In a recent Brandweek interview, Dave McTague of Liz Claiborne spoke about their recent efforts to engage with 300 of their customers on a daily basis through Communispace – a private online community. McTague says of the value of this approach:
“It’s like having a campus full of your customers down the hall and the ability to walk right in and sit down and chat with them at any time of the day or night. Then when you exit the room, because they like what you are doing with the brand and their input, they go out and tell their friends and family about your brand. That’s powerful content.”
From a traditional organizational perspective, approaches like this are a bit confusing, because it is not entirely clear which department should be thinking about such efforts. On the one hand, gaining customer insights is usually the job of the folks in New Product Development. On the other hand, getting customers to tell their friends is usually the job of the folks in Marketing Communications. On yet another hand, evaluating partnerships is usually the job of folks like Dave McTague. Within Claiborne all of these have begun to become everyone’s job.
It is well-known that the company Zappos.com has moved a large portion of its marketing dollars over to support their customer service activities. They have openly stated, and committed to living out, the idea that “our culture is our brand” by, for example, making lots of their employee photos, videos and Twitter posts very public. This shift is just one way that traditional job boundaries are blurred within Zappos, where non-trainers run training classes, customer service representatives end up being both the chief brand ambassadors but also the brand definers, and if we were to use the traditional marketing metrics of frequency and reach as a benchmark, we might say that Tony Hsieh, the CEO, is the most effective marketer in the organization, since he sends an average of 4.3 messages per day to 780,000+ opted-in consumers (and this figure only includes the single platform of Twitter).
It is clear that these sorts of blurred boundaries are not only possible, but inevitable and even positive as organizations begin to adapt to a market and an incoming workforce which conceives of roles and jobs and organizations as far more fluid and adaptable than did previous generations. There are many reasons why this historical shift is occurring right now, which may be the topic of a later post.