Brian Carroll

Brand Marketing: 5 tactics to understanding customer experience

February 16th, 2016

Marketing is constantly evolving, because your customers are. It continually begs the question: what is currently working to grow brands?

I interviewed three brand owners from, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Ancestry who are leaders in digital marketing to understand what’s working and what’s not for brand growth currently.

First of all, what is a brand owner? Those who build, grow and sustain brands that reflect their company’s principles, values and value proposition, to ultimately influence consumers to believe in and purchase their product/service.

And these brand owners are definitely feeling the squeeze.

“We all live in a world of limited budgets and need to make those dollars extend as far as possible,” Vic Walia, Senior Director of Brand Marketing,, said.

According to Kathi Skow, VP Brand Marketing, Ancestry, “With the measurement tools now available, we can see near real-time results on marketing efforts. But brand marketing’s influence is measured through a more qualitative and longer-term lens, so we’re having find new ways to prove its impact on the business.”

“The biggest challenge is how we are leveraging digital platforms,” Lisa Holladay, Vice President, Global Brand Marketing, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, said.

The top issues facing brand owners right now include:

  • Needing more/better insight from data to understand customer journey
  • Needing better predictive data models for behavior (i.e., who is likely to buy?)
  • Proving the ROI of brand investments with results/data
  • Needing to better connect and communicate with customers
  • Growing new markets/growing outside the U.S.
  • Building trust with customers and overcoming customer skepticism
  • Profiling customers and understanding/influencing their customer journey (use of data)

So what’s working to overcome these issues and help brand owners to grow their brands?


Tactic #1. Run experiments

“The lightbulb went off when I was talking to my CMO and head of IT and they asked, ‘Why do you spend money on TV versus other channels?’ When you have to explain it to someone who’s not in the space, you can’t say that’s how it’s done. My advice is to not take things for granted and as a given. And ask why do we do it this way and build an experiment to prove this is why we do. Marketers need to be open to understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Vic said.

Also, according to Vic, “ask how do we make it better? You can only do it by checking ego at the door and [looking] at all the options out there and improve upon what you’ve done in the past. If we come at it as ‘I’ve done this before,’ you’re limiting growth and potential.”


Tactic #2. Use brand activators to tell the story

According to Kathi, “Real customers are always better than a marketer. We use TV heavily and started using the age old testimonial featuring real customers, not actors.”

Lisa added, “We have great stories from our guests to help motivate people. We decided to have our guests start telling stories for us — using guests experience to tell the story.”


Tactic #3. Leverage video content

“We’re spending lots of time building video,” Lisa said, adding, “We can show properties. And we can show how a how different the Ritz-Carlton Bali offers a different experience than a Ritz-Carlton in the East.”

Ritz-Carlton Hotel


Tactic #4. Get inspiration from other brands

“I love other brands. I make comparisons to other brands who do great things,” Lisa said.

According to Kathi, “I really look at other brands I admire — those that are transparent, tasteful and smart in building trust and telling stories in unexpected ways.”


Tactic #5. Focus on data and predictive analysis

“If you’re a marketer and you’re not actively focused on merging your creativity with data sciences and predictive analytics, you’re focused on the wrong things” Vic said.

He also suggested marketers read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner.

What I’ve learned from all these brand owners is the core ideas of paying attention, listening to customers and looking for better ways to serve their customers are paying off in increased revenue and brand growth. Do you have any tactics or tips to share on what’s working for you to grow your brand?


You can follow Brian Carroll on Twitter at @brianjcarroll.


You might also like

All You Need to Know About Customer Journey Mapping [From CMO Digital Forum, by Paul Boag]

Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing [From the B2B Lead Roundtable blog]

Categories: Consumer Marketing Tags: , ,

We no longer accept comments on the MarketingSherpa blog, but we'd love to hear what you've learned about customer-first marketing. Send us a Letter to the Editor to share your story.