Will Customer Experience Design Replace Marketing?
By Laurence Bernstein Managing Partner, Protean Strategies | November 16, 2014
One has to feel sorry for "marketing". It (He? She?) is constantly being threatened with replacement by new disciplines, new channels, and new management theories (two years ago the question was: Is the CMO becoming obsolete). Ultimately "marketing" continues to survive and thrive, and perhaps that's for a reason.
The quick answer to the question "Will experience design replace marketing?" is, a resounding "No." But the question begs a deeper look into the role of customer experience design as a discipline and as a management approach.
The term customer experience, as it applies to a rigid approach to designing experiences for customers, really evolved, strangely, from online marketing. Website designers (and their successors, app developers) found it increasingly necessary to focus on user friendliness, which morphed into user experience. The necessity to ensure that site users, online customers, social media subscribers, and so on, had a decent, comprehensible, successful experience was somewhat novel to the techies that dominated the digital marketing world (after all, it was hard enough to get the thing to work reasonably well most of the time, let alone think about how the user felt after using it). But, as competition heated up and grownups (actually digital marketers) started infiltrating the techie world, it became apparent that if the user experience was miserable, miserable users would go elsewhere, and there were countless other places these consumer could go. So digital marketers spent their ample time focusing on user experience.
The rest is history. Within the blink of an eye these online customer experience experts applied their expertise to the overall world of customer experience. To them, and their intimidated bosses, the idea that customers in the real world had experiences, was novel - in fact, they believed they had made a new and important discovery. And, in a somewhat distorted logic, they determined that this real-world customer experience could only be examined through complex, extensive and wide ranging analysis of digital information covering on and offline (but mostly on, for obvious reasons) behaviours of consumers.
It was as if a biologist discovered the existence of a species called "elephant" by identifying cells in a microscope and then determined that the way to study elephant behaviour was to examine each cell in a microscope. Some luddites might have suggested that finding out where the elephants were and watching them might give a more nuanced and insightful understanding of elephant behaviour. These post-millennial biologists might also have found out that contrary to their great eureka moment, elephants had been in existence for ever and, more importantly, most people knew about them and had been learning about them for hundreds of years -- well, actually, pretty much since mankind itself was invented.
It is exactly the same for customer experience. Presumably much to the surprise of any of these CSE experts, customers have been experiencing stuff forever, and the study and examination of these experiences has been the foundation of business since the serpent gave Eve that "welcome to our property" apple in the Garden of Eden Resort (an experience that did not work out well for Adam, the serpent or Eve).