In the late 1990s, he finished school with a degree in Photography and interest in the web. He began learning all he could about websites and interactive tools – and eventually landed a job at a technology start-up.
That experience, he says, taught him “an appreciation for both the software development side of things as well as for digital marketing and advertising.” He transformed that appreciation into his own digital agency business, and even a few books.
He is Greg Kihlström and his latest book is The Agile Brand: Creating authentic relationships between companies and consumers. He’s my guest on the first Off Script Q&A of 2019.
1) Why did you write your book?
GK: I wrote The Agile Brand because I have always been fascinated with marking moments in time that significant evolutions are occurring. I see that we are at an inflection point in the history of how consumers and brands relate to one another and wanted to document it. I’m currently working on a follow up to this book that takes the ideas a step further.
2) Do customers really want relationships with brands?
GK: They do, but I don’t think that customers think of it in terms of a relationship the way that marketers refer to it. Instead, customers want their problems and challenges to be solved, or at least made easier. They do this with companies that they trust, and they become repeat customers with those who make the experience as seamless as possible each time they use them. This is a relationship, and it’s a realistic way of looking at how to grow a relationship with consumers.
>>> Also see: PR and Content Marketing Insights from the Edelman Trust Barometer
3) Are there brands, or certain categories, that naturally find it easier to build relationships with customers (think a bank vs. CPG)?
GK: There are several factors that make it easier, such as having physical locations, handling sensitive information, or those that are not simply one-off purchases that happen from time to time. Banks are a great example of this because they are present at many important points in someone’s life. But one example I use in my book is Nike. While they have a few stores, they rarely have a direct touch point with customers, yet have many loyal ones. Instead, they have built tools like Nike+ and loyalty programs that bridge that gap.
4) What is “brand agility?”
GK: An agile brand is one that understands consumers are looking for solutions to their challenges, not just a company to market products to them. They are nimble enough to adapt to changes in their customers, yet methodical in the way they assess change. They stay true to their values while keeping up with changing markets and consumer behavior.
5) What does a brand’s relationship with its customers have to do with brand agility?
GK: Brands who are listening effectively to their customers need to be agile enough to take action on the insights they gain in the process. If they are simply taking information from their customers but not meaningfully applying it, they’re not staying true to customers’ need to be heard and have their feedback incorporated.
>>> Also see: Your Brand is Not the Hero…Your Customer is the Hero
6) You have written that marketers need to give up “some control” to modernize their brand – what does that mean and what aspects of control should be ceded?
GK: Consumers are more and more willing to be part of the process of product development, testing, and many other aspects that brands have previously kept under tight control. Everything from public betas to crowdfunding campaigns are commonplace now, and brands who realize this are succeeding, and building better products, as well as relationships with customers, in the process. By involving consumers earlier on in the process, they get valuable insights and they also get customers who are more “bought in” to the solutions.
7) If a CMO reads your book, buys into your ideas and wants to modernize their brand, what advice would you have for helping them sell the CFO on funding it?
GK: A modern, agile brand approach has a long-term benefit of building more loyal customers through its authentic and methodical approach to listening, optimization and improvement. This approach involves all parts of the organization, but by moving towards a more agile approach as a company, there are benefits both externally (more loyal repeat customers) and internally (more employees are aligned towards a common goal).
8) Just for fun: in just a word or a phrase, fill in the blank:
- One company with marketing you admire is… (GK) Patagonia.
- You’re favorite marketing campaign of all time is… (GK) Nike: “Just Do It.”
- One marketing tool you can’t live without is… (GK) Buffer.
- One publication or blog you read regularly is… (GK) eConsultancy
- If you weren’t doing what you do now, you’d be… (GK) Illustrating
- If you suddenly got 10% more marketing budget, you’d spend it on… (GK) More Automation
- If you suddenly got 10% more time to spend on marketing, you’d spend it on… (GK) More (and better) Content
- If you could have an all-expenses paid free pass to a single industry marketing event it would be… (GK) SxSW
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Readers can find Greg’s book on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, as well as direct through his website. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter: @gregkihlstrom.
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