5 Mins With: Benedict Ireland
UNLIMITED are the go-to agency for brands looking for business impact. Their Human Understanding lab diagnoses brand challenges, tapping into human emotion and sub-conscious insight to unlock extra performance. Over their 13 years, they have collected over a 100 awards and carry a client satisfaction rating of 8.7, well above the industry average.
Please describe your role?
I'm Benedict Ireland, Chief Experience Officer for Unlimited Group across the four divisions of Marketing, Communications, Data Insights and Digital Experience. My responsibilities, broadly speaking, is to ensure that anything we do is in accordance with the best experience we can deliver for the brand. I work cross-divisionally to ensure, excellence of experience, consistency and appropriateness.
What were some career highlights before you joined?
I was a print designer for nine years, based in London. I was working with national newspapers, international magazines, those sorts of things. And through that, I was using a product called QuarkXPress back in the day and PageMaker. It took a lot of learning. Then started working for one of the software manufacturers as a trainer, teaching people how how to use the software.
And I was getting loads of feedback from customers and it echoed what I thought when I was using the software; that it wasn't really designed for the people who used it. In 1999, I moved to New York to shift into user experience design for a scientific-backed experience design agency. I obtained a degree whilst there from the School of Visual Arts.
After a good grounding in business across different sectors and different sort of need types, I started designing a trading software for currency bonds, hedge funds, and that sort of thing. It gave me an 'ego-less' approach, because it doesn't matter what you think this software needs to do or how you think it needs to do it.
Bottom line is: if people trade more effectively through it and make more money, then it works and that's it - the most simple of measurements.
My travels have taken me to agencies in New York, Paris, Tel Aviv and then finally, back to London, where I took a full time role with Splendid as Head of Experience, who were eventually bought by Unlimited Group.
And now you're the CXO?
Yeah, it's a funny one. It's one of those titles that's made up and actually received a lot of negative response. A vanity title. What does that really mean? But it is really a different set of skill sets that you need in order to define those experiences for a website or an app, because you need to conjoin them at a brand perspective so the interaction is consistent. A holistic role, if you like. I've gotta tell our agencies and our CEO what we are gonna be doing and why and for which clients, and then we've gotta go and do the same and explain that to the client themselves as well. It means working with all departments of the brand, and our agencies to ensure that we create an experience representative of the brand, but that also works beautifully for the end users. Then communicating that to the brand’s stakeholders.
It's about creating that kind of single coherent relationship between all aspects of the business. So they work in the most efficient way for the business and for the customer.
You We need to understand what this actually means on the customer level, that you are one brand. So if I walk into the store and buy something, but I wanna return it online, I should be able to do that. It should be with the same kind of brand ethos and the same treatment of me as a customer. The business should know me and what I want to do.
We must provide value by understanding the KPIs and metrics that the business operates on, and determining if those remain the correct KPIs. Asking things like 'how we're gonna improve? What are we gonna improve? How much are we gonna improve it by? Who is it going to impact? Then we start to be able to get into cost benefit analysis of each of the individual things we could do within that strategy.
Monzo is a brilliant example of a really well delivered holistic experience from a brand perspective, from the way they write their job ads to the way that they handle their on-boarding process. All under one brand voice, so it's consistent.
Key challenges in your role?
The first thing you we do is digital strategy definition. Depending on size of the business, you might call in someone like a Deloitte or Gartner to help you out with that overall business strategy, and digital strategy needs to be defined to align with that. We work with quite large businesses, many of whom don't really have data analytics and may be siloed. So quite often you're taking siloed information and trying to figure out actually what that means at a holistic level. You can start changing the dial a little bit in some areas, but actually we're looking for wholesale change here.
Speed is another. Technology changes very rapidly, and there's speed of adoption too. If we work with cryptocurrency, for instance, it can be bleeding edge and you are literally playing around with stuff that we don't really completely understand at that point.
Budgets are always a good one. It's the holy grail of what we could do vs what is affordable. That's where we do that value analysis. By providing this transparency, that cements our relationship with clients because they then trust us to do the right thing for them.
What do you love about this role?
The role is ever changing, but thing that I really love about what we do - it is never the same challenge twice because everything's moved on. So you're always having to re-learn and challenge yourself and the status quo.
We're now working with DXP (digital experience platforms), so we can unify those experiences in a much easier way. This helps us to make digital human, as we say. Our motto is 'digital made human', so how do you make the experience human to a customer and how do we come across to our clients?
The role is becoming ever more systematic, coupled with the ever-evolving needs users, and therefore clients, alongside the march of technology. I think those are the things that primarily change this role to something truly rewarding.
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