Magnetic brands & magnetic mobile experiences


If your brand disappeared tomorrow … would anyone care? For magnetic brands, the answer is most definitely yes.

Marketers at some brands spend over $100,000/day acquiring new customers or new mobile users. Other brands focus their energy on being what CleverTap head of brand Charles Orlando calls “magnetic.” That means new customers find them organically, and mutual attraction keeps them together much longer — and more profitably.

In this episode of Retention Masterclass, Peggy Anne Salz and I interview Charles Orlando, chief brand officer at CleverTap.

He talks about what makes a brand magnetic, and what creates a magnetic mobile experience. We also discuss research that Peggy brings up, that 70% of brands could disappear tomorrow and no-one would care.

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Full transcript: Charles Orlando, branding, and magnetism

John Koetsier:  If your brand disappeared tomorrow, would anyone care?  Hello and welcome to Retention Masterclass. My name is John Koetsier.

Peggy Anne Salz: And my name is Peggy Anne Salz. I’m one of the co-hosts in our series with John.

John Koetsier: Marketers at some brands spend upwards of $100,000 a day on paid customer acquisition, but magnetic brands get more customers organically through attraction, not advertising … and they keep those customers longer.

Peggy Anne Salz: And of course, if you think about the flip side of that, we have research that tells us what happens when brands don’t do that, when they do the exact opposite. So Havas has a research report out, John, going to send probably shockwaves through our community, our audience … where if tomorrow it would happen that 70% of brands would disappear, the survey says consumers would not care. Why is that? Because they are not interesting to us. They are not attractive to us. They are not magnetic.

John Koetsier: Interesting. Amazing stat right there. Scary stat actually. The question is what makes a brand magnetic?

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, we’re going to find out more about that and probably also how you can not be one of the 70% that we wouldn’t care about at all if they disappeared. And we’re going to be talking today … our guest is Charles Orlando, he is head of brand at CleverTap.

Charles Orlando: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Peggy Anne Salz: So we’re talking about magnetism, Charles, and when you look in the industry, we talk about other concepts that we’ve known up to this point. There’s brand love, we talk about engagement, we talk about a lot of different concepts that are sort of this, but you take it one step further. What exactly do you mean by magnetic here?

Charles Orlando: Well, magnetism is by definition something that puts two disparate things together. So before we define magnetism, why don’t we talk about the market as a whole? If you look at marketing professionals today who specialize in bringing brands to market and creating that type of connection with consumers, it’s usually driven in one of two ways.

There’s engagement and there’s retention. And these are fantastic words, but the actions behind them is what I end up questioning.

Engagement is what someone or a brand does to introduce themselves to someone else, or one of their potential consumers or customers, and introduce their technology, introduce their capabilities to try to build a connection and try to build some level of relationship. But it’s a one-way interaction between the brand and their potential customer.

Retention is exactly the opposite, where you have a customer who has either mentally or physically, psychologically, financially already disconnected from that relationship and the brand says, ‘Wait, wait, before you go, now that you’re already finished with us, please come back. I’ve got 20% off. I’ve got this product you have to see.’ Neither of these situations are conducive to building a real solid, connected, mutual relationship. It’s all one way from the brand trying to entice a consumer or a customer to engage and stay loyal.

What I’m suggesting and what research has shown us is that a magnetic relationship is based on mutual attraction. A brand sets up an environment that is based on not only what they think the customer wants, but what the customer is actually showing them what they want on a daily basis in all forms of communication, whether that’s online, offline, something in a physical brick and mortar store, or just through a community interaction. Maybe it’s on social, maybe it’s on their website, wherever that interaction takes place it’s a genuine, authentic relationship built on a brand creating that environment and a customer saying, ‘You know what? Thank you for paying attention to me, you know exactly what I’m looking for, let me join you in this discussion.’

John Koetsier: That’s super interesting. It’s funny because that’s a different way of talking about brands and brand loyalty and what happens between a consumer and a brand than what we’ve heard in the past, right? So in the marketing space, there’s a lot of ways of describing a brand. And when we do surveys, we ask things like product, and price, and reputation, service, quality, all those kinds of things, but brand goes a lot deeper, right? Can you talk a little bit about how people experience brand?

