Brands need to be at their customers’ service

Travis Johnson- Mumbrella Perth 2015 1

In this guest post Travis Johnson says this year’s Mobile World Congress highlights why brands need to understand customer needs and solve pain points in order to win their business and the right to conversation.

The theme for this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is ‘Mobile is Everything’. And I think all of the 100,000 or so attendees recognise the significance that this device plays in our lives – indeed for all 193 minutes of average usage per day.

However, having been to the last few congresses, it’s interesting to see that this year there really aren’t that many game-changing announcements nor shiny new bits of hardware.

We’re at a stage where most mobile technologies are maturing and are moving out of being prototypes and possibilities and into commercial reality.

As far as consumer electronics go, the technology leaps of past years appears to have plateaued with the main enhancements to the flagship Samsung and LG phones being focused on water resistance and becoming modular – so you can swap batteries, memory and accessories.

Beyond phones there are queues of people waiting to try virtual reality, tons of wearables for humans (and their pets), many connected cars, a focus on healthcare and more low-priced Chinese phone manufacturers than you can poke a chopstick at.

The underlying theme of the week is how differentiation is predominantly due to software, not hardware, and we’ve seen many examples of how leading brands use the native features and functionality of phones to create new customer experiences.

Louis Paskalis of the Bank of America stated: “We’re at the beginning of the post-advertising era. We compete by creating greater utility, not by running more ads”, and I think he’s right.

Ford came to a similar conclusion when it realised that, on average, people spend 4.5 hours per year in a car dealership yet 900 hours in their vehicle.

So to sell more cars they couldn’t rely on a positive dealership experience – it’s all about knowing the customer, their needs and meeting those needs.

My Ford Pass

Ford Pass

At the congress it announced a whole suite of mobile-based services and you don’t need to be a Ford owner to access them, which is a great way to recruit new customers into the brand.

Ford Pass is effectively a concierge where you can speak to someone to arrange whatever you want, whenever you want, and includes a loyalty programme involving BP, McDonalds and 7Eleven where your payment details are linked and seamless.

GoDrive facilitates ride-sharing and GoPark provides guaranteed city parking based on big data analysis of which cars in which streets are in and out of parking spots at certain times of the day.

This is major change for brands and a reversal of the way they typically think. Ford isn’t thinking ‘Ford first’, it’s truly ‘customer first’.

Ford is not creating exclusive stuff for Ford purchasers, it’s for everyone. Ford’s not thinking about cars, its focus is on mobility.

The benefits of creating such services are substantial – from attracting new customers, to product differentiation, a lifetime relationship with the customer, greater loyalty, higher ARPU, and leveraging such data to inform more targeted (and less wasteful) marketing efforts – all ultimately to sell your products and services.

So my key take-away from the week so far is that when you’re putting your marketing plan together, truly focus on the needs of your customer.

Not just what ads you think they should see nor what media is best to reach them.

Think about what their pain points and needs are when they are shopping for your product or trying to buy your service, then use that device that’s in their hand for much of the day to solve it.

If your brand is that facilitator, you’ll deliver a level of daily delight and positive sentiment that money can’t buy.

If you get it right, all the talk about ad blocking at an app and telco level (a la Hutchison 3 UK) will be less of an issue; your customers will want to engage with you rather than paying for ways to ensure they don’t hear from you.

Travis Johnson is the global president for mobile at IPG Mediabrands



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