Uber and Netflix have created a monster – a new type of consumer wooed by an unsurpassed customer experience (CX) that is changing the game for brands worldwide.
From personalised viewing choices to real-time feedback on trips – brands live in a world where ‘instant’ is no longer a novelty and seamless transition from tablet to smartphone to desktop to human, is a baseline expectation. And brands are scrambling to keep up.
In South Africa, as in the world, customer co-creation is not just a buzzword, but a lethal weapon in the arsenal of brands striving to improve customer experiences through real, valuable solutions at the concept or design stage of a new or improved product or service. Instead of playing catch-up and engineers creating products in a vacuum, brands like Lego, DHL and the CTICC are crowdsourcing solutions, often in a vulnerable way.
Brand/agency co-creation is another avenue for brands to get back into the driver’s seat when it comes to creating solutions for the customers, they, let’s be honest, know best. This type of collaboration creates a pro-active partnership where the agency is part of the process from start to finish instead of being brought in at the end to slap a flashy design on it.
Co-creation refers to clients enlisting input directly from an agency on a product, service or process. The agency works directly with the brand’s internal team and (ideally) have the same KPI’s as the internal team.
Specialist brand storytellers, Idea Hive, is a local agency that works with blue-chip brands to tell African stories for Africans on a variety of platforms. The team have found client co-creation to be so successful that they now include it in most of their projects.
CEO, Yaw Dwomoh, encourages brands and agencies to move from a traditional reactive position of servant/master to one of reciprocity and partnership in collaboration.
He expands on some of the benefits available to brands co-creating with agencies in the process of strategy development, tactics and execution, to ultimately improve the brand/consumer relationship:
It injects speed and agility
“For clients who are in the highly competitive fast-moving foods industry for example, speed-to-market is key. Sitting in on internal operational, marketing and product strategy sessions and workshops from the get-go means we are able to give and receive valuable input into the efficacy of the marketing strategy and day-to-day processes that affect the relationship between the client and their consumers.
Working with internal teams, we are able to pivot quickly, should issues arise, make small adjustments and monitor consumer reactions real-time and streamline the design process as we gain closer access to decision-makers.”
It plays to both parties’ strengths
“Part of the success of co-creation is that both parties are working towards a common goal. Trust is built, when we build something together. Marcus Stephens, EVP of Brand Marketing for Sagamore Spirit says, “Agencies typically have a diverse client base, so they can bring a broader, unbiased perspective and help internal teams see the larger opportunity,”. Similarly, the internal team relies on the fact that they are experts in their most important subject – their customer. The agency becomes a valued partner in the process who can inject relevant strategic direction into the creation process while leveraging the client’s expertise to inform strategy.
The agency meets the client where they are, whether that is by working or meeting onsite. This makes it easy for the client to provide feedback in a way that doesn’t interrupt their workflow.”
The customer is king
“As customer needs are placed at the centre of the co-creation process, customer experience soars. Where internal teams may have an unintended blind spot when it comes to unhappy clients, informed and honest feedback from a through-the-line agency like ourselves gives brands and agencies the opportunity to solve customer problems together.”
Co-creation results in a win-win situation for brands and agencies. If consumers are happy, clients win, and agencies are included in future projects. Creativity becomes a joint responsibility and it is no longer left only in the agency’s lap. The more everyone can get in the room together – to align, plan; reimagine and innovate – the stronger the impact will be on the brand and the agency’s common goals.
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