5 Innovative Ways to Drive Growth and Profitability

What the bee girl knew – brand leadership in the Age of the Customer

Her face beamed. The bee girl in Blind Melon’s video for “No Rain” felt a sudden sense of belonging when she realized there were other people like her in the world.

They all danced the same bee dance and sang the same bee song. For the first time in a long time, she felt respected and accepted.

Turns out, those special moments can be a boon to brands and bee girls alike.

While wearing wings might be a bit much, the notion of a retail brand building a dream store for their highest value customers certainly isn’t crazy. The rush of conquering the climbing wall at the REI Boston store for example has been known to inspire camaraderie among customers (self included) and a sense of belonging with the brand.

Not surprisingly, camped atop the C Space 2016 list of most customer inspired brands, we find REI.

REI knows what their customers love and isn’t afraid to take risks that power positive customer experiences.

According to the C Space report “The Most Customer Inspired Brands in 2016” when a customer feels understood and respected, they have a stronger relationship with the brand overall. REI exemplifies this through their in-store and digital experiences along with a passion for all things adventure.

REI closed its stores on Black Friday (the busiest shopping day of the year) and told their customers to go for a hike — literally. A risk that paid off, revenues rose 9.3% from 2015 to 2016.

The C Space Customer Quotient ™ framework (CQ) quantifiably correlates revenue and profitability growth to brand behaviors that customers value. Those special moments are are especially important.

The fuzzy logic of customer experience analysis has long depended on a range of disconnected observational metrics. C Space’s CQ approach generates insight from customer perspective, a first in the industry.

The C Space Customer Quotient ™ is comprised of five attributes measured from the customer’s perspective: customer experience, emotional rewards, relevance, openness and empathy.

1. Customer Experience — In an omnichannel world, every touch point shapes brand perception. Brands scoring high in CQ include leaders like Marriott and Wegmans who both deliver on creating meaningful experiences. It’s all about going beyond a good experience and delivering great every time.

2. Emotional Rewards — When a high-touch brand makes you feel good, you remember it. Those witty signs at Trader Joe’s that inspire a subtle chuckle make the brand more personable. Those collective good vibes build up over time and deliver emotional rewards that strengthen brand relationships driving growth, profitability, return on assets (ROA) and likelihood to recommend.

3. Relevance — Brands that understand customer needs and deliver on them in novel ways score high in relevance. Being relatable and sharing your values matters. REI’s #OptOutside campaign is a prime example.

4. Openness — Brands scoring high in openness are perceived as accessible and being genuinely interested in what customers have to say. Being open also means being clear and being real. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty featured non-models and elevated the brand in the minds of many women. Oil of Olay engages older women in a similar tone that speaks to their unique needs.

5. Empathy — Brands that are empathetic have stronger customer intuition. They really “get” their customers, and it shows. Through internalizing customer needs, firms scoring high in CQ like Chick-fil-A, integrate their values as source of competitive advantage. Brands with this strong connection enjoy a distinct advantage — Chik-fil-A for example is the restaurant industry leader across CQ dimensions.

So if the bee girl is your customer, and your brand is the dance — how do you get things moving?

To truly connect, brands need to put in the effort and cultivate a two-way relationship with customers, beyond the typical social media channels. The reward? A profound and now quantifiable link to growth. Thought leaders like C Space hosts 100,000 conversations a day between brands and their customers, extracting innumerable insights along the way.

What does it all mean?

C Space’s CQ framework allows brands to measure the bottom line benefits associated with a customer first model — growth in both revenue and profit.

Be it brand or bee girl, being empathetic, open, and showing genuine interest builds stronger relationships.

Done well, there may also be dancing.

– Anthony Cospito is Director of Digital Strategy at Popbox Digital, Co-founder of the digital collective Brooklyn Art Project, and a consumer insights contractor with C Space (An Omnicom Agency).

Art and the Fearless Brand

That “Fearless Girl” sculpture is about more than a charging bull. It’s a call to arms for artists and brands to team up and take a stand.

Meet Kristen Visbal, the artist who sculpted the bronze statue of a girl bravely facing down the icon of high finance.
Secretly installed at 3am on International Women’s Day, within hours the artwork went viral and millions understood what “Fearless Girl” was saying. Above all the news, noise, and Trump — art got through. By noon, petitions were underway to make the installation permanent.

Unlike almost every other form of media, art resonates on a deeper level. It flies under the radar of cynicism and straight into the cerebrum for processing.

Commissioned by State Street, “Fearless Girl” is no doubt a success for the respected financial services brand. Lifts will likely be seen in key measures like brand affinity, loyalty and growth. State Street spoke out, something that scares off most brands — but it shouldn’t.

If a brand knows their core customer and authentically embraces their values — “taking a side” can actually strengthen high value relationships.

When you experience a crisis with someone, you bond. You are closer as a result of that shared stressful experience. Politics in 2017 certainly feels like a crisis. With a polarized electorate and rising concerns over basic human issues like healthcare, the environment, immigration and LGBT rights — brands have a bounty of bonding opportunities.

Stacks of insight reports, customer personas, millennial journey maps and marketing funnels all say the same thing — brands need to be real or be gone. Integrity matters, as do inclusion and creative expression.

Warm and fuzzies aside, real world brands are having trouble just being seen. Ad blockers get in the way, as do ephemeral attention spans. Art as content has an advantage here. It sticks.

As a form of self expression, art goes beyond language and culture serving as a creative shorthand of sorts — spot on for social media.

Consumer brands looking to elevate their content marketing would be well-served to explore working with artists. Retailers for example have an opportunity to leverage their physical space for collaborative installations that drive foot traffic and social media engagement.

Media leaders can give emerging artists life-changing recognition and bring light to critical social issues in the process.

Connecting the worlds of artists and brands is the Brooklyn Art Project Collective. In it’s tenth year, the social network is evolving into a premium membership guild for artists, photographers, street artists, illustrators, filmmakers and sculptors.

CapitalOne teamed with Brooklyn Art Project in New York City installing local street art photography, mixed media and illustrations in three Manhattan branches.

The installation transformed a standard retail bank visit into a warmer, more inviting experience for employees and customers. Exhibiting work from local artists helped welcome new branches into the neighborhood.

Other Brooklyn Art Project brand collaborators have included: West Elm, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Burning Man. Increasingly, bold brands like State Street are speaking out, and seeing success among their base and beyond. Artists like Kristen Visbal are standing up for what they believe in — and seeing a global response to their work.

In a word, it’s time for artists and brands to be brave. In another, fearless.


– Anthony Cospito, Anthony is Managing Director of Digital Strategy at Popbox Digital and Co-founder of Brooklyn Art Project.

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