With all of the emphasis on customer journeys and engagement, a whole new genre of marketing technology has cropped up. We have Web content management, programmatic, social listening and customer experience platforms , just to name a very few of the many tools available. In fact, in February of this year, Gartner reported that 89 percent of marketers expect customer experience software to be key to how they set their brand apart and build value among customers. With the feedback mechanisms inherent in customer experience management (CEM) platforms, marketers can identify attitudes, issues, needs and reply quickly with relevant messaging and encouragement to take the next step in a brand’s journey toward lifetime value.
All of the computerized processes for tracking and deploying messaging are all we marketers need to secure repeat sales, referrals and lifetime value from our customers. Or not.
It’s easy to rely on the latest breakthroughs in marketing technology to drive sales, meet quotas and secure our jobs. But in the end, we’re all human. And that human touch goes farther than the latest integration to your marketing stack.
A great example of how the human touch builds brands and always will is Shake Shack.
What started as a fundraiser to rebuild Madison Square Park in New York City, has blossomed into a highly successful business and example of what can happen when you build a brand around human values not just shareholder value. In 2001, Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart selling hot dogs, chips and lemonade to help support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation. Its quick success resulted in a permanent kiosk just three years later and a larger menu, which now stands out among the best in all markets it serves across the globe for burgers, shakes and custards, all made from natural ingredients.
But if you ask Edwin Bragg, VP of marketing communications for Shake Shack, the foundation of the brand’s success goes back to its roots and the initial goal of bringing people together to enjoy good food, events and times just being with others.
As Edwin puts it:
“Shake Shack was built around the goal of bringing people together for a good community cause and to simply bring people together, too, while serving high-quality food that represented the American culture of gather events, like BBQs in the park, fun, and relaxation with friends and others in your community.”
In just a few years, the Shake Shack community has grown to 81 Shake Shacks in the U.S. and 132 worldwide, including locations in Dubai, London and Istanbul.
More than the latest marketing technology for capturing customer data, segmenting into key personas and deploying relevant communications about offers and products, Shake Shack has succeeded by staying true to its goal of bringing people together. Beyond serving great food in great locations where people want to gather and relax, Shake Shack has built a running community among its customer base, the Shake Shack Track and Field.
Started by Shake Shack’s general manager in Philadelphia, Allen Ng, the first run went so well the brand decided to repeat it and now it has 10 chapters across the country. Each chapter meets up once a month for a group run, which ends at the local Shake Shack location where all runners get a drink on the house. And like the Shake Shack menu, this program has expanded to include bike rides and yoga sessions. In short order, the program gained more than 4,000 followers on the Shake Shack Track and Field Facebook page. More importantly, it gained support, enthusiasm, loyalty among consumers and a brand community.
This story inspires me because, even with all of the technology we have available to monitor manage and maximize our customers’ value to our brand, nothing takes the place of the human touch. Building experiences that go far beyond your brand matter. Not just in building running clubs that bring people together and cement loyalty and repeat sales. But in bringing people together to work toward common causes, like raising funds to restore art, vibrancy and community at a local park in a busy city.
As you build your marketing strategies and technology plans, its critical that you build in customer experiences that are not managed or executed by a computer system, and that don’t just work to make masses of customers feel noticed among the multitude of others. Find ways to create human interaction and bulid communities in person, in real-time and around real values. Brands who do this will be the brands that succeed far after the latest innovation in technology has been replaced and long forgotten.