The non-negotiable for digital brands – Connected Customer Marketing™

The future of marketing is customer-focused, built around creative content, supported by data and connected deeply into every part of an organisation.
At Brilliant Noise we call this Connected Customer Marketing™.

The continuous disruption of the digital age requires a new approach from marketing and business leaders. Connected Customer Marketing™ brings together customers, communications and the wider organisation to create marketing that inspires and unites.

The term ‘digital transformation’ is too often mistaken for simply upgrading technology and platforms. The companies that are succeeding understand that digital transformation is also a culture and systems challenge. They place the customer at the core of the organisation and see digital skills and a willingness to embrace change as non-negotiable.

In this paper, we’ll introduce you to Connected Customer Marketing™, what it takes to get there and what you can act on immediately to start seeing results.


The context

The world has changed immeasurably over the past ten years as a result of the explosion of digital and data.

In the marketing profession we’ve been pummelled and buffeted by successive shocks to the system.

Disruptive ideas, technologies and business models arrive at a seemingly increasing rate. One thing is clear, when it comes to the business of communicating with customers, we’ll continue to experience waves of disruption for years to come.

In a world where change is the only constant, where disruption lurks around the corner from every decision we take, marketing and communications leaders are expected to decide how to spend their precious resources.

Two responses are common and understandable. The first is a flight to tactics that used to work (and may still work with diminishing returns). The second is to try and cover all the possibilities, back every new trend and digital platform, chasing a future which always seems exciting, but is never quite within reach.

We might think of these two responses as respectively conservative and utopian – the former too defensive to seize the real opportunity, the latter too unfocused to be truly effective.

There’s another, more effective, way and that’s the way that our clients have chosen. This is to acknowledge that the fundamentals of marketing have changed and a new, customer-focused approach is needed. This requires a change in mindset and the will to change your organisation, in order to win.

The challenge is seen not as one of technologies or channels, but rather one of culture and systems. A challenge that demands a rethink of the ways of working and operational systems which modern brands use to understand and reach their customers.

Based on our experience of working with some of the world’s largest brands, this paper captures what we’ve learned about how you can adapt, learn and win in the connected age. It offers a practical solution for the future of marketing that is customer-focused, built around creative content, supported by data and connected deeply into every part of the organisation.


The challenge

The digital revolution has shifted power from brands to customers. It is now far easier for customers to find what they want or get the information they need, and far harder for brands to get their messages to the customer by buying their attention.

Brands often focus on trends and technology, when they need to focus on their customers and how they’re changing.

Ad-blockers vs. anti-ad-blockers is just the latest frontier in the battle between advertisers and customers. The customers have the internet on their side and, as long as they do, they’re going to win against intrusive, unwanted adverts every time.

Advertising will survive in some form, just not the one most convenient to old school marketing. As a global trend it indicates that focusing on the escalating sophistication of technology does not end well. Smarter ad tech wins some battles, but it will lose the war for the customer.

Brands are competing with friends and celebrities in newsfeeds. Add to that the constantly moving goalposts of platform algorithms and advertiser strategy and the challenge to merely be seen is huge.

Brands need to understand what’s important to customers and talk to them on their own terms.

Marketing has shifted from one-way communications to multiple conversations, across multiple channels. From the one big creative campaign idea to thousands of pieces of content a year, produced and distributed through myriad networks and platforms.

Brands and agencies are not all set up for the level of complexity it takes to integrate on- and off-line creative, public relations, technology, media and distribution – and to get it right for such a volume of content. Planning processes should be designed for the needs of the customer – not the needs of each channel.

It isn’t enough for the C-suite to allocate a budget for technical digital transformation, to create a digital content strategy and to shift some advertising budget to paid media digital distribution.

The smartest, most effective brands are undergoing a structural change, a system reset for marketing and their whole organisation. Marketing that doesn’t try to outsmart the customer but instead aims to anticipate their needs and be there with the right information at the right moment. It’s a cultural challenge that requires change from marketing leaders, their partners and colleagues across the organisation.

The response

The future of marketing is customer-focused, built around creative content, supported by data and connected deeply into every part of an organisation. At Brilliant Noise we call this Connected Customer Marketing™.

Only brands who deeply understand customers and communicate on their terms will win.

Connected Customer Marketing™ enables organisations to create communications and experiences that inspire the advocacy of customers and employees.

Our work with global brands undergoing this transformation to Connected Customer Marketing™ has informed a framework for mapping their progress and identifying the next steps towards the goal of becoming a connected, customer-first organisation. Senior marketers and the whole C-suite need to understand this shift and its implications for organisational success.