Charles Orlando: Well, it’s highly individualized how people experience brands.

Marketers do their best and we can  talk about some very well known examples like Apple or Amazon that create an environment that is built on a combination of demo and psychographics and a ton, millions and millions of dollars of research go into understanding what makes people tick. But you can only go so far with that. Ultimately, the brand relationship is really out of that brand’s control. It’s all built on a combination of emotional engagement and perception on the part of the entire market. So you can, as a brand, you can only go so far to create a situation where someone wants to engage you.

Ultimately that perception is outside of yourself.

And that’s something that I think a lot of marketers forget, especially in today’s world where we are socially driven, both in terms of technology as well as a capability. Meaning that you have all these different types of solutions and platforms that foster and encourage people to talk about their experiences and their perceptions about brand initiatives and brand experiences. So that’s not in my control. As a professional, I can only do my best. Ultimately, somebody has a different idea of what my brand equals. I can only guide the conversation. I have to embrace the market where it’s at, and I think a lot of marketers forget that.

Peggy Anne Salz: I couldn’t hope for a better segue actually, because you’re talking about how we talk about brands or how they talk to us, and we saw through the Havas report some have a pretty dismal track record. I mean 70%, I won’t go through the names in the report, people can check it out online, but major brands are amongst them as well. So that is a backdrop Charles, I’d be interested in understanding more about how you would describe a positive brand experience or experience that is magnetic. Have you had one even, I mean, have we had one? Maybe that’s the other question. We’re not that far along.

Charles Orlando: Well, so a real brand experience in my opinion can be really encapsulated and summed up in one word, and that is authenticity. You can’t fake a real brand experience. People try to, but as soon as it rings false that’s really the end of your entire experience. Let’s take a … can we take a consumer example and entertainment that’s away from tech?

John Koetsier: Please.

Charles Orlando: So let’s talk about Oprah Winfrey, God love her, okay? So great lady, done a lot of good in the world, she’s done some amazing things. But when she started her career, she started as a weather professional at a local station and then ended up on this fantastic show. She was extremely connected with her audience because she was one of them. They knew her and she knew them and they were together as part of this real relationship. I mean, we’re talking about her as a brand and as a personality. Her audience was deeply, deeply engaged and things started to slip. The more success and the more money she made the more disconnected she became from her audience.

You fast forward that to 20, 25 years later on a show, and you end up with someone who’s talking about their favorite things and their favorite things were $10,000 refrigerators, $50,000 cars, and you have an entire audience base of hers that was built on a check to check situation where they’re just normal consumers. Maybe they have $50,000 or $60,000 in the bank. Maybe they’re only getting by on payday to payday, but she lost touch with her audience. And in my opinion, that’s part of what contributed to … I don’t want to say that she’s irrelevant today, but she’s not as influential as she certainly was. And that is a brand disconnection. So a long example and answer to your question, when a brand is inauthentic and it becomes dissonant from what they’re trying to embrace and what they’re trying to engage with their audience, you have no way to move forward with that brand.

John Koetsier: I’ll give one example, and I’m going to ask you to maybe come up with one positive example as well. So get your thinking cap on right here, but I’ll give you one example where I had what I thought was a magnetic experience.

So I was in Las Vegas for a conference and my case for my iPhone was falling apart. I walked into the mall, I went into the Apple store, I looked for the exact same case I was going to buy again. I handed it to the sales rep there or whatever you call somebody who works in an Apple store, and he said, ‘Oh, I see your old case is falling apart. That sucks.’ He says, ‘no charge’ and I walked out of there with a $55 case for free, no charge, no questions asked, nothing.

And that was one thing that cemented my relationship with Apple.

Not everything they do is perfect. I’ve critiqued them in some of my posts and articles as well. But they often, more often than not, they live up to their brand promise. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive, but yes, we’re going to take care of you. So that was one magnetic brand experience for me.

I’m going to ask you and maybe Peggy you’ve got one as well I don’t know, but Charles, I’ll throw it your direction. What’s one magnetic experience that you had?

Charles Orlando: There’s been several. I can give you two very fast ones … in my travel experience, JetBlue is fantastic.

Everything they do, everything that you engage with, everything that comes out of one of their representatives’ mouths is all about the customer and ensuring that the customer has a fantastic experience. I don’t know if I have enough time to talk about all the things that they’ve done, whether it’s ‘We noticed you struggling with that bag. You know what? We have more room in business class, just come with me, we have an extra space.’

John Koetsier: Ooooh.

Charles Orlando: It’s just out of nowhere, right? I’m not asking for any of this. They’re creating it.

One that’s maybe a little bit more tangible and really localized, recently in London I went into a local restaurant when I was traveling, and what I really wanted was a traditional breakfast with eggs and bacon and toast. And the place I’d walked into that was close to the hotel was very 100% health conscious, like it was fruit only and oatmeal and things that were not stove driven. And so instead of selling me something that I didn’t want, what they said is, ‘You know, we’ve got some great selections, but if that’s what you’re looking for, there’s two other places down the street and they’re great.’

This was a person referring me to their competition. And for lunch I came back and had a sandwich at their place with sprouts and everything else. It was a really positive interaction because they didn’t try to portray themselves in a different way or sell a feature that I wasn’t interested in.

John Koetsier: Wonderful.

Charles Orlando: What they did was maintain their own sense of reality. Stay authentic, and refer me out for something that made more sense for me as a customer at that time.

John Koetsier: Wonderful. Peggy, did you have a quick example to share?

Peggy Anne Salz: I actually do. I have a less interesting one. I have more like a work from home example because that’s what we’re doing right now, right? And we love positivity in any way, shape, or form that we’re getting it. So I was giving some tips out because yes, I have been freelancing in my office, surrounded by things that keep me cheerful and sort of lively.

And I mentioned in LinkedIn, I think it was, or in social media in any case, that one of my tips was to organize yourself in Asana because I love it, because they have all these little … if you know Asana, you would know that when you do something and you do enough of it, they’ll reward you. They have mystical, magical animals, unicorns will fly up through the screen and just keep your day going, right?

So I said that in social media and then they came back to me and said, ‘Peggy, we made you your own unicorn.’ So I showed that in Twitter, so I’ve got my own specially made unicorn. It sounds a little bit, you know, whatever, but I work at home …

John Koetsier: Wow.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah, but it’s my own special GIF. It’s mine, right? It’s all mine.

John Koetsier: Peggy you are the unicorn and now you have a unicorn, and you’re working with a unicorn.

Peggy Anne Salz: I have a unicorn, that’s just like … and I work with a unicorn. Asana I think really is really into me now. Probably going to be, who knows what they’re doing down there now, they’ll make another one now she’s on this show talking about it too.

But to your point John, and also to yours Charles, you know, it’s authentic. It’s real. It shows they were listening, shows they were really listening. That was near real time, I have to say, you know I tweeted it and boom, I’ve got a unicorn. Which brings me to a question for you, Charles, I’m dying to ask you is … we understand the way these experiences need to be, but also because we’re digital anyway now, right?

But also because we’re talking about digital and physical sort of pulling together and creating a magnetic experience, what are your thoughts on the channels or the approaches or the ways this needs to be done? I mean, in my case, I was blown away because it was really near real time. So near what we want to have.

Charles Orlando: Right. So I think that a couple of things, let’s back up 100 years or 200 years.

What you’re really describing is the evolution of branding and how the brand is not only out of our hands as marketing professionals, but the entire notion of what needs to be created is not just a customer experience. It’s a well-rounded, completely engaged experience across every single touch point that you think about having, or that you will have, and that’s really hard to anticipate. You back up a few hundred years in customer experience, CX was what mattered the most.

And that came with us all the way to, I don’t know, 20 years ago or so.

It’s still important today but we’re talking about point of purchase, what shelf does what cereal go on, and how can you pay a store to get it on the right shelf at eye level, this type of thing. Or when you’re in a restaurant, everything from the way the table and chairs are set to the greeting of the host or hostess when you walk in the door. All of these things play into brand experience. In technology, it becomes things like the way the receptionist answers the phone or your email signature.

These small little pieces really play a huge part in how that brand is perceived.

That changed with the rise of technology and the digital experience where UX became the thing. So we went from CX to UX, and of course we all know that user experience on a website, on an application, on a mobile app, any of those things count the most, needs to be really, really instantly accessible. And I think there’s a number of technology companies that have really pushed this as an initiative, whether we’re talking about Yahoo in the late nineties and early two thousands really making news accessible, or whether it’s Amazon with an entire experience on every single touch point on their website. Or it’s Apple with physical products, ensuring that our experience across everything is completely honed by them and that the usability is what’s at the forefront.

But these are still compartmentalized. We’re talking about things marketers do and things product people do as silos.

Today, those situations have completely merged where you don’t have the flexibility or the permission on the part of the consumer to have a separated user experience that doesn’t reflect on their customer experience and vice versa. It’s all one thing. And it’s supposed to be, the customer and the consumer don’t separate what it means to be in your product or using one of your solutions or touching a phone. It’s all the same brand as far as they’re concerned.

And that’s why magnetic experience or MX is what’s so critical today because it’s all of those things in one place. And that place is actually in the mind of the consumer.

John Koetsier: Love it, love it, love it. And again, somehow, amazingly, a perfect segue. I want to go a little deeper. You mentioned user experience. We’ve talked about customer experience, we’ve seen mobile marketers have started out with user acquisition. They’ve moved to retention. We have these others, CX and UX.

What does the concept of magnetism or MX add to the picture here?

Charles Orlando: Well it’s an all encompassing situation, I mean, and I think that organizations are starting to recognize this because you take a look at some of the forward thinking enterprises today and it’s not very siloed.

You know, Amazon is a perfect example who’s bridged the gap across all of their touch points, whether you’re talking about going to on a browser, or whether you’re using their app on your phone, or whether it’s Prime Now as far as an instant delivery, digital experience. But we can take that and move that to Whole Foods which is of course a brand that they now own, where they’re ensuring that experience comes across digital to physical, where I can get the same types of discounts or I can interact on my app the same way that I would in the store and I can scan something in order to get a discount. I can offer feedback, I can check in.

There’s a million different ways that they are crossing things up. But we’re talking only about features on that side of things.

The real question has to do with perception. How do I feel about those experiences? Do I recognize the brand connection between Whole Foods and Amazon, and am I ready to pull out my phone? Is it easy for me to do all of this? And how do I feel about it? Do I go to Whole Foods specifically because of my experience with Amazon itself? These are all questions that are left in the mind of the consumer and the customer. And obviously it’s had an impact because I’m bringing it up here as a customer.

So, you know, and I could cite any example, but that’s one that comes very easily to mind.

John Koetsier: That brings up an important question actually Charles, because you’ve made the point several times actually on this show already, very accurately, very, very truthfully, that what a brand is, is something that exists in the mind of a customer, right? It’s not something you can create. It’s not something you paint onto your company. It’s something that exists in a mental state.

Now, how as a company can you measure that? How can you measure your impact? How can you measure how magnetic you are?

Charles Orlando: It’s a good question. So we’re working on something like that at CleverTap, and I’m certainly not going to turn this into a sales pitch, but we specialize in assisting organizations in bridging the gap that we’re describing.

The measurement has to do with a combination of pieces, some of them I’ve highlighted in this discussion, but the most important thing that you want to measure is retention. And I’m bringing that up here, I had started this discussion around saying that engagement and retention are slightly antiquated terms, on their own I think they are, but when you talk about them connected to a magnetic experience … it’s very easy for, and I say easy as a relative term, but it’s very easy for a brand to generate new customers, new prospects.

It’s very different to keep that person not only engaged, but advocating both with you and for you.

We as marketers have used some measurements like CSAT or like a net promoter score to try to find out where people are at and how engaged they are, and are they satisfied with the brand experience. And those measurements I think would be important, but only as a sub segment of what we’re talking about. They measure digital experience or you get a customer survey at your restaurant on the way out that tells you how that [person’s experiences] were. But it’s still very siloed.

The real measurement is how often people return to your brand and then what they say about it when you’re not in the room. What they don’t say to their waiter or waitress when they finish their meal, what doesn’t go on the instant response that you’re looking for on the back of their receipt that they leave with their payment. You know, Yelp reviews maybe, maybe not … like these are people who have had either fantastic experiences or the worst experience ever in their entire life. The middle ground is something that’s never really talked about, and that’s where you get into things like real loyalty and advocacy. Those are the best measurements of a magnetic brand.

