Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Is Your Brand Getting Killed By Technology?

If you follow along with the media, you'd think that technology will continue to excel at record pace. 

Shoot… according to the media, customer live interaction with the shopping experience and personal customer service will be gone in the next five years. 

This past Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal highlighted technology advancing within a wide array of businesses at an unstoppable pace. 

Shoot, there was a story that Walmart someday soon will be nothing but a place to drive up to and pick up orders made via a smart phone or iPad. 

There was another article that self-driving cars are all the rage with Millennials who have no desire to even engage in driving while they sit in their cars and text friends.

For entertainment value, during the last couple of weeks, I hit a number of the online job posting sites. 

I could care less if the employer was a bank, hospital, hotel group, consumer packaged goods company, insurance group or a B2B manufacturing company… nearly 80% of the postings were for technology and database related jobs.

“CRM” is the acronym that peppers many of the postings.  Shoot, even customer personal interaction and relationship building sports an acronym! 

Customer retention is NOT something that tech-geeks are good at doing.  Management might think so, but many are currently, or soon to, paying the price.

Let’s take a look at Starbucks.  Talk about killing brand equity, Starbucks can take center-stage.

The Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz has conceded his ability to understand and deliver the historic Starbucks EIP or Emotional Ignition Point. 

There is no place in the “third place” anymore.  That kitchen table has since been sold at the brand equity flea market.

Gone are the days of personal interaction at Starbucks replaced with Apple iPads and iPhones, payment apps and mobile drive-thru wired orders.  

Have to pay for the coffee, just swipe that electronic credit card.  A number of Starbucks have replaced the order counter with tap-screen order kiosks. 

Wall Street posted an article yesterday afternoon on its website that Starbucks has entered into a deal with Nestle to sell its coffee on the supermarket shelves. 

This morning, Wall Street is running a follow-up article that Starbucks financial growth has stalled and marketing leadership is going to launch an “online” and “social media” strategy to route customers back in the afternoon.

More times than not, I joke with indie coffee house management when I see how they become transfixed on the historical, ecological and roasting time character of the beans from which they churn out their coffee. 

I tell them that coffee is not their product.  The experiential environment is instead.  The attribute aspects of the coffee means little to vast majority who buy their coffee.

Here is what I saw this weekend…

Indie coffee house… folks sitting out on a patio chatting and interacting with real folk. No iPhones out... iPads and MacBooks stored in the computer bags. 

Starbucks three store fronts down… individuals sitting alone at tables interacting with their computers and folks standing in line interacting on their iPhones. 

I know… I know… my observations are not quantifiable and projectable… but that version of ethnography often is much more on target with key insights than the numbers!

The “Third Place” has now been replaced by the smart phones… right?

Technology has management hooked on the idea of linear progression of advancement and change. 

Brand equity?  Emotional Ignition Points?  Sustainable Brand Engagement?

Sure the buildings, tables and cushiony chairs are still there inside the zillions of Starbucks stores, but the experiential Starbucks brand has faded and the Starbucks brand now sits next to its peers like McDonald’s, Macy’s and Coke. 

As I share with clients and business leadership… do NOT get addicted to the opium of technology. 


As I have shared in past blog posts, the world does not progress along a route of linear change.  Brand choice is not rationally motivated.  

Brands have a life-line and as they reach market maturity. 

Deciding to capitalize on everything, everywhere and losing focus on equity of investment only accelerates the dismantling and ultimate death of the brand.

EXPERIENCE just received a second project assignment from a brand rooted in its agricultural past.  It’s a brand driven by its organic and eco-sustainable roots.  I am personally excited to be involved in the growth and expansion of this brand.

Sure there's Whole Foods, but its new daddy, Amazon is re-engineering its wardrobe like the show, "What Not To Wear."

No question that technology is part of our client's brand... its cultivation, production and harvest of product.  Even in the translation of the brand experience online.

BUT… our new client's focus and priority moves beyond technology with real people and real-time, in-person, interactive experiences.

What?  Computers are smarter than people, right?

My advisement to management reading this blog?

Take a moment and track how much of your operational, marketing and sales investments in the last 24 months are rooted in technology.  Compare that with how much of your investment is placed in actual people. 

The 80/20 rule has rich holistic roots transferable across one business platform to the next. 

If you find that the “80” is rooted in technology… give me a call. 

Your brand equity is in trouble.

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