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CX Is The New Brand Marketing

Podcast by

Cody Plofker

Published on

March 29, 2022

Good morning, or afternoon depending on when you’re getting a chance to read this. Hope you’re having an amazing week and are taking time to enjoy all of your success. Speaking of CX, that’s want to talk about today. I personally think that CX is the new brand marketing for DTC companies.

There’s a huge reckoning happening in DTC and the outdated lines between brand and performance marketing are becoming blurred. It’s something I’ve been tweeting about a ton, and I’m going to make it the topic of my next newsletter. Btw, if you were forwarded this or are seeing it on the web, please consider subscribing here. When I asked my wife for feedback on my newsletter, she said “it doesn’t suck”, so there’s that.

Anyways, let’s get into why I think CX is the new brand marketing for up and coming DTC companies.

First, let’s talk about brand marketing as it’s always a controversial topic in DTC circles that skew performance oriented, and there’s no clear working definition.

To simplify things, let’s call all media and aquisition you pay for performance marketing. That will be things like Facebook Ads, TikTok Ads, Google, Native, Display, etc. These are usually direct response ads with a call to action, offer, and are tracked on a CPA or ROAS basis.

Then there’s brand marketing. Again to over simplify things, brand marketing to me is all the things you do to acquire customers without a variable CAC. Yes I know that brand marketing can be paid with things like old school TV ads, OOH, etc but I don’t think most DTC brands under $100M are spending on those things, nor do I think they should be. So here when I’m talking about brand I’m talking about organic social, content marketing, influencer marketing, partnerships, etc;. I’m also talking about things that impact all aspects of a business like brand strategy, brand guidelines, brand tone, your emotional promise, etc;.

The One Place Where There's No Difference Between Brand And Performance

One of my favorite things about TikTok ads is that nobody cares about "brand" on TikTok. It's the platform with the smallest difference between organic and paid content, which is why I'm so bullish on it. The best ads don't even look like ads, so they don't get skipped by users and they end up converting better and driving brand awareness (and organic search) way better than other platforms do. But the creative is so different from Facebook, so don't just throw up your best FB ads on TikTok. Are you curious about what makes great TikTok ad creative, how to work with content creators on this new platform, and how to set up your account for success?

Andrew Foxwell is hosting a series of live webinars with TikTok industry experts, and he's kindly asked me to do one with him to kick it off. I'll be followed by the legend himself David Herrrmann, so you know I'm going to bring it so I don't get shown up. If you know Andrew and I, we're all about going above and beyond so we're going to do everything in our power to make this worth at least 10x more than the price of attendance.

To get all thew details and sign up, go here. There's a bundle where you can get access to both TikTok webinars and save some dough. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter. Can't wait to see you on.

In my opinion, the main role of performance marketing is to acquire customers for your brand at scale. The main role of brand marketing, especially for a DTC company, is to acquire customers without paid spend to bring down blended CAC, retain customers by making them fall in love with a brand, and make customers feel your emotional promise when they think about, talk about, and engage with your brand.

In classic retail brands who don’t have a lot of direct communication with their customers, brand marketing makes sense. They don’t have post purchase emails and an unboxing moment to make an impact. If Coca Cola wants to influence how a customer feels about their brand so they buy more often and tell their friends about it, the only avenue they’ve traditionally had is with a TV or print ad. A huge emphasis on brand and spending hard earned dollars on brand marketing makes sense for them. In one of these retail or wholesale companies, a brand marketing director would be at the center or the company involved in all things that involve external communication with their customers to control the messaging. This was done in a one to many way, because there was no way to do it in a one to one way.

For a DTC brand, there is a better way. Again, the goal is to bring down blended CAC, get people talking about your brand and referring friends, control the emotions a customer has with you at every touchpoint, and retain customers. In my opinion, the best way to do this is with customer experiene, or CX.

In DTC, you can have a 1 to 1 relationship with your customer. Every touchpoint with your customer is an opportunity to bring them closer to loving your brand and talking about it to others, coming back for seconds and thirds, and becoming an evangelist. Sure a small fraction of that comes from your fonts, tone, etc; but in my opinion the way you build brand today is not with TV or OOH anymore. Brand strategy is about doing research and trying to get clever about the subsconcuous and hidden emotional mesagging in your marketing and communications. We’re guessing and wer’e trying to subconsciously weave in messaging and creative to make customers feel a certain way. There are amazing brand strategists out there who get this right, but most marketers, founders, and operators aren’t that good any get attached to their brand deck at all costs. You know what I think is a much easier and more predictable way of getting customers to feel great about your brand?

It’s to treat them great.

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No longer are the days of running millions of spend on paid and considering CX an afterthought of your business, only left to deal with reactive customer complaints. Most CX teams sit as an afterthought in their org charts; siloed to the side as the red-headed step child of the marketing team. Instead, I think CX should sit in the middle of the org chart, and should be the center and flow of communication between departments. This customer first mindset is something I wish all brands would adopt. It’s certainly the direction I’m pushing towards.

In terms of titles and ways to think about it with this perspecitive, there are a few titles I’d like to see be adopted in this industry. One would be a CXO. If your brand is large enough to have a C-suite, I think you should open a role for a Chief Experience Officer, who is responsible for always advocating for your customer, and going above and beyond to create moments that keep customers coming back and telling everyone they know about. They should be responsible for curating the unboxing experience, have control over all owneed pre and post purchase flows, and also have input into all social media community management. If your company isn’t quite there yet or doesn’t have a c-suite, I love the title of Reputation Marketing Director or Director of Reputation Marketing.

Like, how does amazing CX not play more of a factor in retention than email and sms? CX should own all retention.

If you can’t tell by now, I truly think that CX is marketing. I used to think that CX teams should have control over retention marketing as well, but now I think that’s not enough. I truly think that providing an amazing customer experience for your customers can be a word of mouth acquisition tool. Just this past week, my wife made me some amazing healthy enchiladas with our favorite grain free tortillas from Siete, and when she tagged them in her story, they responded with an amazing reply that became a talking point between us.

Next time we’re in Whole Foods, don’t you think we’ll reach for the Siete wraps for $5.99 instead of the Amazon 365 version for $3.99? Now I understand that’s retention because we are existing customers, but one my wife’s friends very well could have responded to her story and said “wow those look great. Do you have the recipe?” and my wife would have sent it to her friend and her friend would have gotten the Siete wraps over the Whole Foods 365 ones because my wife reposted the Siete reply in her story, and her friend wanted to experience some of that positivity.

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Now I am not at all knocking brand marketing teams. I think that they’re amazing and there’s totally a place. I don’t think brand marketing is dead. in fact, I think it’s so alive and important that we need to break up the false dichotomy between performance and brand. I actually think brand is so important that it should be involved in every aspect of marketing, even performance marketing. It shouldn't be a separate thing, it's all the same.

I advocate for brand first performance marketing, which is weaving brand storytelling pillars into all performance marketing activities. Next week that's exactly what I plan to talk about.

Please let me know your feedback on this one. CX might not be the sexiest thing, but that also means it's a way you can succeed. It's kind of sad that Zappos is known as THE customer service company for treating their customers correctly. What are all of the other companies doing, and why is it status quo to not?

Hope everyone has a great week. I'm down in Florida for a few weeks soaking up some sun and getting some golf in.