From the Blog

It has taken me a couple of days to come down from the epic nerdgasm I experienced this past weekend, after using the new Virgin America website. Now that I’ve calmed down a little, and had a chance to organize my thoughts, the first thing I would like to say is: Bravo Sir Richard Branson. Bravo. You just keep on giving me reasons to admire you.

Image of website

So, why am I talking about this in the context of Customer Experience, as opposed to a mere website design? I think anyone who has flown Virgin and then uses the website will quickly understand the aesthetics. The virtually seamless cohesion between the experience of flying with Virgin America and booking tickets with this new website is nothing short of spectacular. Furthermore, by going completely responsive and rethinking the ticket purchasing and check-in process so it is optimized for interaction on any device, this vaults them beyond the competition -and makes our lives as travelers easier, and a little more fun, just like flying with them.

But it’s more than just the enigmatic Purplink (Purple + Pink) look and feel and fun and approachable editorial voice. Just one look at this vine demonstrating the new boarding pass and you will immediately realize somebody has genuinely thought about the needs of their customers (travelers) and then put those needs at the center of every decision they made with this evolution. A lot of organizations are talking about Customer Experience. Few of them are doing it. Even fewer are doing it this well.

And there’s a reason for that. Customer Experience is hard…And it requires sponsorship at the highest levels of an organization to get it right. The design of this experience was not lead by an IT project manager or a marketing director. It was lead by someone with the drive, vision, and, most importantly, the ability to reach across typical organizational silos and rally a cross-functional team around an elegant, simple objective: Reduce friction for our customers when they interact with us most frequently. Make their lives easy when they are on the go.

To that end, a hearty congratulations to Virgin’s CMO Luanne Calvert and the agency she selected for this project: Work & Co, for this stunningly beautiful extension of the Virgin America website. It’s clear these guys get it.

Posted by Jake DiMare at 8:36 pm

So, it’s the year 2011. The internet has been a commercially viable medium for 15 years. The explosion in use of mobile devices and social networks are only the leading edge of sweeping changes to how people consume media and experience brands. Online advertising revenues grew a staggering 15% in 2010…A time when most categories were flat or shrank. Total sales topped 26 billion dollars. Yes, that’s billion with a b.

Remarkably, there are still advertising, marketing and creative agencies out there who have yet to get on board the reality train. They are few and far between…But agencies who only specialize in producing 20th century media such as print and television are still out there. It’s not surprising to learn they lose credibility and market share every minute that goes by.

If this describes the agency you own or manage…Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is you are really late to the party and the chances of achieving success in the ever expanding digital space are diminishing as fast as you can say iPad App. The good news is there could still be a way to catch up. All that is necessary is to recognize your agency’s inability to adapt is entirely your own responsibility and then change everything.

Of course, few are willing to subject themselves to the rigorous personal and organizational inventory that is required to change on such a dramatic scale. Short of that, it will likely be necessary to hire talent or buy a smaller digital agency. Here are few things you can do to improve your chances of surviving this common experience for aging agencies in the 21st century:

Get comfortable with reverse mentoring Your best source of knowledge is likely going to be amongst the younger people in your organization. A designer fresh out of college today has never really known a world without the internet. They’ve had Facebook since they were in High School. There is a paradigm they get…That you don’t. Listen to them.

Do not allow upper management to make excuses Failure starts at the top. Period. If your agency still doesn’t get it at this point the problem isn’t a lack of the right designer or an aggressive enough ‘digital sales person’. The problem is agency veterans and upper management are not on board the reality train. A frightened, older sales manager in the waning years of their career can derail the efforts of 200 uniquely qualified new hires if you allow them to. Don’t let them.

Take a position When there is a complete lack of viewpoint creative is stagnant and sterile. Forget trying to be all things to everyone…The internet doesn’t work that way and neither should you if your plan is to succeed online. The true power of being available in a global market flooded with search driven consumer interactions is you can have a voice and know it is going to resonate with someone out there. Young, modern creative agencies with strategic capability are not afraid to position themselves as thought leaders and they encourage people within their ranks to do the same. Aging, primitive thinkers try to hide behind bland, featureless design for their own brand and just come off as weak and insecure or worse; lazy.

Do your homework This can’t possibly be stressed enough. Don’t hire people if you don’t know what you are looking for. Hiring an expert on the execution side and then hammering them over their lack of strategy experience or hiring a designer and then acting surprised when they are not a great programmer is both ignorant and irresponsible. If you are fortunate enough to find a generalist who can work capably in all of the 20 positions a modern digital agency includes, count your blessings and forget busting on them about not being an expert at everything.