Head to head: what customers want from comms

Head to head: what customers want from comms

We asked Graham Painter, founder and CEO of Cream, a leading media agency, to take an introspective look into how and where he provides customers with value in communications, and how that has changed over the years

Graham Painter is founder and CEO of Cream, a media agency specialising in the premium and luxury goods sector

How has the way you communicate with customers changed over the years?

I set up Cream in 2003. At the time it was predominately traditional media focused. We primarily wanted to understand how audiences reacted to magazines and newspaper advertising, and how PR and editorial worked alongside the commercial side of things. When digital took off it was transformative. It helped show us how we could connect better and have more impact. It made us realise that what we do is not really brand focused, it’s audience focused, and that we need to be skilled in reaching them and understanding their motivations. We found that wanting luxury products is not just about being wealthy, it’s about aspiration. With data, we can target this audience more precisely, on an almost individual basis.

Can you give us an example of where this has had an impact?

We started working with jewellery brand Kiki McDonough, and they were fairly conservative in their communications at the time – they weren’t doing much digitally, but had a flagship store on Sloane Street in London. Kiki, who had been hands-on at the business for many years, had a great understanding of the needs of the customers she talked to in the shop, and had effectively created a very defined audience set. By gaining access to their Google Analytics we discovered that their online customers were distinct from those who she had met in-store – younger by as much as 20 years, for example. We could then overlay this data with information from our own databases, to see if there were any matches, and then overlapped it with the brand’s Facebook followers. On top of it we also mapped personality data from YouGov. Finally, we could use Experian data from Mastercard to discover where else people shop. Together, this provides a much more defined picture of the target audience – a new customer base for the brand, and much more targeted communication possibilities.

What channels have been proving successful when targeting this new customer base?

It’s taken off most in our work with influencers. The traditional way to source influencers is through networks, but we felt this wasn’t working as fluently as we’d like. If you get your communications wrong at this point, you get a customer disconnect, and this can damage the brand. Instead, we now hand-select and tailor influencers for clients. Even then, not every campaign is right for every influencer. We need to ensure a close relationship is maintained as the influencers start to create content. We’ve had some cases where the influencer has created such good content that the client has ended up using it in their advertising or on their website.

How do you use a channel such as Instagram to reach audiences effectively?

For us, Instagram is the main social channel for influencers. Due to it being a closed network tracking it’s very effective. Our influencers tend to be smaller ones rather than big celebrities, with maybe 10,000 followers – which is still a significant number. We take care to seed their content into other media channels to drive awareness. We use a company called Tan to do this so that it appears like native content. From that point on we can run A/B testing and make sure we’re putting out the most effective content.

How agile, tailored or bespoke does your content have to be to capture the audience’s attention?

Rather than bespoke, I think the key word here, especially in the world of influence, is ‘authentic’. If your content doesn’t look authentic then it doesn’t work for the consumer. Essentially, influence has replaced word-of-mouth marketing, which has always been the strongest form of marketing that you can ever access. An audience will only accept a recommendation from someone if they respect their views and feel that they know what they’re talking about. Consumers also buy into emotional connections with brands, which is especially true in luxury, and do a lot of research before they buy. There might be seven touchpoints between the brand and the customer before they make a purchase, and each one of these has to deliver the right message, offering customers something that will drive them towards the purchase.

Is there a framework that underpins how you plan to create communications and content for consumers?

Whatever your communications or campaign could or should be, it must start with understanding the customer. We always look at five things: financial wealth; personality traits; how interested they are in the type of product; their experience levels of the brand, or similar brands; how much of a supporter of the brands they are – are they a market maven? These are used to build up a profile of the consumer, which can then be applied to a pyramid, with sophisticated consumers at the top, and with a broad base of people at the bottom who might be more interested in value and convenience. Towards the top of the pyramid, it’s about much more than having the right badge or logo, it’s about delivering a rich experience that has emotional impact.

If we can factor all these items into our framework we can develop campaigns that make our client’s brands stand out from the competition – engaging customers on issues that really matter to them.

Find out which leading brands are delivering excellence in customer experience and how they’re getting it right.

For more insights on delivering the ultimate customer journey, attend CIM’s Digital Summit 2017

Graham Painter Founder and CEO Cream
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