When I did the research for the Future of Agencies report that the IPA asked me to do earlier this year there was an interesting delineation expressed by one of the interviewees describing the difference between 'customer experience' and 'brand experience'. Other interviewees talked about the growing importance of employee experience, both in terms of staff engagement and organisational change.
This growing focus on experience reflects, I think, a broader opportunity for agencies to apply skills and capabilities in new ways, but also to expand their scope of engagement with clients.
If customer experience is really about design and optimisation (seamless customer journeys, great usability, ease of interaction, service design, pains and gains), then brand experience should really be more about positioning and differentiation. How can a brand experience be consistent yet distinct? How should the personality, values, tone of the brand be expressed across multiple touch-points (advertising, yes, but also how the brand is presented across a broad range of customer interactions including newer ones like voice, the application of AI, AR etc). Brand experience is really about brand building in the digital age.
The third area of this venn is employee experience which we might define as the ability to effectively empower, motivate and engage employees towards the achievement of organisational goals. Hugh MacLeod once wrote:
'The hardest part of a CEO’s job is sharing his enthusiasm with his colleagues, especially when a lot of them are making one-fiftieth of what she is. Selling the company to the general public is a piece of cake compared to selling it to the actual people who work for it. The future of advertising is internal.'
Whilst the future of agency practice is likely to remain largely external, I believe that employee engagement is becoming increasingly critical for clients in the context of the effective communication of a compelling vision, generating competitive advantage through culture and talent acquisition, and bringing people on a transformation journey. Employee experience is often the poor relation in transformation initiatives but this will change and I think agencies have a role to play in not only doing strategic visioning work but also then bringing that vision to life. It's important that customers feel good about buying the product/service, but just as important that employees feel good about creating it. Happy, engaged staff create great customer and brand experiences.