Creating Customer Loyalty Through Brand Consistency and Innovation

Creating Customer Loyalty Through Brand Consistency and Innovation

The Gist

  • Prioritize innovation aligned with brand strategy: Innovation should be rooted in your brand and business objectives.
  • Foster a culture of collaboration and courage. Encourage collaboration and create a culture where saying “no” is seen as a challenge rather than a barrier.
  • Embrace data-driven customer experiences: Leverage data and technology to shape customer experiences.

In this special edition of CX Decoded, recorded live at the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas this week during the CMSWire CONNECT Conference, CX Decoded hosted Karna Crawford, a distinguished marketing and digital strategy leader with a proven track record of innovation and tangible results.

Throughout this episode, Karna, former head of US marketing at the Ford Motor Company, shares her invaluable insights on customer experience and its evolving landscape. She brings a wealth of experience from working with iconic brands and leveraging data-driven insights to shape customer experiences.

Karna’s unique perspective as a trailblazer in the industry sheds light on the best strategies and practices for CX professionals, whether seasoned veterans or those just starting their journey.One of the key takeaways from our conversation with Karna is the importance of strategic alignment between brand innovation and customer loyalty. She emphasizes the need for organizations to prioritize their innovation efforts and ensure they align with the overall brand strategy.

By focusing on innovation that enhances the customer experience and delivers on the brand promise, companies can foster loyalty and create meaningful connections with their target audiences.

Another crucial aspect discussed in the podcast is the role of technology in driving customer experience. Karna highlights the significance of utilizing technology solutions efficiently and effectively, rather than succumbing to a multitude of disjointed tools. She emphasizes the need for a strategic approach, where technology decisions are driven by the specific problems they aim to solve and the measurement of their impact on customer experience.Moreover, Karna delves into the importance of fostering a culture of creativity, collaboration and innovation within organizations.

By encouraging a mindset of courage, choosing priorities wisely and implementing innovations that deliver tangible benefits in the present, organizations can maintain brand consistency while driving growth and customer loyalty.

Here’s the transcript of the podcast. It has been edited for clarity. 

Unraveling the Complexity of Customer Experience

Dom Nicastro: Hello and welcome to a special a special edition of CX Decoded. We’re on site here in Austin, Texas at the JW Marriott for CMSWire CONNECT Conference. That’s our conference. We also have the Reworked CONNECT conference, our sister site and publication I’m Dom Nicastro, managing editor CMSWire joined by my co-host, for the first time in the same room literally, I’m looking at his face. He has a face. This is weird. Editor-in-Chief, Rich Hein. What’s up Rich? 

Rich Hein: Hey, Dom, it is great to be here. Not only is it great to be here with you live and Karna as well, but it’s great to be here at our first live event since, what is it 2019 …

Dom: 12,081 days.

Rich: … CMSWire connect 2023. So everybody who’s joining us welcome to another episode of CX Decoded. This is the podcast where we unravel and explore the best strategies and customer experience. Today we have a very special guest joining us someone who is a proven leader in the marketing and digital strategy world. Karna Crawford, former US head of marketing for Ford Motor Company. Karna has held senior roles in some of the world’s leading companies leveraging her deep understanding of data driven insights to shape customer experiences in profound ways. She’s a trailblazer, known for innovation, strategic approach and the ability to translate complex ideas into tangible results. Today, we’re gonna dive into her journey, her insights on the evolving landscape of customer experience and her vision for the future. So whether you’re a seasoned CX professional or just getting started getting ready for some credible insights, please join us in welcoming Karna Crawford to the podcast.

Karna Crawford: Hi.

Dom: Hi. what’s going on? 

Karna: This is my first post COVID conference activity. I’m very excited to be here. 

Dom: Yes. It’s odd, isn’t it? I mean, I am upset because I had to get four count them four outfits ready? I do you know what my outfit coordination was for the last three years? Making sure I don’t wear the same shirt two days in a row on a Zoom. That’s all they see is your shirt. 

Rich: I can definitely relate to him. I had to get all new pants for this event. 2020. Walmart for the win for me. 

Karna: That uses belts? 

Rich: Yes, exactly. It’s either got elastic or a belt.

Dom: Walmart for the win for me too guys this week. For sure. I think we  should start with current first, let’s get a little background on her. So if you wouldn’t mind telling us a little bit about yourself, you know, what are your focus areas? And how did you get here?  

Karna: Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, thank you guys for all so much for having me. I’m Karina Crawford. I am based in town in the New Jersey area called West New York, which is basically like saying I’m based in New York.

