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April 29, 2016

By John Wells, Managing Director, RAPP LA

Your customers don't need you.
So how do you make them want you?

A recent article by The New York Times,"In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat," points out the growing divide between the haves and have nots. It illustrates the notion of targeting and catering to the super rich with exclusive perks and experiences, from a "ship within a ship" on Norwegian Cruise Line to surprise-and-delights for airline travelers using Porsches as shuttles between flights.

Luxury goods are certainly a great target, and affluence breeds an opportunity to attract customers who will part with money. However, delivering precise communication with messages and values that resonate cross all boundaries is not limited to the super rich. What this article does illustrate is that providing the right context to the right audiences and delivering a relevant experience is a driver of commerce.

sparks & honey, a cultural strategy agency that looks for trends and shifts in cultural attitudes and behaviors, points out in its Unmoney report that we are headed toward a future where everything has value, including people. Always a visionary, David Bowie created an investment in himself, Bowie Bonds, which offered people a 10-year stake in his future royalties earnings for 25 albums.

It's not always about who people are at the moment, but who they may become and the attitudes that are driving their current and future behaviors. It's about identifying the moments that matter and developing experiences, recognition and even value in the moment and for the longer-term horizon. Value is determined by the receiver, not the giver.

Individuals have a different perspective on what they value and what is meaningful to them. Whether it is exclusive access, recognition for their patronage or added value in the form of discounts or perks, you can speak to the super rich or the average consumer to drive purchase and engagement.

The live-music industry has approached this in a manner that runs the gamut on how, when and where it delivers value based on engagement and affinity, and it crosses all economic boundaries.

In the concert business, there is always more demand for high-profile shows than inventory. This causes a huge issue, as tickets are purchased at face value from the venue and then resold on the secondary market at a significantly higher price. This has caused an issue with who gets access to these events and who doesn't, and has left many fans on the sidelines, as they are unable to afford the higher prices.

In many cases, artists have taken matters into their own hands and provided ways for the average consumer to not only get access to their tickets, but to do so at a reasonable price.

For the value exchange of an email address and some information, consumers can get access to "fan club"-only presales, where tickets can be purchased at face value prior to the sale to the general public. Fan club members sometimes also get exclusive artist content, as well as notifications about secret shows.

Not to leave out the affluent and super rich, artists have also developed exclusive packages and experiences to cater to this audience. Artists and venues will develop packages that include front-row seats, meet-and-greets with artists, backstage passes, pre-parties and other items not provided with the general ticket sale. These are sold for significant prices that cater to the wealthy and are targeted accordingly.

This has not solved all of the challenges facing the live-event business, but it is a move in the right direction.

All of this is to say, the understanding of the consumer and the moments that matter drives engagement.

In the automotive industry, obtaining interest and converting consumers to leads and then ultimately buyers is a long process that can yield big returns. How consumers come to the brand, and understanding their needs and attitudes toward not only the brand but the vehicle model, is key.

Dynamic communications fed by ongoing interaction pull consumers through the handraiser stage to buying. Initially understanding where the interest in the brand or vehicle originated will begin to drive the experience. Whether they were at a car show, music festival or sporting event should frame your window to the dialogue with the potential customer.

As communications between the brand and consumers progress and additional information is collected, you can begin not only to better segment but also to predict the purchase window and likelihood to buy within the brand.

Once that has been established, further customization is developed to capture where consumers are in the process and message accordingly.

Providing content that speaks to the bells and whistles and latest technology, as well as fuel economy and cash-back savings, is driven by an understating of the audience, their needs and their mindset about the car-buying experience.

Content driven by audience and interaction with the brand progresses as the consumer engages, giving handraisers information and content only available through the program.

Whether you are selling a once-in-a-lifetime live-music experience or a significant life purchase in a car, understating the intersection between precision data and empathy will make all the difference.

Precision marketing can scale value generation in ways that enables a brand to resonate in different ways with different audiences. Through Core Dialog™, we can create brand "fan clubs" offering up relevant, exclusive content, offers, etc.

The trick is for brands to build this wider customer base of people and similarly scale this feeling of being part of a special club within the brand — in the know, with privileged knowledge and access, and surrounded by likeminded others. This "personalized inclusivity" is particularly relevant in America today as the middle class thins out.

A democratization of brand privilege ensures the divide between the haves and the have nots is based on competitive difference and consumption behavior, not simply wealth. It's about helping brands build more "haves" within their bases and create higher value exchanges with wider numbers of people.

Who are the key customers you have? Who are consumers you want to attract? Where is the potential growth? These, plus many more, are all questions that need to be answered. Begin to define those answers, and consider how you can create a value exchange across those key segments through data and insight – then you can unlock customer value at scale.

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