Customer Experience and Branding

I love hearing from readers who are passionate about customer experience. I got this back from a reader in response to one of my articles on Customer Experience Management.
"The brand often functions seperately from CEM and the management of customer experiences. Although the goal of CEM is to smooth the way to the altimate goal of a purchase CEM is more concerned with extended customer lifecycles, customer loyalty and their effectiveness in redefining the brand promise."
This instantly triggered a red flag for me. I totally disagree with the assertion that the brand functions separately from customer experience management and the fulfillment of brand promise. Customer loyalty and managing the customer lifecycle had very well better be branding concern! At every phase of adoption, the brand may mean something different to a customer - and if our programs aren't designed to address these customer needs and perceptions, we lose!

I have heard this distinction before from a few individuals in the past. After probing, I have found that they either posess a systems integrator background (viewing CEM from a toolset perspective) or a really "old school" marketing background. They're making dangerous assumptions, however. The truth is, there's a huge problem when individuals try to separate brand management from customer experience management. Consider the following:

There's a big difference between the "Aspirational Brand" (that is, what we aspire to become known for) and the "Actual Brand" (or, what the true market perceives us to be). As marketers, we've gotten pretty adept at defining what we want to become ... and what we aspire to deliver from a value proposition perspective. However, in the day and age of channel proliferation and real-time communication, architecting customer experiences in a manner that truly delivers the aspirational brand promise and effectively shapes market perception is what really counts.

You can't divorce aspirational brand development from customer experience because they work together - or nothing works at all. We design our experiences around customer need and aspirational branding, and we measure the outcomes to refine and improve. Market perception, customer loyalty and other leading indicators help us measure how we're doing ...

Brand equity is a cumulative outcome of customer experience over time:

If I could add to this formula, I'd add a disclaimer that it's also across many customers. That's why customer experience architects have to zero in on customer segmentation and understand the adoption continuum for each segment. Aspirational brand goals must integrated with the experience across all stages of adoption. Unless this happens, what we create won't match our promises. In the end, success requires our experience to be crafted to accomplish the following:

For the widest base of customers: Establishing the broad foundational experience that supports the delivery of the fundamentals consistently and effectively over time.

For high value customer segments: Refining, enhancing and customizing and the experience to reward and reinforce customer loyalty in a manner that creates differentiation and cements relationship.

So, CEM and Branding are one big enchilada (yes, I know that's a burrito picured above. Cut me some slack!) Just my .02 cents on a Tuesday...


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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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