Q&A with Steve Wiest, Senior VP at Merkle | Axis41

Topics: Creative Design, Customer Experience, Digital Experience

Steve Wiest, co-founder and partner at Axis41, has nearly 30 years of experience in creative and marketing. We sat down to get his thoughts on where creative and marketing have been, where they’re at, and where they’re going.*

TELL ME ABOUT ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN MARKETING THAT’S TAKEN PLACE OVER THE LAST DECADE.

WIEST: It used to be if money was tight and budgets were getting cut, marketing dollars were always the first to go. When I worked on the client side, I remember having to call publications and radio and TV stations and say, “Hey, sorry we got to cut all this.” Those days are gone because you can now account for every marketing dollar you spend. You can see exactly how every buy fits into the puzzle and benefits you. That’s an extremely powerful thing to be able to walk into a boardroom and show how you’re moving the needle and affecting the bottom line.

TALK ABOUT A CHALLENGE THAT CREATIVES FACE TODAY

WIEST: Creative should never slow down the user experience. There’s a book that came out when the internet was fairly young that’s called, “Don’t Make Me Think.” Today, that’s more applicable than ever. When you go to a website or use an app and something isn’t easy to navigate or find, you get frustrated. You shouldn’t have to think, and great creative facilitates that.

It reminds me of Marriott and their mobile check-in. The idea sounds great, right? You skip the line at the front desk and you use your phone to unlock your room. Well, when it was first rolled out it was clunky. No one was quite sure how to unlock their door. They even had to have a demo in the lobby showing guests how to use it. That’s not how it should be. You should never have to show someone how to navigate their way through your customer experience. Luckily, Marriott fixed it and now their mobile check-in is much slicker and makes the customer experience much more enjoyable. Creative is what made the transition. Creative translated what was new and unfamiliar into something that was clean and intuitive.

WHERE DO YOU SEE CREATIVE HEADED?

WIEST: The value consumers place on customer experience is eclipsing the value consumers place on price. And by 2020, it will overtake it. Businesses are finally figuring out that we are willing to pay a little more for a great experience and a great product. Why else would people be willing to pay $100 bucks for Amazon Prime? It used to take a week to get a package—now it’s two days. The reason that was such a game changer is because it’s an amazing customer experience that now everyone has to have.

My wife loves shopping at Target. They do an incredible job of providing an amazing in-store experience. But she recently announced to me that she’s done with Target.com. Why? It’s awkward to use and there are too many steps. They haven’t been able to translate that same experience they have in-store to their website. That’s why so many people are talking about Amazon possibly buying Target—which would completely change everything

WOULDN’T THAT BE A BAD THING FOR CONSUMERS?

WIEST: It would be a win-win for consumers. Amazon makes the shopping experience so easy. The only thing Amazon is missing is brick and mortar. With Amazon, Whole Foods, and Target, they would have the complete trifecta to deliver seamless and easy experiences on virtually anything a consumer would want.

The key to putting a customer experience like that together is great creative. A cohesive user experience helps users navigate and enjoy the customer experience from platform to platform. At Merkle, we’re all geared up for that. Our creative is tied to addressable advertising and customer loyalty, which helps create a better customer experience for customers like you and me.

*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.