Advertising in 2019? Start with the customer experience

I attended the BCAMA (BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association) Marketing Trends breakfast panel discussion last week in Vancouver. While there were many relevant trends for 2019 shared, what came through loud and clear is this: the consumer now rules.

Our traditional approach to marketing and advertising is being tossed on its ear. Agencies are adjusting, and clients are trying to leverage technology while still being human.

These days we need to start with the customer experience. Then work backwards.

An ad is not enough anymore. Advertising will always be a part of marketing, but on its own without considering how the customer experience is designed from every single touch point, with the intent to absolutely delight, you may just be creating “badvertising” – otherwise known as spending money to drive them to your location only to disappoint them.

Frankly, there’s more badvertising out there than there should be.

Consumers make judgement on brands based on their experience, and they get that experience from everything around them – therefor all touch points need to take a user centered approach.

This is something cult brands like Apple, Beats, Harley Davidson, Lululemon, Vans, Ikea, Mini, Zappos, Starbucks and TED understand. These brands have raving fans, not just people who like them. That is a huge difference.

A Cult brand is a product or service with a committed customer base. The attainment of such true believers or ‘near fanatical’ customers is made possible because cult brands sell more than a product, they sell a lifestyle, and they also care A LOT about each and every customer touch point. In this ‘age of the consumer’ we can learn a lot about new marketing approaches by understanding the intimacy and care for every point of contact with customers, that cult brands know so well.

When you consider customer touch points then, the lens on marketing becomes much broader. Suddenly every part of customer service becomes a piece of marketing. The way phone calls are handled, the way social media comments and direct messages receive replies, how customer complaints are resolved, staff knowledge and willingness to help, the ease of purchase and returns, customization of communication, and packaging. The list goes on. Even the accountants have a role if they are in touch with customers, or make policies that impact them.

When you start with the customer experience, everyone is part of marketing.

This requires a fundamental change in philosophy, not only in the way a company trains its staff, but ultimately how it communicates its culture.

These days we need to build the brand from within, and then live it and walk the talk. Once all of that is done, the advertising campaign can be layered over top of it. We no longer build the brand with the campaign. We now build the brand, and then the campaign. The role of marketing has been switched in this age that favours the consumer.

With this approach, staff have to LIVE the words of your tag line, not just love them. They are the ones that make the tag line come to life, and help build the brand from the inside out. Once that is done, advertising will actually have impact.

Mark Shaefer’s book Rebellion – The most Human Company Wins, notes that 2/3 of your marketing happens without you. And that 2/3 is happening on social media, through word of mouth, in customer driven content and through reviews. We basically can’t buy our way in anymore without being invited. And to be invited, we have to consider the customer experience at the core of everything we do. Framed from that perspective, it’s about gaining human impressions, not advertising impressions.

Something to consider for this week. It’s a big concept, but worthy of addressing in the context of your overall marketing plan.

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Mary Charleson

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