I mean, take this discussion here. You mentioned a whole bunch of brands with Apple and Amazon. I mean, granted, these are large organizations but they’re highly influential in our day to day life. And we could talk about all kinds of different places and all kinds of different brands and brand experiences, but these are the ones that are top of our mind as consumers because they’ve had the most impact.

Peggy Anne Salz: Well here at the show, Charles, you know we’re looking at that movement, that mind shift if you will, from acquisition to retention, understanding the full funnel. You know, we’re seeing the full picture. That’s what our guests are telling us. That’s what this show is all about.

And it’s important to also leave with some sort of tips, some sort of advice.

We agree, brand is important. It’s not very easy to define. We want to drive advocacy. Marketers want to understand this, and you’re giving some thoughts about how to measure it as well, but if you could just give maybe one or two things to the audience to take back Monday morning saying, ‘Yes, I want to do this, I want to instruct my team, get us rallying around the idea of becoming magnetic.’ What would you tell them?

Charles Orlando: I would say two things. I would say stay authentic is number one.

The minute you start faking it, they know. And that authenticity is about being authentic to the customer. Yes, you have several brand pillars that you are trying to ensure stay consistent and aligned with the vision and mission of the organization, and your positioning and messaging these are all very important things. But if your positioning and messaging and building a value proposition based on a consumer that is not going to resonate with that message, you either haven’t segmented the market correctly or you’re not paying attention to what’s out there in the first place.

I mean, the market’s shifting and I think that’s my second tip, which is to stay dumb, right?

Too often marketers feel that they have a really, really strong sense of the market, and the truth is we only have a strong sense of the market at that moment in time. That moment in time passes like that, it’s over. So now you’re dumb again and you have to go pay attention. I think that’s part of what’s assisted me in my career is that I wake up every morning very stupid, and I go to bed hopefully smarter that night. But then we’re gonna rinse and repeat the next day.

And I can give you a tangible example just based on what’s happening in the world today. So we’ve got the coronavirus running around and brands are running around shifting, trying to figure out how they’re going to engage their audiences, you have some that aren’t paying attention to their brand experience at all and they come across tone deaf where they keep their same paid advertising running online, or they’re issuing press releases about the latest award that they’ve won. And look, no one’s going to instantly become a lead today.

You know, why?

‘Cause they’re sitting at home, their kids are out of school and they’re trying to figure out what their lives mean now over the last few weeks with either shelter in place or all the other health fears that we have today. You end up with some forward thinking brands that are recognizing, hey look, yes, I’m Burger King and I want you to buy a hamburger here, but we’re going to change our tagline. Something that’s been a staple for X amount of years, we’re going to change it.

And their tagline up til this morning was ‘Home of the Whopper,’ but on many of their signs around the world and definitely digitally, they’ve crossed out of the Whopper and above ‘Home’ they put ‘Stay.’ So now it says, ‘Stay Home.’

John Koetsier: Wow.

Charles Orlando: Brilliant  branding.

Peggy Anne Salz: That’s smart.

Charles Orlando: But what we’re talking about is really embracing the market where it’s at. Even if that means shifting your brand just a little bit because the market is changing and you have to adjust with it. You have to listen.

John Koetsier: Wow.

Peggy Anne Salz: Great advice, great examples. Well, Charles, I mean learning so much here on the show. I don’t think we want to let you go, Charles, but we’re going to have to okay. So thanks so much for sharing, Charles Orlando, our guest today on Retention Masterclass.

Charles Orlando: Thanks for having me.

John Koetsier: Thank you again. And whatever platform that you might be listening on, please like, subscribe, share, comment, all of the above. If you’re loving this podcast, please rate it and review it. That’d be a massive help.

Peggy Anne Salz: And until next time, of course, as Charles pointed out, not only stay home, but keep well, keep safe and we’ll look for you on Retention Masterclass.

John Koetsier: Wonderful. I’m John Koetsier. My co-host has been Peggy Salz. So great to have you. Have a great day.

Peggy Anne Salz: Thank you.