Racing for Relevance: Why Rapid Response is the New Competitive Edge for Brands
This article first appeared in MediaPost on October 25, 2017.
When shopping for glasses, shampoo or even just a quick snack, I choose products and brands I can identify with. Sometimes I like the color or design of the packaging, the product’s new flavor intrigues me, or the brand’s values align with mine. We humans purchase things that are relevant to us, leaving those that aren’t to idly linger on the shelf.
In order to remain relevant, brands must position themselves for rapid response to ever-changing consumer needs.
Rapid response is a tall order for most brands, though. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in its recent report, “The Responsiveness Requirement,” revealed that only 16 percent of senior marketers thought their organizations were “extremely responsive,” ready to make changes to products, packaging, services and experiences based on consumer feedback and shifting preferences.
This means a large number of organizations are unequipped to meet consumers’ expectations at some of the most crucial touchpoints affecting their buying behavior: the physical channel.
The low percentage of leaders self-identifying as “extremely responsive,” is disheartening, since 43 percent agree that responsiveness is critical to delivering an exceptional consumer experience.
While many brands aim to provide hyper-relevant products and responses to their customers, this roadblock slows down the entire process: providing consistency across a growing array of marketing touchpoints, in both digital and physical channels, at the speed of consumer expectation.
So what can marketers do?
In order to connect physical and digital marketing initiatives, digital transformation of the end to end marketing supply chain must occur, including the development of physical touchpoints: packaging, in-store promotions, signage and displays. This necessarily breaks down barriers that currently hinder responsiveness.
Here’s how to spark your digital transformation for color:
Digitize the Process and Tools you use to control color. Provide access to digital standards and shared color libraries to drive complexity out of the process and align digital and physical experiences. Color swatches, style guides, and product prototypes are all tools available in a corresponding digital form. Brand leaders can specify colors, provide print manufacturers with digital color standards, and measure color consistency on 100% of the press so they can know the packages headed to retail customers are compliant.
This level of quality is critical because, as I shop my favorite stores, if a product color appears dull or faded, I may consider a competitor. That’s not just because I’m a color nerd: 66 percent of marketing leaders reported that their end consumers were very sensitive or extremely sensitive to variations in packaging color and consistency. And we also know that retail customers return products that don’t sell, sometimes for this very reason.
Automate (Everything). Once digitized, many tasks can be reduced to math problems. Software apps can convert colors and file types, even anticipate the way colors can be achieved on different materials. Automating your workflow improves productivity, shortens turnaround for quality inspection, and speeds approvals. Automation alerts you as soon as there is a problem so you can react quickly, in real time.
Since it’s autumn, I expect to see my local store shelves lined with all manner of pumpkin spice-flavored products with bright orange packaging graphics. If a brand’s packaging printer experiences delays because the orange is looking too brown or yellowish, the brand may miss days on shelf when its seasonal packaging would be most relevant (and most profitable). Thankfully, there are automated tools that can help printers quickly get the color right across an ever-expanding array of materials.
This kind of agility will be the competitive edge for thriving brands because it is the level of responsiveness consumers expect, with digital and physical components marching in step.
Connect Technologies to gain real-time transparency and greater visibility. The more systems you string together, the more human time you cut from your process, and the faster your company can deliver changes to the consumer experience that keep your brand relevant. Consumers see your brand as a single entity, not a complex collection of silos. Connecting your teams, technologies and vendors positions your company to deliver powerful brand experiences that are both unified and timely.
Consumers expect quality, agility and relevance. Brands must reflect their consumers or be content to languish on a gondola shelf sporting a clearance sticker.