Karna: And so most recently, I was the head of us marketing at Ford Motor Company, during a time that we were really driving marketing, transformation and kind of transforming the business as a whole to continue its evolution towards an electric future. But I’ve really built my entire career being a full stack, full funnel marketer that really prides on being also my full self, I really show up as me and that’s the way that I lead organizations as well. Prior to being at Ford. I’ve also led different marketing strategy and media and creative roles across Verizon, JPMorgan Chase, Coca Cola, Miller Brewing Company, as well as some great agencies like Moxie. 

Rich: So when you talk about being full stack, do you come from like a technologist background? 

Karna: I don’t actually, I actually grew up as a purebred marketer, my first roles were all at or for the Coca Cola company. And so I grew up as a true brand marketer, but very early on, I got excited about data and technology, I actually have a biomedical engineering degree. So in the way my brain functions, I’m highly analytical and data focused. But in the wake of the other part of my brain functions, I also really love creativity. And so I started on that side of the house, in licensed merchandise and event marketing, and then learned very quickly that digital was going to be the future. And inevitably, that also means data and technology. As the enablers of that have really been fuel to my career.

Dom: I was just at a session with Tony Byrne of Real Story Group talking about the creation of a new role, like I think he called a marketing data ops person, someone who really needs to sit between the engineer the data scientists, and the marketers, the brand people the content drivers, like in all your roles, was there like a consistent place where you sat in the marketing role? Was it like more towards the data analytics I showed you earlier analytics person? Or was it brand And, and messaging and campaigns, or was it a little bit of both? 

Karna: I would answer the question a little differently than the way you posed it, I have always sat at the merge of creativity and data in roles that actually allow me to marry them together. So whether it’s leading marketing as a whole, which inevitably, by default marries them together, but then also, it might be roles like I was, when I was at Coca-Cola, I was the director of media and interactive. And in that job, it is about audience targeting and data. At the same time as it is about the message, the storytelling and the creativity in the digital space, and how you bring those two things together, that’s really where I thrive is when I’m bringing those things together, or I’m helping to enable a team to be able to bring those things together. 

Dom: Yeah, you need those middle people, right like that brings IT and marketing together at the table.

Karna: That’s an actually a really important role that we were building when I was at Ford and that other organizations have identified because you’ve got this amazing talent bed of deep data and analytics, people who can probably solve any problem that you can imagine. And then you’ve also got those deep technology people. But then you have to be able to translate a business problem to them in a way that they can actually utilize it and drive the solutions. And so we in multiple ones, we’ve had a position that’s kind of a marketing analytics or marketing ops type of role, where it’s a person who is a marketer at their core and understands the marketing agenda. But they also have a level of technologist and a level of analysts in their heartbeat as well, that allows them to kind of be that bridge between the two.

Related Article: 3 New(ish) Ways to Think About Customer Loyalty

Avoiding Silos and Maximizing Martech Efficiency

Rich: We’ve talked a lot about the people. Let’s just jump into the technology a little bit here. There’s so much technology out there now. 11,000 martech solutions, right? And not even to mention all the AI things that are coming into play. Now? How do you approach leveraging these technologies to you know, get ahead of the curve and stay ahead of your competition?

Karna: One of the things that I would say is, if you look at my career, most recently, I’ve been at a lot of large enterprises. So the challenge that I’m usually faced with is, how do you streamline your end, maximize or optimize your usage of the technology? Because there’s always a plethora of stuff, because some group across the enterprise got something approved and installed, and now all of a sudden, you’ve got everything, right. And so the real opportunity is, is in taking a step back as a marketer, and saying, what are the business problems I’m trying to solve? How am I going to measure those things or enable those things, and then, which is the most efficient use of technology to enable that. A lot of instances, a technology solution is installed to solve a singular problem. And then you end up with five different unrelated technology solutions inside of your organization. And when you then are tasked with, Okay, what’s the end end experience? And where are you seeing the drop off? Or where are you seeing the fall off? Or where do you have opportunity? You can’t actually fully answer the question, because you put five point solutions in instead of thinking about the end to end experience you’re delivering for your customer, and therefore how you’re going to measure the experience from end to end. And so I think what I’ve really been pushing teams on is, make sure that you’re looking at your technology decisions and your data decisions through the lens of what is the problem you’re trying to solve? And how are you going to measure that problem? 

Rich: Do you see commonly that that is one of the ways that organizations get siloed? As far as data and analysis is that like you said, there’s potentially five different solutions solving the same problem?

