Chasing the customer

How far will brands go to insert themselves into consumers’ daily lives?

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

You’re no doubt aware that management consultants have been stepping on the toes of advertising agencies of late – and in some cases even buying creative outfits (as in the case of Accenture and Karmarama).

Consultants can compete with agencies because, they say, they understand the DNA of their clients from top to bottom. Accenture adds that it specialises in what it calls “the consumer journey”: from the first spark of inspiration to the eventual purchase.

As Accenture’s digital expert Christine Removille put it: “Let’s say you go to a bank on a Monday morning. It’s shut. You go to their website. It’s a mess. You phone their call centre…and so on. The whole process is unsatisfying. So we take a look at it…working with insights from the end consumer, and see how we can change the consumer journey so that the experience is positive and the consumer’s relationship with the brand is strengthened."

Christine’s comments reminded us of this commercial from Pereira & O’Dell in the US, which attempts to explain Fifth Third bank’s somewhat awkward manifesto.



It’s fair to say, though, that agencies are becoming increasingly clever at touching consumers in new and unexpected ways throughout he day. Take this effort from the French agency Marcel and insurer Groupama, which uses data on accidents to help people choose the safest route.


Brands’ determination to reach us in every circumstance can verge on the alarming. In fact, we’re edging ever closer to the technology depicted in the film Minority Report, which enables advertising posters to pitch directly to consumers.


Once you’ve taken a look at that, watch this operation from Media Direction Group in Russia.


But agencies are no longer limiting themselves to advertising. If they really want to be more present in customers’ lives, they have to design environments – stores, for example – and objects. Here’s an example for Publicis, which used consumer insights to come up with a useful piece of technology for new parents.


In London, Bartle Bogle Hegarty has long recognised the need to understand the customer journey. But touching customers at the right moments and in the right ways requires coordination, which is why BBH has “engagement planners”. To show how far BBH, like other agencies, has travelled from traditional advertising, take a look at this case for Nike. It challenges athletes to compete against themselves.


Back inside the car, US agency Campbell Ewald used “consumer journey” thinking in its campaign for in-vehicle communications company OnStar. As the agency put it: “When a brand’s journey complements a consumer’s, magic happens.”


All rather complex, is it not? Maybe these guys have come up with the best idea for grabbing our attention in a media-saturated world. Whatever it takes.