The integration of brand and customer experience design will be integral to driving growth, loyalty, and deeper engagement in the future.
We live in a complex ever changing world. Communication channels are numerous, unique, and ever changing. This brave new world demands a level of flexibility, customization, and experimentation never seen before.
Customer touch points are numerous and growing. Segmentation and audience behaviors scale with this increase in touch points, communities, and channels. As a result, Brand and CX (customer experience) are more intertwined and connected than ever before. Collectively these "new world" teams and integration of skills/focus will be driving growth, loyalty, and deeper engagement with audiences.
Brand and Branding have taken on many iterative definitions over their existence, initially defined as:
"a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers"
This definition is an evolution from the days of actual branding with hot iron rods and cattle. Unique symbols that defined ownership as differentiation.
I much prefer Seth Godin's more modern definition of a brand:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another."
Your brand defines who you are as an organization, including your story and what your promise is.
CX (Customer Experience)
CX has kind of become sort of a hot topic buzzword and has been lumped in with digital interactions. CX specifically encompasses all encounters a customer has with a business (UX is now associated directly with interactions between a user and a digital product).
CX is thought of typically in a technology context. This is a good start and its positive that CX has become a pervasive thought, but CX design is not just about designing an experience digitally. Service design, workflows, customer journeys from digital, brick and mortar, to product are all under the customer experience umbrella.
Forresters—one of the most influential research and advisory firms—has one of the best definitions I've come across. I urge you to explore the link and unpack how they got to this definition.
CX is defined as: "How customers perceive their interactions with your company"
Interactions in this definition are further defined as a two-way exchange between customer and your organization.
"When customers navigate your website, call into your contact centre, go into your retail location, talk to one of your employees, buy your products, use your products, respond to your emails—that's when they're making judgements about whether or not you meet their needs, are easy to do business with, and are enjoyable to do business with. That's when they're having an actual customer experience".
The Young & Rubicam Brand Asset Valuator is the world's largest and leading empirical study of the value of brands. One of the insights that has come out of the BAV is that companies who increase brand differentiation have about a 50% higher operating margin on average versus companies that allow their brand differentiation to decrease.
On the customer experience side, Forrester's data show that over a 5-yr period customer experience leaders cumulative total returns beat the S&P 500 by 27% and their returns were 128% higher than customer experience laggards.
There's an endless supply of data and research going into CX and forecasts of how important CX is going to be to consumers but what does this mean for Branding?
For one, brand design needs to fully engage customers in all of the brand touch points. CX design needs to be adopted by all areas of the brand team and viewed as a holistic brand experience. Consistency is key and the rate of change and speed of innovation initiatives mean that branding teams need to have a CX design lens they look through for the entire organization.
The potential risk for creating friction in CX throughout an organization if teams aren't looking through the CX design lens are significant.
A new digital initiative and focus creates a customer experience that should be aligned with all touch points. It's one thing to attack a digital initiative and create a frictionless enjoyable experience but if brand teams aren't thinking strategically about how new initiatives fit into the customer experience holistically, then there is a higher risk of fragmented experience and brand erosion.
For example, a company creates a new e-comm web initiative that is carefully planned scoped and executed to maximize UX/CX. How does this experience now relate to a client calling in and dealing with the contact centre, or buying through brick and mortar channels? Should these other touch points be revisited to make sure all touch points are strategically aligned?
As channels and experiences shift and evolve so does the lens from which brand marketing professionals look through and drive through an organization. That beautiful new initiative may not bridge the chasm from online to offline and a more holistic CX based approach needs to be implemented across organizations.