Three areas of focus

Connected Customer Marketing™ requires brands to connect more with customers, across communications and within the organisation.


Connected customers expect relevant, responsive, real-time communications. They expect brands to connect the dots of their experience, across the customer journey from consideration to advocacy.

Aiming beyond the sale enables growth through loyalty and advocacy.

A data-led view of the customer’s experience across buying stages and touchpoints is needed  to deeply understand their changing needs.


Brands need to break through the noise, win their audience’s attention and capture their imagination, to become a genuine part of their conversations. Creative concepts, production and platforms can no longer be planned and delivered by campaign, channel or department silo.

Communications with connected customers must be underpinned by a shared belief, a cultural ideology, that both the brand and customer believe in. We call this a Common Purpose. It should be personal, emotive and real to the audience – something the customer will care enough about to read, watch, be part of, or share.

The needs of the connected customer, rather than the channel or campaign, are the primary organising principle for an integrated communications planning approach.


The C-suite and the whole organisation need to shift the culture and structure to focus on the needs of the connected customer.

Employees need to connect to their customers and their changing organisations. This requires breaking down silos, creating new collaborative ways of working, forming new business practices and finding new ways of connecting with consumers.

Transformative, digital operations are required. The processes, systems and culture to support an agile, connected, fast-moving, customer-first approach.


Three phases of becoming a Connected Customer Marketing™ organisation


There are three phases of evolution from a traditional marketing organisation to a connected team. Whether your organisation is currently a Pioneer, an Integrator or already Connected, it’s important to understand the journey and how your team can continue to progress towards Connected Customer Marketing™.



Pioneers have digital teams that are doing the right thing, but are defined as a silo within the broader marketing organisation. Usually focused on content and social media, they’re customer focused, always-on in their community management and supported by data. They often achieve notable successes that reassure CMOs they have digital covered.



In these organisations early successes have led to support from senior leaders and investment in people and technology. Teams globally and across categories have an integrated approach to research, planning and measurement. Individual teams operate independently but within global systems of governance and communication. As well as content and social media, other disciplines – paid media, creative, brand development, customer service and ecommerce, for instance – are beginning to be connected into real-time marketing.



Where integrators are a massive leap of sophistication from pioneers, Connecteds have achieved the same scale of achievement again. Now, as well as global systems and teams to organise, plan and execute marketing around the customer, the whole of the organisation is benefiting from the close relationship with customers. Strategy, operations and supply chains are being reorganised around new opportunities that have only become clear because of the highly-connected, customer-focused, content-led, data-supported marketing operation.


The seven critical factors

Organisations that succeed are mature in each of these seven areas.

Focusing on just one or two things (upgrading tech platforms is often seen as the primary answer) will create some change, but to really transform you need to consider each area individually. Crucially, you must ensure that you’re connecting to your customers and your employees – to redesign the core marketing operations that will enable you to become a digitally mature organisation.



A clear, commonly-understood policy for digital transformation that is used in planning and everyday decision-making.


Customer insight

Research and data gives a useful and timely view of customers’ needs. Data is used at every stage of planning, operations, creation, distribution, engagement and measurement.



Supportive, consistently-used processes that support agility and creativity. Teams design and optimise processes collaboratively. They come together guided by the strategy and the question – how do we best serve the customer?



Tech platforms

The right tools and the right support to keep global teams connected, planning visible and data usable and actionable.



Leadership and culture

Consistent, clear leadership at all levels in the organisation that gives a mandate for change and understands the nature of digital.



Marketing communications

Creative work and content creation is well-supported and relevant to customers at each stage of decision-making.




Knowing what success looks like, having a common language and framework throughout the organisation for evaluation and measurement. Using evaluation to demonstrate commercial case for Connected Customer Marketing™.


Sonar logo
Working with the global digital marketing teams of large brands we have developed a diagnostic tool for understanding where on the Connected Customer Marketing™ map an organisation sits.Sonar assesses the digital maturity of your organisation across marketing, communications, operations and culture.


By understanding the performance of your team within each of the seven areas, the current state of your organisation’s development towards Connected Customer Marketing™ can be benchmarked and the path ahead can be planned. Use it to create your digital transformation roadmap for lasting organisational change.



The future of marketing is customer-focused, built around creative content, supported by data and connected deeply into every part of the organisation.

Now you have an understanding of Connected Customer Marketing™ – and the benefits to your customers and your organisation – we hope you find the seven critical factors useful on your journey from pioneer, through integrated, to connected.

Get in touch if you would like to talk about any of the ideas shared in this paper, or to find out more about Sonar and what your transformation journey to Connected Customer Marketing™ should involve.