Matt Hirst, formerly of Google and Red Bull, describes why brands must prioritize seamless experiences
In today’s marketplace with seemingly unlimited options, loyalty can be a fickle friend. One day you’re in, the next day you‘re out. Despite waning consumer attention spans, there are a handful of brands that have been able to inspire an evangelical following.
In the Future of Retail 2016 report, PSFK spoke with Matt Hirst, Former Brand Experience Leader at Google and Former Director of Culture Marketing at Red Bull, about cultivating brand loyalty through creating exemplary brand experiences.
Below is a short excerpt from our interview with Hirst. Download the report to read the article in full.
PSFK: Both Google and Red Bull are known for their loyal and passionate fan bases yet neither have traditional loyalty programs. How are brands like these able to engender such allegiance from their users?
MH: People know that loyalty programs are clever marketing tricks. Let’s face it, they may not be clever, but they’re a marketing trick. People have become very aware about how their data is used. At the end of the day, if your product and services are not as good as someone else’s, then your brand or loyalty card is not going to do too much.
I think if you look at the most successful retailers of the last decade – eBay, Amazon – they don’t have a store card; they don’t even have a store. People want to buy something as fast and as conveniently as possible with minimum fuss. That, in itself has become the ultimate card experience.
PSFK: How do you think loyalty should change going forward?
MH: There are certain ways of positioning loyalty as almost as a membership, which is a different idea. For example, people who like Costco, absolutely love Costco. People that haveSoho House memberships only drink at Soho House. People that are evangelical about Uber, only use Uber. There’s something there which bucks the trend of traditional loyalty.
At the end of the day, all of those businesses provide an absolutely exceptional service but they all approach it in a slightly different way. They have all started with a membership tribe idea as part of their starting proposition. I think it allowed Uber to do some quite aggressive stuff when it comes to carpooling, establishing themselves in newcities and the other things that you hear about.. and people are still very loyal.
PSFK: Membership is an idea that has been around for ages. Sometimes people form communities around brands organically. How can brands help cultivate these groups?
MH: “Brands cultivating brand communities” is , I think, one of the biggest fallacies of modern day marketing. At Red Bull, what we did was not experiential marketing although technically could be classified as such. There were lots of events, sure, but more importantly they allowed people from certain tribes to come together and bump into each other to create those human connections. They were events that could stand on their own. The brand was somewhere in the background.
At no point were people coming to these big Red Bull events because they like the drink and wondered what else we might be up to. They didn’t dislike the drink, but they came because they knew that the event was going to blow their mind — was really a critical part of it. The mistakes that the brands make in this area is assuming that they are the center of the universe and that they can do no wrong. At the end of the day, you’re a f***ing brand. You’ve got to be clear that there’s a lot of human emotion that as a brand, you’re lucky to be part of. But you’re certainly not the star of the party.
Built on a robust study of trends and patterns in the market, the 6th edition of the Future of Retail 2016 report offers a directional playbook for brands and retailers to build value, drive sales and boost loyalty. PSFK Labs defines 10 pillars to build a modern and engaging shopper experience strategy to go beyond changing expectations and to create an enhanced shopper experience. Download the full report here, view our trend summary on Slideshare and check back daily for exclusive content about the latest trends moving retail forward.