Advanced Branding Masterclass Week Six – Customer Experience Design

futurelab default header

by: Idris Mootee

This has been one busy week and I am back with
week six of our Advanced Brand Strategy Masterclass. We are continuing on the
second part of brand strategy development framework which focuses on brand
identity, brand images and brand delivery. The delivery one is probably the
most important and interesting aspect.

Two of the key drivers to building brand
strength are creating a distinct brand identity and developing a unique brand
personality and their associated images. Unfortunately, semantics quite often
gets in the way of understanding how these two factors can influence brand
strategy. Brand identity, for example, is often used in a limited,
graphic-centric manner or used interchangeably with brand image. All too often,
identity is seen as just the graphics, logos, colors, and symbols that
generally make up corporate identity. Those elements are the appearance (which
is very important) but not the substance of a brand, just as the clothes you
wear are an important, even distinguishing, part of your identity, but not the
substance of who you are as a person. An obsession with image tends to attach
greater importance to appearance than to inner reality. But brand identity is a
richer, more substantial concept to embrace. The two concepts are quite
different. There’s also a simple way to sum up and understand the essence of
the two terms: image is how the marketplace perceives you; identity is who you
really are. We recommend that companies focus on building brand identity as the
driving brand-strategy component. Brand image is not to be diminished at
all.  It is, after all is said and done, how a company is perceived. But
don’t make the mistake of thinking your brand image is your identity. The
challenge for brand strategists and champions is to align image and identity.
That happens–and can only happen–by careful, proactive management of your
brand identity components.

The next big goal is the translation of the Brand Promise into Customer Experience Strategy
for brand delivery. It is easy to make the mistake of developing a grandiose
brand promise that one cannot deliver. Although you must combine vision with
realism, one should not take weakness in any particular dimension as an excuse
to do nothing. No company gets it right all the time. The customer experience
strategy is used to align the brand promise to customer expectations. It
describes the service characteristics objectively. It is important to depict
these service characteristics so that employees, customers and managers alike
know what the service is, can see their role in its delivery. (One of my
business partners Scott Friedmann is a big believer of this, he is trained in
service management at Cornell grad school and believes the crossover of
traditional service design principles and software as services can spark
unlimited innovation). Services are delivered through integrated systems
consisting of three basic elements. First are the steps, tasks and activities
necessary to render the service; in other words, the service process. Second
are the means by which the tasks are executed, typically some combination of
people, technologies and products. Third is the evidence of the experience and
how customer relates to the experiences. All service systems can be visualized
by understanding these elements and their interrelationships. This is where
things break down. The people who create the brand are not the people who
develop the brand. The people who design services and operation standards are
not connected to those who develop the brand. The people who design the
interfaces are not connected to those who create the ads. Sure we’ve all seen

The customer experience strategy gets
complicated these days. The deployment of machine-dominant (automation)
interfaces on the front lines drastically improves business economics, but
creates a new set of challenges. People are good at conveying empathy and
handling exceptions but are challenging to manage and costly to deploy and
maintaining consistency, especially in scalable businesses. In effect, the
front office needs computers to compensate for people’s shortcomings and people
to compensate for computer shortcomings. Today businesses are using a hybrid
approach. Then comes Web 2.0 and brings a whole new element of disruption. So the
interfaces, the communities, the content and the connectivity all becoming part
of the band and brand experience.

But that doesn’t stop here, with the success
of Starbucks
and many are experimenting with
the launching of hundreds of Brand Spaces, all those large flat-screen TVs,
WiFi and comfy lounge chairs, and are finding their ways into banks and clinics
etc. These are the most tangible physical manifestation of any brand. Here are
some interesting examples: from launderettes turned ‘’, like
German Clenaucum, to the boom in private clubs in London or NYC. Even
hotel chains such as Hyatt (Hyatt Place) and Sheraton (Sheraton/Yahoo) are
waking up to the fact that their long ignored and depressing lobbies could be
converted into brand spaces. Others include LG Washbar (Paris, picture below)
ING Direct (picture above), Nokia (picture below), Apple and Nintendo. Expect
this is become the latest experimental front for brand experience innovation.

Wash bar 3

Original Post: