You Have the Customer Journey All Wrong

By Jonathan David Lewis

Palindrome Marketing

A nut for a jar of tuna. Now read that backward. You just read a palindrome, a sentence that reads the same forward and backward. You also just experienced modern marketing.

As we stumble through the beginning of the 21st Century, we find ourselves in a new environment where linear concepts of the customer journey don’t apply like they used to. Consumers expect businesses to accommodate their every need on their terms. Instant comparison shopping, hyper-connection, the internet culture, overstimulation and more conspire to create a new environment. Old concepts about businesses guiding customers along a linear journey don’t exist anymore.

We’re witnessing the rise of what I call “palindrome marketing,” a new approach to the customer journey that looks more like a circle than a line. Business is no longer linear, and relevance requires marketers to build programs that are on-demand and self-aware.

Palindrome Marketing Is On-Demand

In years past, marketers would map out linear customer journeys in which a brand would lead prospects from one interaction to another. But outside of high-interest categories, linear journeys have become obsolete.

According to a study by Google, online search terms like “open now,” “same-day shipping,” “tonight” and “today” have increased by more than 100% since 2015. Consumers expect on-demand business.

The evidence points to a move away from linear journeys, but this shift may be more dramatic than you think. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, for the first time, consumers comparing prices online are impacting the Fed’s ability to raise interest rates. According to the article, “Consumer knowledge is keeping a lid on prices that retailers can charge on a wealth of goods, a small but growing factor holding down inflation in the U.S., Japan and other advanced economies.”

Consumers aren’t following the old rules. Businesses don’t “own” the customer journey, even when customers are in their place of business. Control of the transaction has fundamentally shifted away from the brand to the point where in-store price comparisons are impacting national inflation rates.

If your solution to your prospect’s problem isn’t available at the exact moment they need it, in the place they choose, to their exact liking, you lose. Palindrome marketing demands that businesses up there game across multiple categories, from searchability and the place-based experience to customer service that never sleeps. It requires a true understanding of your prospect’s pain points and a suppression of the inside-out thinking that plagues so many business experiences.

Palindrome Marketing Is Self-Aware

On-demand culture is driving many marketers crazy as they apply old marketing models to new marketing problems. Often, these ill-fated approaches prioritize noise over relevance and activity over intentionality. But there is a better way.

Palindrome marketing requires what my firm’s creative director calls “brand sequencing,” an approach that seeks to understand the building blocks of a brand much like a scientist might sequence human DNA.

Brand sequencing first seeks to understand the company’s purpose and positioning so it can then outline all of the essential elements of the brand personality—from tone of voice and perspective to the fundamentals of design and message.

Business is now instantaneous and is the sum result of countless online and offline interactions. Plus, it’s become unbound by geography. To find success, your entire business presence must communicate your unified message simultaneously across touch points regardless of the prospect’s entry point. But to pull off such a lofty goal, businesses must have a healthy dose of self-awareness. How can you communicate simultaneously across platforms if you don’t even know who you are?

If someone interacts with just one aspect of your brand or business, they should understand your fundamental value proposition. If they interact with many aspects, they simply get a more immersive experience.

Apple famously demonstrated the power of brand sequencing by not only selling gorgeous tech products but treating the packaging, customer service, in-store aesthetic, advertising and online experience as equal parts of the unified customer experience. A customer could interact with one or all of Apple’s touchpoints and come away with the same unequaled impression of innovation and attention to detail.

Palindrome marketing requires marketers to expand their definition of branding to every touchpoint in the organization. Much like the tension of a spring, it takes time and energy to build the right system. Once in place, it releases incredible energy and speeds up future efforts because all the hard questions are answered.

If you want to succeed in our on-demand culture, your business approach must move beyond old conceptions of customer journeys. It must operate as a complete thought, relevant and coherent at every entry point. It must have depth, consistency and anticipate needs far before a prospect realizes they have them.

It must be non-linear. Like a sentence you can read backward and forward, a palindrome. Now read this backward: A nut for a jar of tuna.

Originally published on Forbes

Jonathan David Lewis

President and author, Jonathan specializes in the spirit of the matter. Call Jonathan when problems feel ambiguous and morale is low. He’ll know what to do.

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