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The Art and the Science of Customer Experience Management

Is marketing an art or a science? I hear this question asked from time to time, and for a while, the debate intrigued me. Until it didn’t. The truth is that anyone who’s spent any time in this business will say that it’s both. In fact, the campaigns that most elegantly integrate the two are…

Is marketing an art or a science? I hear this question asked from time to time, and for a while, the debate intrigued me. Until it didn’t. The truth is that anyone who’s spent any time in this business will say that it’s both. In fact, the campaigns that most elegantly integrate the two are often the most successful and unique.

Kellogg’s seems to have picked up on this idea, especially in the laser-like focus they’ve been putting on Systems alignment. Of course, at each stage of the marketing game—Story, Strategy, Systems—both art (inspiration, beauty) and science (analytics, facts) are essential. Yet it can be easy to overlook the critical role that Systems plays in this overall picture of cooperating disciplines. Maybe it’s because this last leg of the methodology has the tendency to be a little heavy, at times feel a little dull and brainy for most right-brained marketers. Rigorous measurement, data analysis, personalization, optimization, customer feedback—these tasks can feel cumbersome. They’re so … scientific. It can seem to be the least “artistic” leg of the marketing journey.

But it’s a major mistake to neglect this more rigorous component of Transformational Marketing, because aligning and maximizing your Systems (people, processes and technology) creates a huge potential to take your brand to the next level.

When Kellogg’s created its Bear Naked Custom campaign, they seemed to have this precisely in mind.

Getting the Bear Naked Treatment

As I wrote in my book, 89% of marketers once expected customer experience to be their foremost concern for the foreseeable future, yet less than 25% of those companies excelled at creating memorable customer experiences. To a large degree, little has changed since I published that insight.

That’s why it was exhilarating to discover that Kellogg’s—a 117-year-old cereals and snack foods company—has emerged with something as forward-thinking and exciting as Bear Naked Custom. Kellogg’s acquired Bear Naked, a straightforward all-natural granola company, back in 2007 but did little that was notable with it for a while. Then, just two years ago, they introduced a fantastic website and began experimenting with offering more than 50 different hand-packed, locally sourced granola ingredients, adding up to thousands of possible combinations, which customers could mix and match at will and have delivered to their door for free.

To make things more intriguing, Kellogg’s acquired the assistance of the digital solutions firm Avionos to integrate IBM’s “Chef Watson” into an e-commerce portal powered by Salesforce, so that customers would have the guidance of Artificial Intelligence to help them create their own novel recipes for new granola mixtures. In fact, the program they whipped up within four months ended up winning Avionos a pretty prestigious award in Customer Management.

“Bear Naked provided Avionos with a great opportunity to demonstrate our ability to assemble the right suite of cloud-based technologies and bring their product to market in a short period of time. We anticipate they’ll be receiving a return on their investment within months.” – Dan Neiweem, Principal at Avionos

The Human Element

But Kellogg’s didn’t just let the algorithms churn away on their own. The marketing team put their noses to the grindstone and began examining the results as they came in, then shoring up the tactics that were working while ditching the ones that weren’t. The testing of various tools and tactics, which took a full year (and still continues today), involved moving nimbly, continually reiterating the website, and experimenting with cross-channel marketing. All the while they were listening closely and altering the strategy and the product itself to suit customer tastes and desires.

“On the website, we’ve done standard A/B testing on big and small pieces of the UX. If people abandoned before checkout, we looked at what happened and made changes to improve the checkout experience.” – Chris Tutor, VP of Marketing at Kellogg

Using customer response and the analysis of good data, in 2018 Bear Naked Custom has produced a website, a product, and a customer experience so compelling and fun to engage with that few out there are yet able to match it at the moment. At the heart of the undertaking were the examination of live data and the quick, start-up-like agility that allowed quick response to new input and the ability to discern what worked and what didn’t. It’s an intriguing if slightly dangerous approach, but it seems to be working.

“We’re trying to show the role that cognitive technology can play… Together the human and computer [can] discover more interesting results.” – Steven Abrams, engineer at Watson Life

But Is It Art?

Well, if it’s not art, it’s still pretty inspiring. The site is so intuitive and the product so smartly customized that it’s certain to inspire leagues of imitators. The artwork on the site is beautifully done too, offering an aesthetic that is wholesome, almost nostalgic, yet appealing in a way that is tech-oriented and efficient enough to feel futuristic: get any kind of granola any way you want any time, at your door, with the help of the same A.I. that we all saw on Jeopardy! several years ago. What a concept.

Yet the idea is not just an intriguing blend of art and science, it’s an embrace of the offerings that are almost certain to come for us in the near future—the cooperation of artificial intelligence with human agency, and services that fully involve both. For that insight, and for jumping on board a moving train before many others had the courage, Kellogg’s deserves serious credit.

How do you know when you’ve achieved simplicity, clarity, and alignment? Download our Transformational Marketing Playbook to assess what kind of shape your own Systems are in.

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