If you’re among the fifty percent of marketers that prioritize “improving customer experiences” over other marketing initiatives or among the majority of marketers that cut agency fees and scope, you may be desperate to differentiate from your competitors.

Growth From Improving Customer Experience Sputters

The customer experience agenda is stalling. Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™), an annual survey of over 100,000 customers to measure how well a brand’s experience strengthens loyalty, has trended flat for the third consecutive year. We’re in a customer experience (CX) rut. Many of the world’s most valuable brands find themselves struggling to maintain or improve their CX. Forrester Principal Analyst Rick Parrish organized CX performance into four brand types:

  • Languishers. These are high-scoring brands that have remained stuck for two years.
  • Lapsers. Brands whose performance has declined for one to two years
  • Locksteppers. Brands that have remained at par with the competitors.
  • Laggards. Brands that remain consistently at the low end.

The Problem Is Digital Sameness

The experiences of the world’s leading brands languish, lapse, lockstep, or lag because their customers struggle to separate one experience from another. The question we’re debating at Forrester is, “In our pursuit of meeting customer needs, have we homogenized the experience itself?” We’re solving the same problems. Most experiences emphasize ease of use. The principles of user-centric design call for experiences to cut straight to the user’s desire line. Thereby, the design simplifies customers’ path to the purchase or use of the product/service. We’re using the same platforms. Many digital and mobile solutions start from the same technology and manifest themselves on the same devices. Consequently, most quick-service restaurant experiences allow diners to order ahead. Airline apps allow fliers to check in and manage travel. Retail apps allow shoppers to browse in-store and buy online. What makes any one different from the other?

Creativity Brings Distinction To The Total Customer Experience

Marketers and agencies will succeed when they put emotion in the code. Differentiation lies in the creative expression of the brand and the emotional response it stirs, not in functional convenience built into a digital experience or application. As creative professionals and marketers, your job is to steer brands and communication clear of the sea of sameness in order to move both culture and commerce. That is what great creativity has and will continue to do. You should hold experiences to that same high standard, as experience is inextricably intertwined with brand. This is what’s required of CMOs to move the needle. The best partners will help CMOs take essence to action by injecting conceptual creativity, production, media capabilities, and data-driven insights into a tech-enabled brand promise.

Unfortunately, creativity is supported least when it is needed most. Marketers value creativity less and less, as demonstrated by relentless cost management of agency services. In our capacity to serve as an objective advisor to marketers and agencies, we believe in the creative expression of a brand’s distinctiveness across the total brand experience — digital experiences, physical experiences, and communication. In the latest Forrester report, “Desperate For Differentiation: Creativity Galvanizes The Total Brand Experience,” Ted Schadler and I explore this topic and provide recommendations for injecting creativity into digital, physical, and communication experience.