Remember those vintage-vignette Stella Artois ads imitating old European cinema?

“Reassuringly expensive.”

That was Stella Artois’ ad slogan for a full 25 years from 1982 – 2007.

While other brands put out the usual on-budget 30-second ads, Stella were going to town and breaking the bank with feature length cinematic blockbusters a full two minutes in duration.

Stella Artois | Pilot Escaping WW2 | Reassuringly Expensive | Belgian Beer | UK TV ADVERT 2000’s

In doing so, Stella reinvented the mental model for how customers perceive ‘value’.

Essentially, they turned a higher price point into a USP and their beer into a customer experience you could have before you even bought a pint.

In hindsight, Stella’s tinkering with clever, experience-led ads in the B2C space was a telling precursor of the ‘CX > price point’ phenomenon that has now set root deep in the B2B space.

Stella Artois (and other brands getting inventive with ads in the 90s and 2000s) weren’t responsible for this shift. They were just one of the early signs of a change of wind direction.

The History of Market Research (In a Nutshell)

To understand how, why and when brands shifted to a CX focus (over product and price) it’s useful to take a little detour to find the Customer Experience—writ large—journey from start to present day.

Early Origins: Market Research

Today marketers take it as standard that what they do is a ‘research first’ activity. In the 1920s market research actually came to the table second, as a way of improving ads already cooked up and deployed.

Here’s how the market research cookie crumbled:

Dan Starch & George Gallup
apply scientific principles to market research.

Public Polling Is Born.
Gallup cements public polling’s relevance.
Predicts Roosevelt would beat Alfred Landon to the presidency.

Focus Groups.
Paul Lazarsfeld, & Robert Merton
develop the concept of the ‘focus interview’

Motivational research is invented.
By Austrian-born psychologist Ernest Dichter

Predictive statistical techniques are developed.
With the help of marketing professor Paul Green.

Customer Segmentation arrives.
Jerry Yoram Wind and Richard Cardozo publish
a landmark article ‘Industrial Market Segmentation’.

Attitude & behaviour analysis.
Martin Fishbein develops the multi-attribute attitude model
to explain the link between consumer attitudes and behaviours.

The arrival of web analytics.
Analog launches in 1995 as the first tool showing website owners
usage patterns on their servers.

2000s: Fred Reichheld invents Net Promoter Score (NPS)

And so we arrive, more or less, at the present day.

In 2001 author, speaker and business strategist Fred Reichheld developed a simple indicator of customer loyalty on behalf of André Schwager, CEO of Satmetrix.

NPS Creator: Fred Reichheld
NPS Creator: Fred Reichheld

Today we know it as The Net Promoter Score (NPS).

It signalled the beginning of the end for product and price as two two primary brand differentiators.

The NPS Effect: The Beginning of CX Over Product & Price.

To be clear, Reichheld and Net Promoter Score aren’t to be hailed as godfather and originators of customer experience.

Companies had already sensed the link between customer experience and business outcomes, investing millions in CX with petty returns to show for their effort.

It was NPS and its effective eloquence in quantifying and revealing the link between customer experience, satisfaction and business growth that started to turn the tide and focus away from product and price as primary differentiators—across most industries.

Surprise & Deloitte

Moving past 2010:
Customer experience cemented itself as a core business success factor worthy of significant investment:

By 2014:

Gartner were predicting that:

By 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations.

Gartner: Gartner Surveys Confirm Customer Experience Is the New Battlefield.

By 2016:

Deloitte studies were showing that:

…the share of ‘the experience’ in the decision to buy a product or service is significant.

Deloitte: The Deloitte Consumer Review CX marks the spot: Rethinking the customer experience to win.

As we move toward 2022 and beyond, you can’t really argue.

Defining CX In 2021: Serving a Market of ‘One’

Today, definitions of ‘Customer Experience’ continue to evolve.

Attention is paid in particular to the ‘C’ with questions asked about whether or not CX actually captures the full end-to-end experience.

After all, the ‘customer’ is a post-sale entity.

Breaking Down the CX Silos

With the life-balance work culture mania in the years leading to 2020, and organisations looking inward to ‘break down the silos’, CX continues to evolve and break past the walls of post-purchase experience.

 How Customer Experience Beat Product & Price as the Key Brand Differentiator
Deloitte: Rethinking the customer experience to win (2016)

Needless to say, product & price haven’t been completely banished to obscurity by the throning of customer experience as the number-one brand differentiator.

You need a great product and you need a price point that makes sense to your market—though you won’t differentiate with those two things alone, no matter how on-point they are.

Why Does the CX Assassination of Product & Price as Core Differentiators Matter so Much?

Of course, CX as topping the ‘brand differentiator’ league won’t be news to business owners and marketers reading this.

Though an awareness of its importance isn’t complete without a practical understanding of how that awareness can be applied.

The 80/20 Rule Applied to CX

If you’re familiar with the 80/20 rule, you’ll know the crux of the principle:

Within any system, only a few main variables affect the outcomes, and most other factors will return little or no impact.

What should matter most for brands among all of this is that it’s possible that 20% of the resource allocated to providing unbeatable customer experience can return 80% of the revenue.

Once you realise that, your business goals start to look a lot different.

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