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June 07, 2018

By Nic Climer, ECD and Managing Partner, RAPP Dallas

When creatives dream of snagging that big national brand, their vision often includes Times Square billboards and $1 million Super Bowl spots. Micro-marketing in the form of customer-managed relationships (CMR) rarely enters the picture — probably because rumor spread among creatives that CMR isn’t really “creative” at all.

First, a history lesson: CMR and CRM (customer relationship management) are kissing cousins, and confusion remains rampant. A few years ago, RAPP saw limitations in the CRM approach and modified it to become CMR. We wrote about the swap in letters — and in marketing focus — previously on this blog. Long story short: Disregard CRM, because CMR is how brands need to be engaging with customers today.

Personally, I find CMR to be the most effective tool for facilitating meaningful exchanges between brands and customers. CMR is the future, and instead of running from it, it’s time for creatives to embrace it. Allow me to outline why this approach, while definitely a challenge to perform successfully, is ideal for advertisers and marketers.

1. It tells the deepest, most meaningful stories.
When we utilized CMR on a campaign for, we got a chance to connect with the incredible people who lived, worked, and played in the island nation. We uncovered, and then told, their amazing stories about the vibrant culture, art, music, and food of the Bahamas across all our CMR channels.

These quick, impactful communications created tangible empathy and a yearning to visit the Bahamas that we knew we couldn’t accomplish with a general spot or flashy billboard. A strong general spot can create a blip of potential interest, but it can’t match CMR for personally engaging with consumers about what the Bahamas means to them.

Similarly, when we developed a new paid loyalty program for AMC Theatres, we faced a task that seemed insurmountable: Persuade a group of current rewards members —largely composed of Millennials who were used to getting everything for free — to start paying for AMC Stubs, a brand-new initiative they knew nothing about.

Naturally, we attacked the challenge from the ground up, learning how people felt about the movies and the memories they made while at the theater. The success of the program came down to CMR and data, which let us take what already was a strong brand and make it even more meaningful — all while delivering personal, tailored rewards.

2. It requires a deep understanding of the individual.
As evidenced above, CMR isn't broad-stroke; it's detail powered by data. This approach leads to meaningful conversations and creates moments that spur people to act.

At its core, CMR demands you pay attention to what’s going on with your customers and their preferences. Some people value acknowledgement of their purchases or their time; others want BOGO offers and discounts; others simply want to be left alone with the most streamlined experience possible. CMR is what allows us to know the difference among them — to really get tuned in to the needs and wants of individual consumers.

When you see how this personalized approach can solve problems for people on a visceral level, you realize the dramatic impact you can have on their lives. Pinpoint messaging can feel small, but the reach can be enormous.

3. It puts the consumer in control.
In the old days, all the switches were set to “on,” and it was up to the customer to switch them off. Now, we’re an “opt-in” society in which consumers are always in command of what they hear, read, and watch. Creatives must work harder (and smarter) to break through the clutter and truly reach the customer.

Keep in mind that value doesn’t have to be in the form of discounts and offers; it doesn’t have to have a dollar amount attached to it at all. Value is driven by the individual's needs — but to meet those needs, we must first know what they are. Done well, CMR prompts customers to open their eyes, ears, and hearts to your brand and your messaging. They'll choose to be in your orbit instead of feeling forced.

Why CMR Is the Wave of the Future
Say I’m driving to work. Along my route, I see one billboard (among the dozens I pass) advertising a juicy new fast-food burger. Then, just before lunch, I get a push notice from that same restaurant about the burger. Which message will get me into the restaurant? The push, of course, because it was relevant and timely and because it created a mouth-watering craving. This is precisely how CMR gives creatives the tools and data to push past the TV screen, the billboard, or the radio spot.

It’s time to let go of the notion that career success in marketing is defined by a highly visible billboard or a 30-second spot on Super Bowl Sunday. The real conversations — the only ones that really matter — happen when you meet consumers right where they are, speak to them one-on-one, and identify how you can help them alleviate whatever pain they feel about a product or service.

As consumers continue to get bombarded with messages, it will be on us to cut through the chaff with timely, relevant content. CMR will drive a new generation of creatives who understand that campaigns are not just about a clever headline or a perfectly crafted image. Those things are important, sure, but it’s more about combining art and high-quality copy with data-driven insights. That approach will have the greatest impact on lives.

Nic Climer is the executive creative director for RAPP and an accomplished creative leader with more than 20 years of traditional and digital experience. He is inspired by the impossible, executes with empathy, and is passionate about precision. His drive for doing great work has helped him establish, grow, and maintain amazing teams that create award-winning work that exceed the brief and crush KPIs. He loves a challenge and is not afraid to tackle any client problem with his #bowtie and little bit of magic.

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