Karna: Yeah, I’ve seen it in a couple of different ways. In some instances, the five different solutions solving a problem is because the organization was already siloed. And so as a result, since Bob wasn’t talking to Jennifer, because their organization had separate remits, and they weren’t in a mindset of working as an end to end integrated organization, then you end up with Jennifer had a problems, and Jennifer looked at the opportunity to solve it. Bob had a problem et cetera, et cetera. So in some instances, it’s that in other instances, frankly, data is power. And so you find both technology solutions and data silos because of the fact that people want to maintain a level of power and influence inside of their enterprise. I pose though, that that is a short sighted way of looking at it. And it’s also rooted in internal politics, not in best solution for your customers. So when I think about things in the way I push my teams, it’s always pushing us to what is the problem we’re trying to solve for the customer? And what is the best solution for that to enable that for the customer. And that continued to help drive a breaking down of barriers and silos both technologically and datawise. 

Dom: This discussion like brings up in My head martech audit martech audit, right? Like, have any of these iconic brands you worked for? done something like that? Where they said, Alright, let’s get together, see what we have. So Bob and Jim, don’t each buy a CRM, because we already have one? And who would lead that generally to in an organization?  

Karna: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m gonna answer that through my experiences, and then answer that through my point of view, which is not necessarily the same thing. Perfect. From an experience perspective, I would say yes, at every one of the companies that I’ve been at, there has been some look at an audit either, because we were earlier in the martec stage. And so it was less of an audit and more of a, what do we need, and let’s do an enterprise view of what we’re trying to create. And then in other instances, it’s been, you know, like, for instance, in some of my more recent experiences, we’ve got everything under the sun available to us. But they’re not connected, they’re not interrelated to each other. And let’s figure out what we want to do about it. The reality is, you need a steward, when you don’t have a steward, who is helping to drive an enterprise cross divisional perspective, then you end up really struggling to have alignment on objectives, alignment on intent, and therefore alignment on solution. Now, I have seen instances where your IT slash chief technology organization is responsible for that, I’ve seen instances where your CMO organization responsible for it and where your digital organization or your EComm, organization etc, is responsible for it, I think it can be done in any of those ways. As long as whoever the core leader is helping to steward the decision making is thinking about things through the lens of the customer first, and the best solution to deliver for the customer. And then the most efficient and effective way for us to deliver that. And who’s thinking about it with an enterprise mindset, not a siloed, individual, self self-serving mindset.

Related Article: Building a Next-Level Customer Loyalty Program

Balancing Immediate Needs and Future Aspirations

Rich: The self serving mindset, it sounds bad, but I think a lot of us find ourselves in that situation where we’re in a job, you get this problem that you have to solve. And it’s like, I need to get this done ASAP. You go you buy a product, you put it on, you know, your your company credit card. And the next thing you know, six months later, you got like you said three people were doing different solutions …

Dom: Collecting dust

Rich: Or not being used even worse.

Karna: I’ve been in an organization where we had every solution under the sun and including, like Pega, and Adobe. And yet, we were using, we weren’t even actually using the business rules engine for Pega, which was apparently the reason why we actually got Pega. But then as a result, you’re every year going up against the CFO trying to justify why you’re spending the investment for the solution. But in reality, your organization doesn’t even know how to use the solution optimally. So I mean, it’s a real thing. I lead my teams with a mindset of I call it OPP not to be mistaken with the song, outcomes, people and partnership. And so when we think about what solutions we’re trying to create, we should be thinking about the people impact and the impact on the partnerships that we have, meaning our partners within the organization, you are not a winner if you solve your problem. And in doing so, it creates an equal and opposite problem in a partner’s organization, you are a winner. If you find the best solution that meets the needs of both of you guys. Obviously, sometimes that isn’t possible. But that means that you have to proactively align on what needs are not going to be met and why and ensure that you guys are approaching that from a partnership mindset. Enterprisewide thinking is how I believe people elevate inside of organizations siloed thinking is a in my opinion, a career killer because while it may get you really far and get you great performance scores right now, at the end of the day, people start to see that you make all of your choices and decisions for you and your best interest and not the best interest of the customer or the enterprise. 

Dom: But it is true in these meetings between marketing and technologists that you can in fact start the meeting with Naughty By Nature’s theme song OPP correct.

Dom: You can start the meeting with that song if you want.

Karna: You can. Now here’s what I will tell you that I have learned over the years because that has been the OPP has been my mantra for many many years.

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