New Take on an Old Lesson from 35,000 Feet

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I held the precious “mini-mag” comp in my hands as we headed to Chicago for the big pitch at Pepsi the next morning. Seated across the aisle from me our executive leader, Wendy, had one good (or perplexing) question after another as I briefed her. No matter what came at me, I was sure the clients and other agency partners were going to love our pitch and creative approach to addressing their “moms” in the audience.
 

This Was Content – As Far as I Knew It

I was the confident client lead for my unit on this pitch, we were ready, and we had the full arsenal of Meredith’s media brands and reach behind the idea. What Wendy was challenging me to think about – setting creative aside for a minute – was who really was the audience, were we really set to reach them and what was the offer or benefit to them in engaging with the program. As I fumbled through my explanations, she stopped me with a merciful head shake and then took the time to explain the order and weighting of impact on direct marketing effectiveness – List / Offer / Creative. I thought, “Wait, content is direct marketing?”

I learned, over a Pepsi, that “List” is factor one in terms of how well selected, targeted and focused your “file” and distribution is to your target audience. Next, that “Offer” was essentially the hook for the audience (a value, benefit, coupon, etc.) along with a well-crafted call to action. Lastly, if you had the first two elements set right, your wonderful “Creative” had a fighter’s chance to make an impact as part of the whole.

I still had a lot to learn, and the next several years with Wendy and our Meredith Integrated Marketing team of strategists and creatives would shape the strategic marketer I wanted to become.

 

New Order, Same Proven Concept

At Empathy/CX, we’re setting off into clients’ creative content and experience engagements with our own updated perspective on the axiomatic lesson Wendy taught me long ago. We believe that today’s customer-centric, multi-channel content experiences should work like effective direct marketing is meant to.

  • Empathy is the new List: We start with insight and framing the audience’s needs, wants, desires in context – with Empathy Framing and Audience Definition. This includes list development, personas, user profiles and clear views to the customer/audience journey.
  • Utility is the new Offer: We ask, probe and shape the brand’s offer to the audience – the inherent relevance, usefulness, timeliness and overall added-value of the particular content and experience to the customer. It’s the “WIFM” from the audience’s perspective.
  • Experience is the new Creative: Out of empathy and utility framing comes a tight brief with business and audience objectives, key insight, RTBs, and guidance on channel considerations. Led by Creative, the team goes to work on the idea(s). The experience idea is born, developed, nurtured and set off into the world to meet the customer where (channels & platforms), when (cadence, journey, lifecycle, moments of truth) and how (formats & types) the customer chooses to engage and act on the content.

 

What’s in a Logo

We thought hard about how and what we wanted to say about ourselves with our visual identity and logo. What meaning did we want to convey to our audiences. A wonderful, seasoned designer with heart for story, type and iconography led us to a happy place of beginning.

In color, we aimed to engender trust and transparency, growth and harmony in relationships, and ambition in our cause to serve clients’ businesses and their audiences.

In Gotham, we wanted to feel fresh, clean – contemporary and optimistic.

With our “arrow” icon, we wanted to bring our three prongs of Empathy, Utility and Experience to the point of meeting the audience with purpose and intentionally designed creative content experiences. In the end, the intersections in our action-oriented approach to a venn resulted in what Bob Ross would call a “happy little tree” embellishment. If you look close enough, you see “CX” embedded in our visual. 

The Editor Shrugged

 

There's never been a better time for brands to embrace the role of Editor in their marketing. In fact, every brand needs an Editor – today.

 

Gimme Media Shelter

The past 15-20 years of big consumer media disruption, consolidation, decline and channel proliferation have certainly created a dystopia for many of our gifted editors who long held the standard for audience care and advocacy amidst commercial media's profit pursuit. In no position to "strike" and escape to sheltered valleys (folks gotta eat!), many editorial creatives successfully made their way into the world of branded content. Others remained in shrunken newsrooms, albeit to faithfully sustain and deliver news and stories still “fit to print" in a digitally-dominated world.

The role of Editor in the commercial "content" world has been less of a precious and independent audience defender, but to meet with the strategist to form the point of view, reasons and best means to serve their audiences. But, alas, these audiences are customers and prospects of sponsoring brands and media owners themselves - who must sell and generate an ROI on the investment. The best editors in the creative content space have embraced the idea of reconciling audience objectives and business objectives in delivering experiences that create value, utility and service to the customer while supporting the brand’s business.

 

Remember the Titans

While today’s Editor needn’t bear the weight of the heavens, brand stewards and communicators do well to imbed the role within their marketing and give them a good seat at the table. Meeting audiences (humans) in dozens of channels and touchpoints on whatever machine-learned “purchase journey” or “loyalty loop” requires the customer-centric sensibility and context the skilled Editor brings to serving the audience at the right time and place.

The Editor – however titled within creative content, CX and marketing functions – is the source of empathy, the voice of the customer, and the facilitator of engagement that leads to ROI. Today's Editor understands channels and platforms and hones her/his craft accordingly to create the content types in formats that serve in context.

 

Bringin’ EditorBack

We at Empathy/CX grew up in a cottage industry where content marketing became a thing – on the backs of skilled editors and creators. A thing big enough where the Olympians of the ad world have taken notice and entered the convergence party. As of late, we’ve heard too much of a whitewash in that “edit is just copy…” It’s not that simple. Editors became Content Directors, then Creative Directors and some are now referred to as "Copy."

Mr. Ogilvy taught the world that great copy sells. It does. It’s an art form in itself, and Ogilvy knew it to be about the audience, as well. While it’s a 140-character, 15-second world in which audiences consume content, agency leaders take the Editor (text and visual) for granted at their own – and their clients’ – peril.

At Empathy/CX, the role of Editor is paramount to our success in creating great content experiences that serve audiences and create value for our clients’ businesses. We also know the value of tight, engaging copy in connecting with audiences. 

We just don’t see the functions as one in the same.

Hello, World. We Are Empathy/CX.

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Now, more than ever, brands need more contextual empathy within and across their customer engagement marketing. At Empathy/CX, we believe the crafted combination of empathy and utility make for great customer experiences that create value.

We believe that audiences thought of as "consumers" are treated as units on spreadsheets.

We believe that audiences thought of as "customers" are treated and served as humans, with feelings and needs.

Our purpose is to serve Clients in delivering great human-centric creative content experiences for their customers, prospects and employees - to meet and exceed audience and business objectives.

Our vision is to be a leading creative and CX marketing agency - engaged with national brands and growing local businesses - and to become the destination (or connected gig partner) for the industry's most talented, ambitious, empathetic and enthusiastic strategic and creative professionals. We will grow and extend to be where our Clients need us to be, as they wish - closest to the customer wins!

Our intent is to take an active role in the continuing revitalization of downtown Greensboro and build from here. 

Together as E/CX Associates, we'll create an environment and culture that is inclusive and diverse, conducive to creativity and innovation, with transparency, empowerment, growth and development opportunities - and compensation matched to what the very best talents expect and deserve. Our Associates will engage as true owners of their businesses and participate in success at delivering value to our Clients and their audiences.

Our Clients will realize excellent value, efficiency and competitive rates because we'll deliver superior talents and teams in service to their objectives while sustaining low overheads with "working" management. 

We are excited to be on our way