortium of partners as a potential burden.
“It’s not so much about Mad Men anymore, it’s Math Men,” Manning says. “You’ve got all these different people and all these complexities, why add multiple agencies into the mix as well?”
But that’s not the only question agencies need to ask right now. With the fight on for customer data, consultancies are staking their claim with pre-existing in-house data- capabilities so it must be added “why work with an agency at all?”