The Man City Lessons
Looking further afield
For those who are unfamiliar with English Premier League football, there has been one team that has clearly stood out this season - Manchester City. On the pitch their explosive approach to attacking and their dogged attitude in defence has seen them turn over pretty much every team who has stood in their way.
I am not a Man City fan. However, a friend of mine who is a season ticket holder at Manchester's Etihad Stadium, kindly invited me to a match. And as customer experiences go, this one was memorable. Now, I've been to football stadiums all over the world, but what's on offer at the Etihad is as stand out as the team's performance on the field.
By striving for more than ticking the typical customer experience boxes, Man City have created a distinctive experience - much more than just a game. The walk into the stadium is one that has clearly been thought out. Passing the Man City fan media stations alongside thousands of football fans feels as much like a festival as it does a sporting event. Access and entrance to the stands is seamless, as is everything else. From toilet facilities to ticketing, food and drinks to departure, it's holistic and intentional and it adds value to the paying customer; without whom there would be no Man City.
There are lessons in the Etihad Stadium for all brands that are looking to stand out and become memorable. Holistic thinking - yes a product may look good, but what can the customer hear during the purchase? What can they smell? What is their priority at any given point of the process? Is the brand adding value in a way that sums up the brand purpose? For Man City, the purpose is to deliver 'One club for all' and it's working.
Creating a brand experience in this way creates ‘fandom’ and brand loyalty for the long term. Football team performance waxes and wanes - Man City won’t always be on a roll - just as products have cycles and get overtaken by competitors. However, if you deliver a branded experience it helps to insulate you from the dangers of being wholly reliant on a product. Remember Nokia?
Look Beyond the Mirror
With so many markets posing an increased pressure from disruptor brands and digital solutions, it's hard for leadership teams to look anywhere else but their immediate environment. This is understandable in a quick-win obsessed corporate culture. However, taking time out to look at the comparator industries and not just the competitors can reap rewards.
It is clear that those responsible for the customer experience at the Etihad Stadium have considered not just how other football teams do it, but other entertainment entirely. This corporate curiosity is a priceless gift for any brand - to glance outside your immediate market with questions and consider external expertise from the outside for answers.
Five tips for differentiating:
Look at what the brand leaders in other markets are doing that are far removed from your own.
Think about what your brand purpose and promise and the extent to which you are delivering this at every step.
Spend time analysing every touchpoint of the customer journey and consider how much value is being added to the customer at each.
Welcome the fresh perspective of new and experienced employees alike. Just because someone has recently joined, it doesn't mean they haven't seen a potential improvement. Likewise, just because someone has been there for a while, it doesn't mean they don't have unspoken gems up their sleeve.
And, just as I did, experience it as a customer. Go right through the customer journey looking at it as a customer would, because many executives never really do that. Telco executives don't have to buy their own phones, automotive executives rarely have to arrange for their cars to be serviced, bank managers don’t have to go through the pain of dealing with their own call centres. Having experienced it as a customer, ask yourself the question “Was my experience one that was consistent, intentional, different and valuable?” If it wasn’t, call us.