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The mandate for marketers has changed from being “chief storytellers” to “drivers of growth,” according to Liz Miller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research focusing on the chief marketing officer. Miller shared those thoughts in a recent CX Decoded podcast

Now try to do that in a pandemic, where consumer habits changed drastically along with ways in which of us get work done. It’s been a challenging 12 months or so for marketers: pulled away from their teams, buried in spreadsheets, data and analytics in a pro-digital world and challenged to make their marketing technology stacks work better than ever. All the while, there are the headlines of marketing and agency teams being cut throughout the pandemic, if there wasn't enough pressure.

The big question: how can marketers hit the reset button and focus on what they and their brands do well. How can they seek a “mental realignment”?

Identity and Loyalty Connects Brand To the Consumer

Americus Reed, professor of marketing at The Wharton School, will tell you it’s a matter of living by the principles of loyalty and identity. Reed pushed that thinking in his DX Summit keynote earlier this year.

Loyalty and identity is “going to be the key to creating a connection, a deep, rich affiliation, a community of fans who love what you do and cannot live without what you do,” Reed said. Identity and loyalty is when the values and the ideals of your digital brands are perceived by the customer to be in tune, or aligned with their own core values. Your brand comes to represent that consumer’s sense of who they are, Reed said.

“There's a fusion that comes together in the digital space that the consumer sees themselves as part of who you are and what you do, and that's very, very powerful,” Reed said. “... If you aren't creating relationships, you are missing out. It's about reimagining the business, so that they're not transactions. Transactions do have to happen. They're a necessary but insufficient condition to being a successful business, product or service organization, but if you're not creating that opportunity to create self expression, to create a relationship, a long-term customer lifetime value relationship based on identity loyalty, then you are absolutely missing out.”

Related Article: How to Strike the Right Tone With Your COVID-19 Marketing Messaging

Undying Commitment To Customer Journeys

So how are some marketers approaching this need for realignment? In other words, a marketer’s way of trying to get back to what matters most for their brand? Elizabeth Solomon, chief marketing officer at Overstock.com, said she remains committed to customer experience. In retail that means recognizing that from start to finish a customer’s entire shopping journey determines their perceptions of a brand. “As such,” she said, “marketers must be students of the customer experience by actually shopping their own stores and their competitors’ stores. Beyond examining whether one’s experience authentically delivers on the brand’s purpose and strategy, marketers must be advocates of the customers and contemplate how to make the experience as frictionless as possible.”

Marketers can always find something to learn or be inspired to innovate on behalf of the customer, she added. And as a marketing leader, establishing this culture means leading by example, setting the expectation and finding seamless ways to share our observations.

One Interconnected Strategy

As marketers, it’s important that we don’t think of data and analytics as separate to our brand strategy because it’s all interconnected, according to Tifenn Dano Kwan, chief marketing officer at Collibra. “We can tap into storytelling, positioning and branding to build a strong revenue engine, and we should ensure that everything we do is both well-crafted and well-measured,” Dano Kwan said. “It’s a balance, and our team is focused on taking the time to analyze everything we do deeply, so that we can truly understand the impact of all types of marketing activity on our revenue.”

Data has proven to be more important than ever during the pandemic across all organizations and teams, and marketing is no exception to that, Dano Kwan added. “We are seeing that the digital transformation that was already underway was accelerated,” Dano Kwan, “and for marketing that has meant an increased need to turn marketing into a profit center and justify return on investment.”

Related Article: COVID-19 Changed Your B2B Customers For Good

Understanding Implications of Purpose

The same way marketers had to learn to adapt to implications of digital, they must also understand that the implications of purpose are just as important and equally transformative for business results, according to Sam Melnick, Allocadia's VP of customer success and insights.

“One of the key ways our own marketing team and our marketing customers have adjusted to the pandemic and social unrest of the past 12 months has been to put people and human emotions at the forefront of every planning process,” Melnick said.

You can’t throw away data analysis. Rather, add in data and research about what will connect with your customers emotionally and calculate that into your program plans. “Adding in that additional set of information ensures that your team is keeping brand strategy and customer experience at the forefront of all their activities and will ultimately create better brand perception and loyalty from your customer base,” Melnick added.

Employ More Direct-to-Customer Strategies

Rebecca Biestman, CMO of Reputation, said for marketers, there is nothing more impactful than having direct contact with customers and prospects. Those interactions provide insights that are impossible to glean from quantitative data alone.

“I actively encourage my team to partner with our field organizations to sit in on, and participate in prospect calls, customer quarterly business reviews and our Customer Advisory Board meetings,” Biestman said. “Understanding a customer’s pain points and desired business outcomes, as well as hearing the way that our own internal team members talk about our company and the value that we bring to market, has helped us shape our strategy and iterate quickly. When these interactions are infused into the daily grind of looking at reports, they quickly stand out as being some of the most valuable hours of the week spent for our business.”